WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's gubernatorial candidates are not fans of allowing transgender high school students to participate in sports based on their gender identity, a policy currently being considered by the state's high school league.
During a Wednesday night debate, the moderator raised the issue, posing what he said was "by far" the most emailed question from Minnesota voters. Each candidate deferred to the Minnesota State High School League to make the decision, though they made clear they didn't like the sound of the policy. Some used harsher words than others.
"I will tell you, as a dad of two teenaged boys, I don't think it makes a lot of sense to have boys and girls in the same locker room," said Jeff Johnson, the Republican candidate.
"It's a very complicated issue," said Gov. Mark Dayton (D), the incumbent. "Giving transgender students the choice of which team they want to play on is, I think, problematic."
"I would also put it in the hands of the Minnesota State High School League," added Hannah Nicolette, the independent candidate. "If there's demonstrable harm, we can address that as it comes. But I put it in their responsibility."
The league recently decided to postpone a vote until December on whether to let transgender high school students train and compete with sports teams based on their gender identity, instead of their gender at birth. Members of the organization said they wanted more time to study the issue.
The debate has generated significant controversy. The state's largest newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, ran a full-page anti-transgender ad from a group called Minnesota Child Protection League. Meanwhile, Zeam Porter, a transgender athlete at a Minnesota high school, delivered a moving speech to the league about the effect of policies surrounding transgender students and sports teams.
“My love for basketball last year made me believe I could handle being on the wrong team. That was wrong," Porter said at a recent hearing, fighting back tears. "Constantly being misgendered and called the wrong name took away my soul. I already feel like I don’t have my body. Now I am soulless."