NCC urges people to support ‘at-birth’ gender identity for high school sports
The Nebraska Catholic Conference is urging people to support a proposal being considered this month by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) that would formalize the current practice of basing high school sports participation on students’ sex at birth.
Time is critical, because representatives in one of NSAA’s six districts will vote Jan. 6 on the “at-birth” proposal, as well as another bylaw proposal that is similar but raises serious concerns because it would allow some exceptions, said Sheri Rickert, policy director and general counsel for the conference, which represents that public policy interests of the state’s three bishops. Representatives of the other five districts will vote Jan. 13.
Approval of the “at-birth” proposal at January meetings is necessary to prevent adoption of a policy by the NSAA board Jan. 14 that would allow participation based on subjective gender identity, Rickert said.
The conference is urging parents – particularly of students in public schools – to contact school superintendents and school board members, expressing their concern and urging officials to vote for the bylaw proposal that would continue the practice of basing sports participation on a student’s sex as stated on their birth certificate at birth, Rickert said.
Archbishop George J. Lucas and Bishops James D. Conley of Lincoln and Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island issued a statement on the issue Jan. 4, urging all NSAA member schools to vote in favor of the “at-birth” proposal. (See the complete statement below).
The bishops said all people are entitled to respect, dignity and the support needed for personal development and well-being.
“Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness and the safety, privacy and rights of all students,” the bishops said.
“Parents have always appreciated school activities as playing a vital role in the major development of school age children,” the bishops said. “It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools. This would certainly have a negative impact on students’ and society’s attitudes towards the fundamental nature of the human person and family.”
Contact information for school officials, a sample statement to use and background materials on the issue are available on the conference’s website, necatholic.org, Rickert said.
At least three districts must pass the “at-birth” bylaw proposal, or the alternative, for them to be voted on April 8 by the entire NSAA representative assembly and override any actions taken by the NSAA board, Rickert said.
But if neither bylaw proposal is approved, there would be no vote in April. And the NSAA board Jan. 14 could finalize the policy proposal it first heard in December.
That proposal would allow males identifying as females to compete on girls’ teams and females identifying as males to compete on boys’ teams in NSAA sports and other activities, Rickert said.
While the proposed board policy would give schools a great deal of discretion, it could present numerous difficulties for all schools, including those that do not allow transgender participation, such as an increased risk of lawsuits and competition decisions among schools, Rickert said.
And while NSAA board members have expressed a need to take action on transgender issues to avoid lawsuits, it is difficult to imagine any transgender participation policy that would not be disputed in some fashion and invite litigation, Rickert said.
“The draft board policy would raise more legal issues than it would resolve,” she said.
Acting on behalf of the bishops, Rickert has expressed other concerns to the board about the board's transgender policy proposal, arguing in part that as many as 80 percent of children who have transgender feelings lose them after puberty.
“A sports participation policy should not discourage or interfere with this natural process for most of these students,” Rickert told the board Oct. 8.
Rickert said people who feel an emotional and psychological identity opposite from their biological sex can be described as having “gender dysphoria,” a condition of unknown origins that often is transitory. Absent a better understanding of the condition, no policy should be adopted that would encourage or support a student in actions –such as sex reassignment surgery – that could have long-term, negative ramifications, she said.
And difficulty with gender identity is not simply a condition experienced by some people, Rickert said. It has become an ideology, with some believing masculinity and femininity are social constructs that do not reflect an objective reality, she said.
Such a view is directly opposed to church teaching, which stresses that God created men and women, with differences that matter, Rickert said.
“The gender ideology is really a rejection of God, and God as our creator,” she said.
The Nebraska Catholic Conference supports a “sex at birth” bylaw proposal, in which a student’s gender would be determined by the sex noted on his or her birth certificate at birth, maintaining current practice by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA).
The conference has serious concerns about another birth certificate bylaw proposal, which for the most part would maintain current NSAA practice. But under the proposal, students born in Nebraska who have undergone sex reassignment surgery, and students born in other states who have changed the sex on their birth certificates as permitted by laws in that state, could participate according to their preferred gender.
The conference opposes the draft NSAA gender participation policy being considered by the board of directors, which would:
1) Allow a transgender student or that student’s parent to notify the school in writing that the student has a “consistent gender identity different than the sex on the student’s birth certificate” and list the sports in which the student wishes to participate.
2) Allow schools to decide whether the student meets the overall participation standards of the NSAA and the requirements of transgender student participation established by the school.
3) Establish an NSAA gender eligibility committee to further determine the student’s eligibility. In male-to-female cases, this would include having had hormone treatment for at least year or a gender reassignment procedure, with testing to show the student does not have physical or physiological advantages over females of the same group.
4) Account for restroom and locker room use by having transgender students who have not undergone sex reassignment surgery use facilities associated with their birth sex, or be assigned private facilities. Rickert emphasized, however, that this and other provisions are complicated and raise serious concerns. She urged school parents and others to read the information provided by the conference at necatholic.org.
Nebraska bishops' Jan. 4 statement on NSAA's pollcy on transgender student participation:
Over the next two weeks, the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) member schools and board of directors will be considering and voting on alternative policies regarding the participation of minors who experience gender dysphoria in high school activities. These alternatives will determine whether, and if so under what conditions, a biological male student can participate as a female in a girls’ sport, and a biological female student can participate as a male in a boys’ sport. Whichever alternative is chosen also will establish the legal basis for any litigation in Nebraska on important, related issues such as locker room and restroom use, religious liberty, and individual freedom of conscience.
Any person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to the respect and dignity that is the right of every human person, as well as genuine concern and the support needed for personal development and well-being. Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness and the safety, privacy, and rights of all students.
Parents have always appreciated school activities as playing a vital role in the mature development of their school age children. It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools. This would certainly have a negative impact on students’ and society’s attitudes towards the fundamental nature of the human person and the family.
Recently, Pope Francis addressed this issue in the context of marriage and the family by stating, “the complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of the divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”
Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI also expressed grave concern about the gender ideology: “The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.”
High schools in the Nebraska panhandle will be voting on January 6th, and high schools in the rest of the state will be voting on January 13th, whether to formally adopt the current NSAA practice that students participate according to their sex at birth. The Nebraska Catholic Conference supports this proposal, and diocesan high schools that are members of the NSAA will be voting in favor of it.
If NSAA member schools fail to pass this or a related proposal, the NSAA board of directors will consider, and possibly approve, a separate policy on January 14th that would open the door to participation by students with gender dysphoria according to their self-identity. If approved, this policy would go into effect immediately on January 14th. The Nebraska Catholic Conference strongly opposes this new policy being considered by the NSAA board of directors.
We strongly urge all NSAA member schools to vote in favor of the “sex on the certificate at birth” bylaw amendment proposal at their district meetings on January 6th and 13th.
More information is available at the Nebraska Catholic Conference website, www.necatholic.org.
Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha
Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln
Most Reverend Joseph G. Hanefeldt, Bishop of Grand Island