In an effort to keep you, our readers, well-informed and abreast of relevant issues, today is the sixth in a series of questions we are asking all of Steele County’s candidates for state office.
We want voters to know where each candidate stands on the issues in order to make their best decision at the ballot box.
Each week, we’ll ask the candidates a new question. They will all receive the same question, be given a word limit and a deadline of four days to answer. We’ll publish their answers the following Wednesday; responses may be edited for length.
The series will continue through Nov. 2, the last Wednesday before the Nov. 8 general election.
If a candidate doesn’t respond, we’ll note that.
This week, we’re asking about transgender athletes:
The issue of transgender rights has been raised in many areas, but Minnesota is widely considered an LGBTQ-friendly state. Since October 2018, it’s allowed an "X" sex descriptor on driver's licenses and state ID cards. No such option is allowed on birth certificates, but transgender students in Minnesota are legally entitled to:
Use the same restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities as other students;
Use the restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that align with their gender identity;
Participate authentically in all school-related activities;
Participate on athletic teams and school activities that align with their gender identity; and
Be protected from bullying.
The state Court of Appeals has ruled that segregating transgender students from their peers violates both the Minnesota Constitution and the Human Rights Act, though that has been challenged.
Question of the Week:
What is your opinion of transgender youth participating in high school sports?
The limit was 250 words.
We advise you to ignore the R or DFL behind each name and reflect only on the answers. You might be surprised to find more common ground than you expected. An (i) indicates the incumbent candidate, though with this spring’s redistricting, the district numbers may not align with the seat they’re seeking.
Question 6: What is your opinion of transgender youth participating in high school sports? (250 words)
Minnesota House District 19B
Abdulahi Ali Osman – DFL, of Owatonna:
John Petersburg – R (i-24A), of Waseca:
I believe the High School League made a mistake in their decision. In my opinion, it is simple biology. When it comes to competitive sports we have always been concerned with fair competition. We have rules and regulations prohibiting muscle/performance enhancing drugs. In the case of transgender (athletes) we are dealing with the emotional and psychological beliefs of the person, but the body is still built and performs in the traditional way for the body's biological gender. If a person believes they are a woman but has the body of a man, they will have the same muscle development and size of a man. In individual competition we generally want an even and equitable playing field. In regard to transgender athletics, I believe it is the fairest in competition to compete based upon the biology of the body instead of the desire or psychology of the person.
Minnesota House District 23A
Peggy Bennett – R (i-27A), of Albert Lea:
What would women’s sports be without amazing champion athletes like tennis star Serena Williams, or modern-day Olympians like swimmer Katie Ledecky and downhill skier Lindsey Vonn? It is women like these and others who have inspired countless young girls to strive and compete as athletes. Sadly, it is likely that these amazing women would have never made it to these championship levels had they been required to compete against biological males. Biological male bodies are typically larger and taller. They have attributes like greater bone density, muscle mass, larger hearts and lungs, more oxygenated blood, and enhanced muscle fiber. Even with estrogen supplements, a male body has these physical advantages. For example, simply compare the finalist track times between male high school athletes and female Olympians and you can observe this truth. Male high school athlete times most often beat the female Olympians. Pitting transgender-identified biological male bodies against biological female bodies creates hopeless situations where male bodies easily dominate, beating hardworking girls out for accolades, awards, scholarships, and college opportunities. For generations, women have been treated as inferior to men. Countless women have fought to find their places in the world. With women now making tremendous progress in the marketplace, government, business, sports, and more, how can we rationalize again placing women at a disadvantage? This is not right. Transgender people should be treated with dignity and respect, but we must find solutions for this issue that won’t destroy girls’ sports. Our girls and women deserve this.
Mary Hinnenkamp – DFL, of Albert Lea:
I am a woman of a certain age. When I was in high school, there were no girls’ sports. Basketball, tennis, wrestling, baseball, track – it was all for the boys. While I was not a great athlete, I was a pretty fast runner, and I really liked to play softball and soccer. But until years later, there were no organized high school sports for me, or for half of the high school population. My job, our job, was to cheer for the boys. I think this lack of sports inclusion was unfortunate for a number of reasons. I was a shy kid, and I think I would have benefitted from the teamwork, confidence-building, and friendship-building that being a member of a sports team provides.
So yes, transgender youth should be allowed to participate in high school sports. Transgender youth are isolated and bullied at a high rate at school They suffer higher rates of depression and other mental health struggles than other youth. To further isolate them, to tell them that they don’t deserve – and are not welcome – to be on a team, seems cruel. Like me, I think they would greatly benefit from being part of a team, have a chance to build confidence and friendships with other kids. Transgender kids are just that: kids. I always felt as a mom that I wanted my kids to be in extracurricular activities to have fun and be healthy. Why would we deny that to any kid?
