I tell people that I have a girl brain, a boy body.
—Jazz Jennings, I Am Jazz, 2012
Two bills attacking transgender student-athletes are enjoying more success than they should in the South Dakota Legislature. Last week, House Bill 1161, which prohibits the South Dakota High School Activities Association from making policy pertaining to sexuality or gender identity, passed House Education on a 9–6 vote. The House deferred HB 1161 Thursday, perhaps because it had already approved the markedly worse House Bill 1195, which not only repeals the SDHSAA's gender-choice rules but mandates athlete gender be determined by birth certificate first, physical exam second. HB 1195 passed the House 51–16 Wednesday.
Democrats remain the consistent and unified defenders of gender fairness. In the votes above, Dems have been joined by Republican Reps. Steve Hickey, Thomas Holmes, Tim Johns, Herman Otten, Tona Rozum, Kyle Schoenfish, and Jacqueline Sly.
When the Minnesota State High School League debated its transgender policy last December, MinnPost interviewed Jazz Jennings, a 14-year-old who was born a boy but who identifies as a girl and competes on her high school's soccer, tennis, and track teams.
Her high school—I have to admit, my gut tries to put quote marks or an asterisk on that pronoun. I hear Jazz say girl brain, boy body, and I can't quite get my boy brain, wired to boy parts, around it. How can that be? What you see is what you get—how can we differ from the visible, physical reality in front of us?
I suppose I don't have to get as esoteric as atomic theory, relativity, or quantum physics to say that my daily experience does not describe, let alone set norms for, everyone else's. There are South Dakotans whose minds and bodies and junctions therebetween aren't like mine. The minor tedium I feel when I'm stuck sitting with guys talking football is nothing like the outright angst that some of my students feel when they are forced to play with the boys when every fiber of their soul says, "But I'm one of the girls!" To negate by law their gender identity is all the more oppressive and cruel.
I may not personally understand a disconnect between who my pants say I am and who my brain and heart say I am, but I understand that the world is more complicated than my limited experience. I also understand that I can be who I am without expecting, let alone demanding by law, that everyone else be like me.
Legislators, if you're struggling with the urge to impose your genetic predisposition on everyone else as "normal," watch this documentary about Jazz Jennings... then pull the plug on House Bills 1161 and 1195, and let the Activities Association and the schools handle this issue in the best interest of their students.