THE Manchester Board of School Committee, with its overwhelming vote (10-2-2) to grant autonomy to students to decide and define their own gender, has created a dilemma for morally and religiously conservative parents who have children in the city’s public schools.

It may be the last straw. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written a strongly-worded condemnation of the transgender movement. For Catholics who are faithful to the Church’s teaching and for conservative protestants, Jews and Muslims, sending their children to the schools of a state or city that teach approval of legalized abortion, homosexual marriage, and now transgender access to formerly gender-specific activities and facilities may constitute a betrayal of their religious faith and their moral responsibility to raise their children according to traditional mores of decency and self-respect.

One thing that has received a good deal of attention is the problem of biological males competing on girls’ and women’s athletic teams. Even many “progressives” have pointed out the regressive nature of such a policy. This is not a male chauvinist argument. I cheerfully acknowledge that most athletes of either gender could run rings around an old stiff like me in my best day. But the best female athletes in one school against the best male athletes in another would not be a fair competition.

It is no denigration of female athletes to say that generally speaking men and boys are stronger and faster than women and girls. Many girls will lose either a place on their team or championship medals they might otherwise win because of the unwelcome competition from male interlopers.

In Connecticut there is already litigation underway on behalf of women athletes who are afraid they may lose their chances for athletic scholarships if their achievements are eclipsed by their male counterparts. There will likely be costly litigation here as well unless this latest aberration of the Manchester school board is rescinded.

That policy puts in jeopardy the women’s sports programs that have been built up through decades of time, effort and money, backed up by federal legislation that requires equal allocation of resources for men’s and women’s teams. That was done for the sake of equality. Now in the name of a radically different New Age kind of equality, students are allowed to participate according to the gender of their choice.

This may eventually lead to cost-cutting school boards of the future doing away with women’s athletics altogether in favor of coed varsity teams. Why, after all, maintain the expense of two soccer, lacrosse or track teams when you can have one of each, thus cutting roughly in half the dollars spent on athletes, coaches, transportation and equipment.

And not only varsity sports programs, but gym classes, too, may be subject to the same economizing.

What’s more, parents these days already have a difficult enough time to encourage modesty in dress to their teenagers without sending their 14-year-old daughters off to a school where a shower after gym class means walking back to a locker with nothing but a towel concealing a girl’s essential anatomical parts from males who may be sharing the same locker rooms.

There may be thoughts about reconfiguring the locker rooms to create separate space, but that would contradict the whole rationale of the new transgender policy. If the biological males believe in their hearts and minds that they are really female, why should they be segregated, even within the confines of the girls locker room?

Schools are here for inquiry and exploration, not for radical social experimentation, with children and adolescents in the role of laboratory mice or rats.

Apparently, transgender is “in” this year. School board members may be as trendy and “progressive” as they like with their own children, but they are carrying on a dangerous experiment with the lives and souls of the children of Manchester. They should cease and desist forthwith.

Jack Kenny is a freelance writer living and working in Manchester.

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