The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) voted to approve the new guidelines for transgender students in sports. The policy will go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year.
The latest draft defines transgender students and would allow them to participate in activities in line with their gender identity after turning in a confidential written request to their school. Any appeals would be handled by the league, and private schools would be exempt under state and federal law.
"I think the difficult part has been getting everyone together to understand what the issues are," said MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead, "Because everyone comes from a different perspective."
So many, in fact, that the league got 10,000 emails about the issue this fall, and Wednesday heard more opinions.
"If a student knows the policy is there they will know they belong," said State Rep. Barb Yarusso, whose son is transgender. "They will know they are welcome."
Board members are working to answer key questions: How do kids identify as male or female? Should a policy be mandatory statewide or decided by each Minnesota school?
"I have great trepidation seeing this played out at the local school district level," said MSHSL Board Member Deb Pauly.
Critics of the policy bought full page ads in several Minnesota newspapers, saying letting transgender kids play sports is unsafe and unfair.
"It's not a perfect policy but it's a good first step," said Allison Yocum, of Transforming Minnesota Families. "And I think it'll pass tomorrow and I think that's a victory for Minnesota."
A study by the National Center for Lesbian Rights says only about five transgender students in the entire country ask each year to be on a team of the opposite sex.
The MSHSL league agrees it's a very rare situation, but says it wants to make sure sports are fair and accessible to everyone.