Last Sunday, an anti-transgender advertisement got a full-page airing in the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s largest daily newspaper.
The advert was conservative lobby group Minnesota Child Protection League’s response to the Minnesota State High School League’s proposed policy to allow transgender high school students to play on a team matching their gender identity.
Civil rights organisation HRC have condemned the advertisement, stating that it is “designed to play on dangerous, discriminatory and false beliefs” and fails to recognise that “transgender and gender-nonconforming youth are targeted for bullying, harassment, and violence at levels that are significantly higher than their non-transgender peers”.
In fact, the Star Tribune themselves quoted a trans* athlete as stating: “Conservatives are afraid of sexual harassment but transgender people are more afraid”.
Originally posted online by Minnesotan LGBT news website The Colu.mn, the advert bears the headline, “A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are YOU ok with that?”:
Under the draft proposal, which will be discussed and possibly approved by the League later this week, transgender athletes require medical documentation and parental approval. The policy also provides students with avenues for appeal if local authorities do not affirm their participation.
Several other states have taken similar actions, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and even stereotypically conservative states like Nebraska, North Carolina and Virginia.
Tweeters have joined the HRC in criticising the advertisement:
@StarTribune The Minnesota Child “Protection” League, really? The only thing here we should be protecting our children against is bigotry.
— Debbie Pias (@debpias) September 29, 2014
Very ashamed to be from Minnesota this morning after hearing about the @StarTribune full page anti-transgender ad – http://t.co/22WJsZZapd — Mathew Tate (@tatertot18) September 29, 2014
The organisation who paid for the advertisement claim to be “united in action to protect all children from exploitation, indoctrination and violence”. Upon entering the homepage of their website, the following pop-up appears:
However, this concern over child welfare does not extend to recognising the existence of transgender children. They oppose trans-inclusive policies on the apparent basis that “gender is a biological and genetic reality, not a social choice”.
Not all US religious commentators oppose the policy. Progressive Christian blogger Tony Jones wrote:
Think how hard it is for a trans* teen to even survive high school, much less to go out for a sport. The MSHSL is to be commended for developing a policy that will attempt to protect these vulnerable kids at a very vulnerable time in their lives.
As this debate takes place, Minnesota’s first openly transgender candidate, Paula Overby, prepares to run for Congress.
Illustration: Naoise Dolan