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Our View: We support gender neutral play

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The Long Beach Unified School District Board voted unanimously on March 18 to implement policies to protect transgender youth from discrimination in school activities. LBUSD’s decision follows the passage of Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, which was enacted in January.

AB 1266 specifies in its summary that transgender students will “be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

On the other side of the field, “a referendum sponsored by right-wing organizations to repeal AB 1266 … has failed to garner enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot,” according to The Bay Area Reporter.

We feel that the opposition to this bill is rooted in a conservative notion that students in high school are too young to make choices about their gender identity. We recognize that allowing students, who were born boys, to play for girls’ teams, and vice versa, could make the playing field uneven.

Middle school and high school athletics programs, though taken seriously by the institutions themselves, and by the students who partake in them, are mostly in place to produce well-rounded youths by building character through teamwork and healthy competition.

Yes, young students with exceptional talents in a specific sport may wind up with scholarships or professional opportunities. However, we feel that this should be a secondary reason for a student to join extra-curricular activities on campus. School programs for adolescents provide students with a level of comfort that promotes more confident engagement in learning, and help develop self-esteem by grounding young students in competitive social settings.

The way we see it, the main argument for repealing AB 1266 is exactly that — school-related activities and competitions will no longer be fair in terms of what will be allowed to constitute a team.

We feel that the bill should not be repealed on those terms, since team compilation should not be the main focus of team sports in students in elementary through high school. It is more important to cultivate youth who are accepting of other people rather than worrying about maintaining a level playing field for student athletes who may not continue playing sports past high school anyway.

We are aware that the adult-arena is an entirely different game, one where athletic ability is the most important aspect, which is why we don’t think this policy would be good for college athletic programs.

We do, however, acknowledge that this is an entirely new debate, one which would raise a number of questions that we don’t have answers for. But at the end of the day, if a young person feels more comfortable as the opposite gender, prohibiting him or her from participating in school programs, is like encouraging these students not to participate at all.

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