It was with unnecessary and great cruelty that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration weighed in on the removal of five employees at a Broward County high school over a transgender female athlete’s participation in sports.
DeSantis has gone above and beyond to vilify LGBTQ+ people in the past two years, except this time the perceived enemy isn’t an amorphous class of people. It is a trans student at a particular school in a particular community. A student whom DeSantis not only banned via state law from playing girls’ sports, but whose dignity his administration denies by refusing to recognize her by the gender with which she has identified since she was a small child.
“Under Governor DeSantis, boys will never be allowed to play girls’ sports. It’s that simple,” Cailey Myers, communications director for the state Department of Education, said in a statement this week regarding an investigation into whether school employees violated the law. The DOE reports to the governor.
Not a ‘male student’
It takes a great deal of callousness to publicly misgender a transgender child with no regard for how being at the center of a scandal might affect her. Calling her a “male student,” as Myers’ statement also did, denies a trans person the right to their own identity. The DeSantis administration, so keen on protecting children from harm — mostly books and drag queen shows — clearly doesn’t deem all children worthy of such protection.
The Legislature passed the law banning trans female athletes from girls’ sports at public schools in 2021. At the time, the Florida High School Athletic Association reported only 11 known cases of trans athletes in the entire state since 2015. Only two of them played women’s sports and one was part of a bowling team. Yet lawmakers painted a misleading picture of a wide conspiracy where boys were being recruited to play disguised as girls.
Even laws that we find misguided and unnecessary must be enforced, and Broward County Public Schools has to investigate whether five employees, among them the principal at Coconut Creek’s Monarch High School, violated state statute. The district superintendent vowed to conduct a “fair investigation,” which means it should not be subject to pressure from state officials to scapegoat those employees to advance the governor’s political agenda.
There is a valid discussion about whether trans athletes might gain an advantage by competing in female sports. Unfortunately, this is a medical and science-based discussion that has been co-opted by the same grievances and bigotry that drove some conservatives this year to boycott Bud Light after the brand partnered with a transgender influencer for a marketing campaign.
Lost in this conversation is the role of public education to ensure a safe place where all students can explore their potential and interests, regardless of gender identity. Republican lawmakers made little effort to find middle ground and provide options for trans students who want to enjoy the benefits of sports, which range from socialization to learning the value of physical activity. The law doesn’t even allow trans girls to participate in less competitive recreational intramural sports.
The parents of the Monarch High student sued the state and the Broward school district in 2021 in hopes of keeping her in sports. They argued their daughter — who was 13 at the time and began identifying as a girl as early as pre-school — had no competitive advantage and had been on testosterone blockers since age 11.
The lawsuit stated sports were “the major source of her social and friendship network,” the Herald reported. A U.S. district judge dismissed the case this month but gave the family until January to amend their lawsuit.
Hundreds of Monarch High students staged a peaceful walkout this week to protest the removal of its principal and staff. Carrying signs that read “trans rights are human rights,” they should be an example for state government that uses its apparatus to turn trans children into pariahs.
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