Dakota parents, students discuss transgender athlete’s team participation

The Illinois High School Association has a list of procedures schools must follow concerning transgender participation.
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 11:27 PM CDT
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DAKOTA, Ill. (WIFR) - Several parents and students speak out at a meeting Thursday night at a Dakota school over a transgender student athlete’s request to join the girls track team.

“Since I was maybe 5 years old, Grandma and I both knew,” said Stephenson County resident Rachel Johansen. “But I went on to live life as Raymond because Dad didn’t like it.”

Johansen transitioned to a woman two decades ago. She said she knows all too well how deep the wounds run from discrimination.

“I took a 17-year-old into my house because her parents kicked her out of the house,” Johansen said. “She went to a Catholic priest and he said, ‘In your case, suicide might be acceptable.’”

Johansen said her heart aches for the transgender athlete at Dakota Junior Senior High School, who faces disapproval from parents and students for wanting to compete with the girl’s track team.

“I hope her fellow athletes embrace her so she doesn’t have to go through being ostracized, because that’s hard to do, hard to live with,” she said.

Parents rallied to overturn Section 7:10 in the school’s policy that allows equal opportunities for students based on gender identity. One parent said they don’t think it’s fair that an athlete with male anatomy gets to compete in female sports.

They suggested transgender athletes should compete in their own divisions, separate from those who identify with their assigned genders at birth.

“Our daughters say no to sharing a private space to someone with a penis,” said one Dakota High School parent. “And our sons say no, to sharing a private space to someone with a vagina.”

“While many are torn on what their stance should be, it should be that biological women are being stripped of their titles because biological men are taking them,” said a Dakota High School student.

Illinois lawmakers introduced legislation to restrict transgender girls from playing on girls’ and womens’ teams, but it didn’t pass during the 2021 session. In addition, the Illinois High School Association has a list of procedures schools must follow concerning transgender participation. This includes providing medical documentation, like hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery.

The IHSA will go over those documents with medical experts before it makes a final decision about whether a transgender athlete can compete. Anyone who appeals trans athletes from participation must provide mandatory documentation to IHSA. The association said it will notify the school with its decision.

Johansen hopes parents realize this discrimination affects trans youth in ways that compromise their health, social and emotional development and safety. She said trans athletes want to participate in school sports for the same reason as anyone else: to feel a sense of belonging.

“Let her compete,” Johansen said. “Let her just do her thing because they should just accept her.”

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