Utah official sparks uproar after falsely suggesting teen was trans

Women's hands grasping at a basketball

An official on Utah’s State Board of Education has sparked uproar and calls for resignation after falsely suggesting that a teen athlete was trans in an accusatory Facebook post.

Elected official Natalie Cline was embroiled in controversy this week after re-posting a social media flier for a girl’s basketball game at a Utah high school, featuring some of the members of the team.

In the post, which has since been deleted, Cline wrote: “‘Girls’ basketball…” seemingly implying that it was not a girls’ basketball team at all.

According to the parents of one athlete on the team, the Utah official’s post prompted a horrific onslaught of cyberbullying directed at their 16-year-old daughter, who is not trans but described as a “tomboy”.

A Utah official has sparked calls for her resignation after falsely suggesting that a teen athlete was trans. (Pexels)

Recalling the phone call they got on Wednesday (7 February) to make them aware of Cline’s comments, father Al van der Beek told local news NBC affiliate KSL TV: “Someone has posted some things on Facebook and it’s starting to get a lot of attention and there’s a lot of people commenting.

“Basically, your daughter is accused of being a boy playing girls’ basketball.”

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Mother Rachel van der Beek commented: “To look at someone’s outer appearance and make an assumption that they’re either playing in the right arena or not, based on how someone looks, I don’t think is appropriate.”

Cline has deleted her original post and issued an apology for her mistake, though she defended her intent behind the post: to single out and shame a minor who she believed to be trans.

Shortly after issuing her “deepest apologies” to the students and their families, she wrote: “Please know that several people I know and trust have reached out to me who personally know this girl and have vouched that she is, in fact, a biological girl and always has been since birth. 

“She does have a larger build, like her parents.  We live in strange times when it is normal to pause and wonder if people are what they say they are because of the push to normalize transgenderism in our society. 

“But that is definitely not the case with this student, and I apologise again that the conversation around the post turned personal, that was never the intention, and again, I removed the post as soon as I realised what had transpired.”

trans basketball
Utah education official Natalie Cline wrongfully alleged in her now-deleted post that a player on a local girls’ basketball team was trans. (Getty Images)

This marks the latest in a long string of incidents and incitements of harassment as a result of the bizarre fascination that elected officials and politicians have with the lives and rights of transgender minors.

In the past year, transgender people’s right to participate in sports that align with their gender identity has been an explosive point of contention among political figures and sports officials, from elite sports down to school teams. 

Arguments against trans athletes competing in teams or categories that correspond with their gender identity are made under the guise of women’s rights, though time and time again, anti-trans campaigners have revealed themselves as having no interest in protecting women or women’s issues.

Cline is just the latest example of this, unleashing a hateful shower of cyberbullying and transphobic harassment on a 16-year-old girl.  

The parents of the student-athlete are calling for Cline to resign.

“Here’s a person that is supposed to be in a position of leadership that advocates for our children’s safety, wellbeing, their privacy and she’s the one who has instigated this post that has led to all this hate,” said Al van der Beek.

The parents said that their daughter is was in the lucky position to have a family that is rallying around her, but not every child who could be targeted by these senseless attacks has the same privilege.

“What if our daughter didn’t have that strong character and have our support, and community support to where she internalized this? Worst case scenario, she could’ve ended her own life,” said van der Beek.

Rachel van der Beek used the family’s unexpected moment in the spotlight to issue a message to other families and students experiencing any form of harassment of cyberbullying.

“I want all the kids to know it’s OK to be who they are,” she said.

Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

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