As a rabbi, I deal with something called “coded antisemitism.” This isn’t overt hatred against Jews, but veiled hurtful vocabulary. It seems harmless because it doesn’t sound particularly anti-Jewish. For example, key words like blood libel, Rothschild, or George Soros are coded terms that are actually antisemitic. Coded language like this normalizes hostility toward Judaism. This type of antisemitism is just as cruel and hurtful as overt forms of antisemitism, because the coded language emboldens others to use it often. I fear that the Mat-Su School Board decision to ban trans youth from sports is creating an environment that enables hatred toward trans people.
The Mat-Su School Board admits that this is not in reaction toward a current situation, nor will the Mat-Su School Board enforce this ruling on visiting teams. Which means the Mat-Su School Board just informed its community that trans youth are not welcomed in their school district. While they did not overtly announce this to their community, they covertly did so through the coded language of their new ban.
In Judaism, we believe all people are created in the image of God and thus each person is sacred. A person’s identity is a unique aspect of the divine that should be respected and treated with dignity. We fail our youth when they are not shown the dignity and respect that they deserve. I’m asking that the Mat-Su School Board reverse their ban not just because it’s unwelcoming, but because it emboldens an environment of hatred toward some of the most vulnerable youth in our community.
This is a new and complicated topic for our community, and it deserves our attention. We want all kids to feel that they have a fair opportunity to benefit from sports. This ban prevents a fruitful conversation on how we can integrate trans youth into sports while ensuring that there are no undue advantages. We can do better! All children deserve an opportunity to improve themselves through sports. I know as a community, we can find a way to make our youth feel welcomed while also making sport competitions feel fair.
— Rabbi Abram Goodstein
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