An accomplished female track star and Alaska record holder has now publicly challenged the state’s governing athletic board over its decision to allow male athletes to compete against females in high school state championship events.
Tanner Ealum graduated from Anchorage Christian School this spring after winning the Class 1A-2A-3A competitions in the 100, 200, 400 and 4X400-meter races during the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) track and field championships.
But the event was mired in controversy after the ASAA board of directors, which regulates interscholastic activities across Alaska, unanimously agreed to allow students to compete in accordance with whichever gender they self identify regardless of their biological sex at birth. The updated policy relies on a gender determination made by the student’s school which has the authority to come up with criteria for identifying a student’s gender as well as which team — boys or girls — the student can play for.
The change was a shock to Ealum and many other parents and athletes across Alaska.
In lining up for the start of the 100 and 200-meter girls finals, Ealum was unaware that one of the eight athletes was, in fact, male. Tanner, who holds state records in the 100 and 200-meter races, won anyway but spoke on behalf of girls who suffered a lower placing or didn’t even make it to the finals because they were beaten by a boy.
“I was never asked if it was okay for that to happen,” she said. “There was obviously one girl in each of those races that did not get to compete because of this athlete.”
“It’s not fair scientifically,” she added. “Obviously male and female are made differently and there are certain races for males and certain races for females and I believe it should stay that way.”
Ealum, who was recently named as one of the national Gatorade State Girls Track & Field Athletes of the Year, had her comments published as part of a wider effort to empower women in telling their stories about the consequences of allowing men to use women’s bathrooms, showers or compete against women in athletic events.
The “Ask Me First” national campaign was launched this summer by Family Policy Alliance, a partner of Focus on the Family which aims to advance Christian values in public policy.
The project includes video messages from women around the country aimed at providing women an opportunity to share real life stories in the hope of addressing administrators and legislators who are in a position to affect public policy.
Ealum felt compelled to speak out on behalf of her fellow female athletes in Alaska.
“It will affect every sport out there, not just track and field. It affects volleyball, basketball, flag football. I mean every sport can be affected by this,” she said. “If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, you may not even be able to stand up for that anymore. It’s not going to be something that you have a say in. And if you have a say in it you need to stand up for what you believe in and what you know is right.”
Despite the views of those like Ealum, the ASAA board is urging all Alaska school districts to adopt written policies regarding transgender participation in sports and other activities.
The new policy can be reversed or amended by a simple majority vote of the board of directors. To contact individual ASAA board members, go online to asaa.org/about-asaa/board-of-directors.