A Massachusetts high school came under the spotlight late last month when it won a state championship in girls’ indoor track with the help of a transgender student-athlete.
Chloe Barnes earned five of Brookline High School’s 63 points in the women’s 55m hurdles in late February with a time of 8.72. Barnes finished fourth in the race and behind one of her teammates. Barnes, however, failed to reach the Meet of Champions final later in the state tournament.
Brookline won the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 indoor track and field championships over Newton North, Wachusett and Central Catholic. Newton North scored 5 points in championship competitions.
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However, controversy ignited this week when Barnes’ career was highlighted on social media. ICONS Woman, an advocacy group for women athletes, said Barnes, a biological boy, pushed another girl out of the final in the hurdles. The group noted that boys’ hurdles are higher than girls’ in high school track as well.
The test was criticized.
«Just cheating! This should not be allowed,» Olympian Andy Turner tweeted.
Fellow Olympian Sharron Davies agreed: «This is cheating!!»
Massachusetts officials essentially paved the way for transgender girls and boys to compete against the genders they identify with in 2012.
“Where there are sex-segregated athletic classes or activities, including intramural and interscholastic sports, all students must be allowed to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity,” the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education policy says. «With respect to intercollegiate athletics, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will rely upon the gender determination made by the student’s district; it will not make separate gender identity determinations.»
The Cypress, an independent Brookline student newspaper, noted the Brookline Public Schools policy regarding transgender students in interscholastic athletics, which was published in 2014.
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“Students who are transgender may participate in accordance with the gender identity they consistently affirm at school. Interscholastic athletic activities are addressed through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Gender Identity Policy Clarification says the policy.
Barnes told the student newspaper at the time that they wanted to practice with the girls’ team but run for the boys’ team out of fear others would question what they were doing. Barnes made it clear that they weren’t going to let fear get to them as they were set to compete for the girls in 2022-23.
Barnes also had a strong message to those trying to ban transgender athletes from advocates trying to prevent biological men from competing against girls in sanctioned competitions.
«Accept it,» Barnes told the newspaper. «Just deal with it.»
Barnes did not do anything illegal and appeared to be participating within the rules of Massachusetts high school athletics. Whether it was fair for that to happen is another question.
From varsity track and field to high school sports, a debate has grown over whether having transgender women and girls compete against biological women and girls is truly a level playing field.
Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, won an NCAA women’s swimming championship in the 500 freestyle last March. The debate has even gone to the gates of the NCAA.
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Recently, a Vermont Christian school was banned from future state-sanctioned tournaments because its girls’ basketball team refused to play another opponent that had a transgender girl on the team.