I’ve heard it said that who you are as a teenager is essentially who you will always be, that your personality is pretty much set at that point. I’m not sure how true that is, but it worries me. I remember being a teenager and in high school and it was a pretty sexist time. It’s obvious that a lot has changed since 1999, but how much has the sexism changed? Every community is going to be different, sure. I know that some towns are very involved in football programs and that such programs do a better job of fostering sexism than expelling it by it’s very nature. Any “all-boys club” such as gendered team sports will tend to do this. That’s kind of the problem with team sports as we know it in schools, generally. It’s great to teach teamwork and cooperation, but aren’t teaching that all people need to be included. It doesn’t teach cooperation and teamwork between people of different genders unless you happen to go to a school with incredible progressive sports. It’s easy to integrate other genders into drama clubs and yearbook committees because there’s no chance of them getting physically hurt by a boy.
But sometimes they will get physically hurt by boys. Sometimes they will be hurt in all kinds of ways by boys that are supposed to be on the same team and sometimes they will hurt the boys. They will need to learn to deal with it and so will the boys. Boys need to learn how to have girls on their team and that they can be valuable members of any team. They need to learn that anyone who identifies as other than a boy can be on their team and be valued members. We spend so much time concerned that these boys will physically hurt someone that goes out for the same team that we lock in their perception that the girls can’t handle it and trans and gender variant kids are so wrong they have no place on a team. If a girl is tough or physically strong enough to try out for an aggressive team and does well enough at try-outs to make the team on the same criteria, it does no one any good to tell them that her vagina makes her ineligible for that team. She is no less likely to get hurt than any boy that is on that team. If a trans or gender variant kid tries out for a team and make it, ze should be able to be accepted on the team. The only exception is when certain team members sometimes get singled out and targeted due to diversity issues on the same or opposing team. That creates problems. But it didn’t stand in our way for integrating races onto sports teams. It shouldn’t be the deciding factor in integrating girls and other genders.
Of course, this whole argument is based not on whether or not it is fair to exclude non-boys but whether or not we are teaching boys the lessen that we think are. If we are using team sports to teach team members to cooperate and work well in diverse groups, than we need to integrate everyone into those groups and not single any group out from trying to be on the team. If we’re teaching them something else, than that argument is for another day. If we aren’t teaching boys how to be on a team with non-boys in team sports that really are great for that reason, than when do we plan on teaching it to them? When are we planning on teaching boys that sometimes you will hurt a girl when you don’t intend to? When are we going to teach them how to handle it and when are we going to teach the girls how to handle it? Why isn’t it important to us to integrate all genders onto all types of teams in schools, especially since there are very few teams in the professional world that are still segregated that way?
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Note: As is pointed out in the comments, to de-segregate gendered teams would also mean the end of all-girl teams. The sexism involved in maintaining all-girl teams (and gyms) is just as much of a problem as all-boy teams when discussing the importance of teaching teamwork to teenagers. While I’m sure there are many reasonable arguments for maintaining these teams, I’m sure that we can figure out a way to accomplish this without teaching that anyone is less qualified for anything based solely in their genitals or gender expression.