On Thursday, the Minnesota State High School League overwhelmingly passed a measure that will allow transgender student athletes to participate in traditionally girl-only sports. The decision, read before a packed house at the MSHSL's offices in Brooklyn Center, caused an outburst of cheers and tears among supporters.
Chris McDonald, a league board member and debate coach at Eagan High School in Eagan, Minn., said that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students "look to this board to provide equal access for all students.''
In recent months, the board had considered a policy that would allow each school district to make its own decision, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Wednesday, but that was turned down in an effort to eliminate potential chaos at future athletic events.
California's Transgender Law Center reports that 0.3 percent of the U.S. population identifies as transgender, but more than 30 states have instituted formal policies for students. In Minnesota, this newest measure will be implemented in nearly 500 schools. Religious and private schools will be exempt.
Opponents of the measure believe it takes the issue too far and prematurely passed without full consideration of its consequences. After months of emotional debate prior to Thursday's decision, not all parents were on board with what some have called a "social experiment" involving their children.
Parents in opposition to the measure ran ads in the local newspaper. With text splashed across a photo of a stereotypical high school showering area, one ad read, "A male wants to shower beside your 14-year-old daughter. Are you OK with that?"
Emmett Keenan, activities director at St. Cloud Cathedral, was the sole board member out of 20 to vote against the measure. One other member chose not to participate in the vote.
"The religious example is there in statute and in principle, but I do think it needs to be spelled out a little bit more," he said. "And I'm not sure we've heard enough yet about the safety of girls in relationship to a transgender male-to-female playing on girls' sports teams."
Before the vote on Thursday, transgender Minnesota high school junior Zeam Porter - who identifies as male - spoke out in support of the measure. Porter pleaded to be acknowledged as a human being and said the situation is hard and painful.
"I was assigned female at birth but do not identify as female," Porter said. "It's hard being misgendered. It's hard when people say that you feel is a sin. How you feel goes against their religion."
But the transgender discussion goes much deeper than just religion or a divine mistake in gender assignment. It is the weighty rejection of a God given gender, and not merely the opinion of those who labeled as religious fanatics.
John Piper, who served for nearly 35 years as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, frequently and frankly discusses the concerns of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
During an Ask Pastor John podcast titled 'Is Sexual Identity My Choice?' Piper asked if gender or sexual identity is set by a preference of the individual or by a providence of God.
"Is my sex determined by my decision in my mind or by God's design in my nature? That is the key question. We live in a day when individual autonomy, personal preference or choice is considered by many to have priority over God's design."
Piper believes that the current popular culture in America does not acknowledge God in anything, nor does it embrace His words that specifically address the sexual issues of today. Few people in today tremble before God, he says, and their lack of a relationship with the Lord results in a lack of wisdom.
"In other words, we can't even get to first base, we can't even begin to be wise in sexual identity where there is no trembling before the living God," Piper said. He also discussed a growing trend among parents of transgender children to choose puberty postponing drugs for their sons or daughters while they decide if they will live their adult life as a male or female.
Piper went to the book of Romans to address the cultural tide that is drifting in the direction of self-love, and farther and farther away from God's word.
Romans 1:21-26 reads, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections."
"So if a human looks at the world and chooses to worship a creature rather than the creator, he is without excuse," Piper said. "And if a man looks at his own body and chooses to play the part of a woman, or a woman looks at her own body and chooses to play the part of a man, they are without excuse, because in both cases, in divine worship and in human sexuality."
Males should act like men and females should act like women, he said.
The Transgender Law Center, the San Francisco community-based civil rights organization, advocates for transgender individuals. The center's mission is "to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression."
Transgender policies are being developed and implemented at warp speed across the nation. And while these policies may change the way transgendered individuals live their life, what impact will these policies have on the large majority of the population that does not identify as transgender?
Specifically, where does MSHSL's new policy leave the freshman girl who showers next to a senior male who is transgender? According to the National Federation of State High School Association's website, their "deep-seated" gender identity is exactly the same as their male counterparts who identify as female.
"It is important for policy-makers to understand that transgender girls (who were assigned a male gender at birth) are not boys," wrote Pat Griffin, an educator and advocate for the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in college and interscholastic athletics. "The belief that transgender girls are not 'real girls' is sometimes expressed as a concern that allowing transgender girls to compete on girls teams displaces opportunities for 'real' girls to participate."
But what is important for Griffin to understand is that transgender girls in high school - those too young to have undergone gender reassignment surgery - are in fact noticeably male. Standing in a girl's high school locker room shower does not eradicate the God-given physical differences he was given as a man.
Why wouldn't that make the girl showering next to him uncomfortable?
"It's a matter of common sense that putting boys in a girls' locker room would create confusion, anxiety and discomfort," read an article against the measure posted in the Star Tribune on Wednesday. "It's a matter of common sense that boys, with their greater muscle mass, should not be allowed to compete on girls' athletic teams. Those norms are self-evident to an overwhelming majority of the public."