26 May 2013

The Best States For Transgender Student-Athletes

It's actually easier to be a transgender student-athlete in Nebraska than it is in New Hampshire--or New York.

Yes, you read that right.  At least, in Nebraska, a trans girl who wants to play on her school's volleyball team--or a trans boy who wants to play basketball--has more legal rights and protections than his or her peers in my home state or the one whose motto is "Live Free Or Die."

What makes this all even weirder is that New York and New Hampshire have both legalized gay marriage, while very few people expect Nebraska to do the same any time soon.

Or would it?

Rhonda Blanford-Green, the executive director of Nebraska School Activities Association, had previously worked in neighboring Colorado, which has had a policy trans-inclusive non-discrimination policy for five years.  She decided to introduce something similar in the Cornhusker State.  It passed the NSAA board unanimously during the winter.  However, as it is a school policy and not a state law, it attracted little attention.  So far, nobody has invoked it.

On the other hand, the Empire State, which was among the first states to include language to protect sexual orientation in its human rights laws, and the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage, has been behind the curve in helping transgenders.  There is still no language in the State's anti-discrimination laws to protect gender identity or expression.  Former Governor David Patterson issued an executive order banning discrimination against State workers.  As I understand, there is no time limit on it; however, it could be rescinded by Andrew Cuomo's successor.  

New York City passed its own laws banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in April of 2002, but 74 other cities--including, interestingly, upstate Rochester--beat them to it.

When one considers this history, perhaps it's less surprising that New York is less progressive than Nebraska when it comes to trans student-athletes. Then again, some might argue that Nebraska's policy is the work of one particular person (even if it did pass unanimously). Others might say that it passed just because people pay more attention to school sports in the Cornhusker State than in New York.  

Here is a map showing which states have specific policies for student-athletes (in dark blue), which ones have overarching athletic or educational  policies that cover trans people , and which ones have no protections (lighest shade) at all: