Perhaps 2014 will be the year the Nebraska School Activities Association takes up the issue of transgender student-athletes.
Although an inclusive policy was posted on the NSAA website last year, the association has not officially broached the subject.
The mere idea that the NSAA might join the five other states with policies that allow a transgender student to athletically compete with, and use the facilities of, their identified gender has sent a vocal contingent of Nebraskans to protest.
But for all their concern about how this would affect high school students in the state, these protesters know very little about the people the policy addresses.
What does it mean to be transgender?
Essentially, it means that a person’s sense of gender identity is inconsistent with the sexual anatomy of his or her body. The way a person knows themselves, feeling inside like a male or a female, is a part of gender identity.
This is entirely separate from sexual orientation -- being attracted to men or women.
While gays, lesbians and bisexuals often fight for rights alongside transgender folks, their issues are not the same. Many trans people are actually heterosexual.
A transwoman (male to female) might have more interests in common with a straight woman than a lesbian. So allowing her into a female locker room would not only make her feel more comfortable, but would not pose any more risk to the other girls than any female student.
Many of us were born into bodies that are consistent with the gender we feel inside, which makes growing up a lot easier. But a transgender child growing up in a world that doesn’t care to understand -- that can be scary and dangerous.
December was the 20th anniversary of the murder of Brandon Teena, a 20-year-old from Nebraska, whose story was turned into the movie Boys Don’t Cry.
Brandon was viciously killed by people whose ignorance about gender caused them such anxiety they turned to violence. Today there is more visibility about transgender issues, but trans individuals continue to experience harassment, violence and murder at a far higher rate than the general population.
The protesting group -- Nebraskans for Founders’ Values -- probably doesn’t wish to inflict violence on these kids. But the result of ignorance is that the teens of Nebraska learn that we are scared of things we don’t understand and we don’t respect the value of every human life equally.
And that fosters a culture of violence and hatred towards not only transgender kids, but anyone who is different.
Most people can agree that it takes more than body parts to “be a man” or “be a woman.”
There is evidence of transgender people having existed for thousands of years and in every culture, so while the topic might be new to some of us, it is not a new phenomenon or a trend. So let’s not let our lack of understanding be an excuse for prejudice towards innocent students who are simply trying to succeed in school.
Timaree Schmit, a North Platte native, holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and writes for a variety of magazines and websites on issues about sex, in addition to her work as a sexuality educator and professor of Human Sexuality in the Philadelphia area. Her international podcast, Sex with Timaree, covers issues of sex, politics, and pop culture.