I have always included athletics in my life, bouncing from sport to sport as I grew up. When I aged into Malden High School, I worried about not having a team to play on, due to recently coming out as trans non-binary. Although, I was over the moon when I found out that co-ed sports were offered.
When I came out in eighth grade, people adjusted well to my name change and the use of new pronouns. I was thankful to have a mostly smooth transition and will forever be grateful to my teachers and peers who helped me throughout my journey and accepted me for who I am. At the start of the ninth grade, I joined Malden High School’s co-ed field hockey team. My teammates were wonderful and immediately accepting when I told them I use they/them pronouns. I could not have wished for a better team.
This feeling came to a screeching halt a few weeks ago when I heard that the team would be gender-segregated in the following years. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) decided that in the coming years, field hockey would no longer have co-ed teams. This decision was due to the fact that some thought it was “unfair to girls” who had been playing for years, were now “being dominated by boys.” For Malden, this statistic is not true, and we actually had the opposite happen to us; we had shutout games against all-girls teams, even losing games 10-0. When we played against co-ed teams, though, we found that the games were equally matched. Malden played against Everett three times, and ended up perfectly matched with one win, loss, and tie. Our record against Revere, another co-ed team, was two wins in our favor and one loss. The team played fifteen games total, six of those being against co-ed teams, and our final record was 7-1-7. We placed perfectly in the middle, and there was no co-ed team that placed above us. Yet somehow our team has been labelled “unfair to play against because we have an advantage.”
Throughout my life, I have been pushed into labels of being a girl and other wrong terminology. It is not a great experience to have your identity constantly undermined. I understand why the decision was made to separate into multiple teams, but making this decision, I am once again being forced into labels that do not define me. I would love to continue playing field hockey, but I don’t think it is worth lying to myself and others just to play a high school sport.
While MIAA’s decision may have good intentions, it has left me feeling ostracized and unwanted. Every step forward seems to be two steps backwards. The decision was made so girls would have a fair chance, and not have to play against boys. But in doing so, transgender and nonbinary students have lost a division to play in that gives them a fair chance.
If students want to waive one year of gym classes at Malden High School, they have to compete in two varsity or junior varsity sports in one year. If field hockey stops being co-ed, the only options left will be gymnastics and wrestling, both being winter sports. This means that in future years, transgender and non-binary students will not have the same opportunities as other students. I cannot speak for all transgender students, but personally those sports would make me uncomfortable to compete in for a multitude of reasons. Gymnastics and wrestling are not the most trans-friendly sports, both have form-fitting uniforms that would exemplify the body that students feel do not belong to them. Gymnastics is also run by rules designed for girls, and wrestling competes under rules designed for boys, meaning they are still not truly co-ed.
When making the decision, it is as though transgender students are once again forgotten about. The decision is about making a fair game for girls, making sure boys do not injure girls, and creating a safe environment for players. In making this change the safe environment for gender non-conforming students is being taken away. There are already so few safe spaces for transgender youth, and yet the ones we do have are being pulled away.
While MIAA may think they are protecting girls with this decision, it has been a damaging one to many. This was done in hopes of equality, but more evidence points to the contrary. One day, I believe a fair and level playing field can be made for all students and players, but this is not how it will happen.