Looking for improvements

February 25, 2021

In 2020, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network included Iowa in a list of 10 other U.S. states with discriminatory transgender athlete policies. Iowa’s requirements for transgender students to consistently identify as their gender “at school, home and socially” was cited as invasive.

Lowman questions this clause because not all transgender athletes are out and live in supportive households. 

“[The IHSAA and IGHSAU] should understand that some homes don’t support it, and [transgender individuals] can be abused for who they identify as a person,” Lowman said. “I’m thankful my parents are supportive of me being [transgender], but I know some kids whose parents aren’t like that …  It’s just frustrating.”

Transathlete.com, a resource that promotes gender inclusivity on all athletic levels, outlines guidelines for a policy that permits athletes to compete on the team corresponding to their gender identity regardless of sex assigned at birth. The model policy also encourages states to establish a Gender Identity Eligibility Committee to ensure a student’s gender identity has sincere motivations before allowing them to participate on their sports team of choice.

In Iowa, both the IHSAA and IGHSAU established student-athlete advisory committees to create a stronger connection with the student body. The committees, each consisting of 11 to 12 students representing various regions and sports, discuss issues facing Iowa high school athletes today. 

Keating believes the IHSAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is a way to make student-athletes’ voices heard. Traditionally, students and parents have directly reached out to athletic association officials to voice their concerns.

“I think there’s always room to improve, and one of the things that we depend upon is input from students,” Keating said. “We want [the student-athlete advisory committees] … to bring to us the things that are important topics in their school, both related to athletics and activities and not … I would guess we’re going to get some [feedback] in all kinds of realms, but certainly in the transgender, non-binary realm.” 

I think there’s always room to improve, and one of the things that we depend upon is input from students.”

— Tom Keating, IHSAA Executive Director

Berger echoes these sentiments and sees the importance of listening to the student body.

“We all pay attention to our students. There’s nothing wrong with focus and paying attention to students,” Berger said. “There’s a lot of things wrong with paying less attention to students.”

According to Keating, the committee applicant pool is currently predominantly white and middle-class. Because of this, Keating hopes students from all backgrounds will apply to the student-athlete advisory committees in the future. 

Alden believes the student-athlete advisory committees will not fulfill their purpose without a diverse committee and representation of transgender and non-binary athletes, especially regarding the treatment of transgender athletes in Iowa. 

“I’m not sure if that’ll be on everyone’s minds unless you’re trans or have a trans friend or sibling,” Alden said. “I’m not sure whether [the student-athlete advisory committees] would help or hurt anything.”

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