Minnesota House District 23B
Patricia Mueller – R (i-27B), of Austin:
I believe it is important to remember the function of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHL): to provide a fair and safe competition for our young athletes. This is why there are many different levels of competition for each sport: varsity, JV, C-Squad, adaptive, and different weight classes. We would never expect a seventh-grade student to compete against a senior in any sport because of the immense size, weight, and skill difference. We recognize the importance of putting athletes of comparative skills together so each individual or team has a fair chance and there is the least likelihood of injury.
Title IX was created to empower women and provide a level playing field for female athletes. After the passage of Title IX, the world witnessed incredible achievements by women and a huge increase in popularity and participation in women’s sports. This should be celebrated, honored, and protected. With this background knowledge in mind, I believe an athlete's biological gender, skill level, and work ethic should determine which sports team he or she participates in. Several female athletes have spoken out in opposition to competing against biological males. Coaches of female sports have shared with me their frustrations because they know the work these athletes have invested in and know that women’s and men’s bodies are different. This is not about excluding individuals; it is about protecting an athlete’s ability to have their hard work honored and to have a fair and safe competition.
Tom Stiehm – DFL, of Austin:
This is a subject I investigated a lot. It’s clear the suicide rate for transgender kids in high school is well above the average. It’s also clear the better integrated, and the more active kids are in school activities, the lower the suicide rate. Virtually every study I read said that transgender athletes do no better than kids that aren’t. It would be unfair to deny transgender (athletes) the same opportunities as everyone else.
Minnesota Senate District 19
Kate Falvey – DFL, of Faribault:
I believe that transgender youth should be allowed to participate in high school sports as the gender with which they identify.
John Jasinksi – R (i-24), of Faribault:
I do not agree with transgender youth to participate in high school sports. I believe that in the fairness to women and girls participating in sports. Title IX was designed to protect women and girls and their opportunities to participate in sports. We want to see young girls and women participating in school sports to have the fair opportunity to succeed, thrive, and compete for scholarships. Allowing those whose sex at birth is male to participate in girls’ sports creates exactly the unfair advantages Title IX sought to protect young girls from. We can’t allow progressive ideals to crush our girl athletes’ dreams of setting sports records, competing at the next level, pursuing athletic scholarship opportunities, and launching their careers in athletics and coaching.
Studies have shown that an influx of hormones doesn’t undo males’ larger hearts and lungs, denser bones, and stronger muscles. A boy’s belief about his gender should not cancel out his physical advantage. In sports, it is biology that matters, not identity.
Minnesota Senate District 23
Gene Dornink – R (i-27), of Brownsdale:
I thought it best to start by asking some parents this question before I answered. A young mother answered and she gave me this: it is a gut punch for women’s sports.
My thoughts as a father of many daughters is similar. To watch our daughters work, train and practice in their sport and then simply be beat out by a biological male doesn’t encourage our high school girls to participate in sports.
I remember girls’ sports early on when I was in school. They have come so far and women’s sports have been such a great opportunity. Now we want to disregard our female athletes? I believe we need to be very careful in this. Look at Lia Thomas and how she broke swimming records by not just a small margin but by huge, unrealistic proportions. The difference in athletic measurements isn’t just conjecture.
Our young women and girls deserve the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Forcing unequal competition is inherently wrong and deeply harmful to the athletic success of our female athletes. How can we encourage these athletes to put their heart and soul into breaking records and reaching new milestones when recognition will, inevitably, land with an individual of different biological traits?
I believe there is a way to navigate through this issue in a kind and respectful way without hurting girls and women sports.
Lisa Hanson – R, of Hayward:
Brandon Lawhead – DFL, of Austin:
In 1803, the United States Supreme Court held in Marbury v. Madison that the Courts exclusively determine constitutional questions. This determination is a matter for the Courts.
On a personal note, I would state that my youth baseball team allowed a girl to play on the team. She was not transgender. She just liked the game of baseball. This was before female leagues were established in Austin, Minnesota. There weren’t any lawsuits. Everyone worked together for the betterment of the kids. We, the kids, didn’t care. We thought she was a good player, and I thought we were a better team and better people because of her participation. As it relates to youth sports, I think the key is participation and establishing relationships. I’ve been fortunate to represent some of the great professional athletes of our time. I can unequivocally tell you, the athletes don’t reflect on their MVP trophies or Championships. They reflect on the relationships they made in the locker room. Maybe parents of student athletes should be guided, accordingly.
Next week’s question
The results of a national survey in 2021 indicated that voters overwhelmingly support implementing term limits on members of our United States Congress. Support for term limits is broad and strong across all political, geographic and demographic groups. An overwhelming 80% of voters approve of a Constitutional Amendment that will place term limits on members of Congress. Half of all voters, 50%, say they would be more likely to support a member of Congress who has been opposed to congressional term limits during their 20-year career in office but suddenly announced that their views had evolved and they now supported term limits.
Let’s break that down to the state level with Question 7:
What do you think of establishing term limits for all elected state offices? Limit of 200 words.