Updated: Jun 19
By: Lauren Howard
The Florida High School Athletic Association is considering requiring female athletes in the state’s education system to disclose menstruation data.
Athletes would be asked once per year during the mandatory sports physical that students already have to complete to participate in their activities.
The questions are currently part of the physical, but they are optional.
The elletwo take:
If you menstruate, you have undoubtedly sat in class at some point in your life and, with terror in your eyes, realized that you had no idea what would happen when you stood up. Those moments are enough to make you feel as if you’re risking exposure to a whole lot of people who do not need to be in your intimate healthcare moments. Menstruation is not shameful, but MY menstruation is also not something that I want to talk about in front of a bunch of relative strangers on any campus. The topic overall? De-stigmatizing it and normalizing it? Talking about it enough so people don’t cringe when they hear it? Hell yes. Let’s do that. But letting everyone around me know what is happening in my pants at this very moment? Eh. Maybe not. So cue a potential nightmare scenario for female high school athletes throughout Florida whose bodies are again the topic of not only discussion but possible interrogation. As if this administration needed to make it clearer that they think women exist to be controlled, the Florida High School Athletic Association—of which 25 percent is represented by DeSantis’s appointed education commissioner—recently floated the idea of requiring female athletes in the state’s education system to disclose menstruation data. The question has always been on the form, but answering the question was optional. Yep. You read that right. They discussed tracking the periods of their female athletes. I don’t know the plan there but, it’s not super hard to guess. Now, it’s not time to panic—yet. The rule hasn’t been voted on and it’s not certain that it will get beyond the really effing bad idea stage. That being said, the appointment was made by DeSantis, and he’s not usually one to select impartial or not-totally-batshit people to fill his ranks. Please see his state Surgeon General if you need more information. Manny Diaz, the state education commissioner, gets a seat on the FHSAA board with three other people of his choosing. That being said, the total board is 16 people, and we can maybe hope that those 12 other people are somehow as impartial as they’re supposed to be.
To bring down the temperature just a little bit more, the questions that are being suggested would be asked one time per year during the mandatory sports physical that students already have to complete to participate in those activities. The questions are currently part of the physical, but they are optional. It doesn’t look like students would be required to regularly provide that information throughout the school year or confirm any of it to participate in sports. You know, yet. Let’s not give them any ideas. That being said, I still don’t know how any of the information is relevant to playing sports or why documenting that in a file that is accessible to school officials even needs to be discussed. Kelley Aurand, a General Practitioner in Oregon, said there are potential reasons why this information is important for a sports physical, but that does not mean the school needs the information. “The reason that we do sports physicals is to screen for conditions that might put kids at risk for further morbidity or mortality if they participate in sports. Females who have not started menstruation by age 16, or who have started menstruation and later had it stop, could be showing signs that something is wrong. Especially in women with disordered eating or over-exercising, it could be a sign of the female athlete triad, which is serious.” But Aurand is skeptical as to who needs access to that information overall.
“I think that it’s information between a doctor and a patient. You don’t have to give a reason why you don’t clear the patient. You just check the box that the patient is not cleared because that information is confidential. Disclosing that is a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality … If they are requiring the last menstrual period as a vital sign, I think that’s a slippery slope.”
Maegan Barnes has been a participant, coach, and advisor at the high school level for more than 20 years. She said that disclosing menstruation data on physical forms is not new, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be changed. ”Athletic coaches are expected to have up-to-date physicals for all athletes at all times. I know that if I was having an issue with any of my athletes and their health, I would check their physical form and check with the parent, and from there a trainer, and from there a physician.”
Barnes, however, doesn’t think putting this information on a form is more useful than communicating with your athletes.
“That’s information that I could easily get from a student athlete, physician, or parent if I needed it. Especially as we move into a space where we need to be representing students of all genders and gender identities, it opens up a lot of room for discrimination.”
So while the reality of what is being proposed is not as drastic as the headlines make it sound, the outcome is the same. Girls can play sportsball even when they are menstruating (or not), and the rest is none of your goddang business. Information on menstruation can be grossly misused by giving access to those who don’t need it, and it’s up to the menstruate-er to decide who needs it. Hands (and bad intentions) off. On the Dystopian Hellscape meter, we haven’t reached The Handmaid’s Tale yet. That being said, we’re giving it the elletwo rating of: Keep an eye on it because we might need to get really mad soon.
Meet the Author
Lauren Howard Founder & CEO at ElleTwo