In the conservative state of South Dakota, Kris Wilka has emerged as the fire needed to upend the outdated conversation about transgender athletes in schools. The 14-year-old boy, with his deeply supportive community, has become an important part of the conversation. Here is how he did it.
About Kris Wilka
A quintessential teenage boy, Wilka is an athlete, playing on the Harrison Tigers football team. Previously, he was slated to go to O’Gorman Junior High School, where the rest of his friends go. However, the school said that Wilka would not be allowed on the grounds if he started in their school. The reason? Because he identifies as a transgender boy. Like every child of his age, Wilka mostly lives a conventional American life – playing video games, listening to rock and roll, messaging his friends on Discord, fantasizing about cars, playing football, and listening to Lana Del Ray. Given the identity of a female at birth, Kris says that he’s known he’s a boy since he was two years old.
Football and the Complications
Wilka started loving the game when his cousin introduced him to it at a young age and has been playing since the second grade. Once a quarterback, he now plays guard on the offensive and defensive end, the latter being his favorite position. Sadly, South Dakota has seen the introduction of several bills over the past few years targeting trans kids. Several of them were rejected, but one bill targeting students playing football in school was partially successful. The bill was vetoed by Governor Kristi Noem on technical grounds, but she later issued two executive orders barring trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in public schools. South Dakota is a reflection of what’s happening across the country. In 2021, 36 states saw the introduction of bills that would prohibit trans students from playing sports with cis students of the same gender at school.
Wilka’s Role in the Conversation
If it was up to the 14-year-old boy, he would just be a ‘normal dude’. But he has been at the forefront of this fight, giving out interviews, testifying at hearings, and whatnot. Dozens of legislators of his state, and hundreds in other states, have been trying to make Kris’s life harder for years. In February, Kris Wilka got a chance to detail his experience, talking about how he had to switch schools to play football. He went on to state how no child should have to go through that fear. 14-year-old Wilka is a fighter, a beacon of hope, a spokesperson for a community. But underneath it all, he is just a boy who wants to play football. And maybe listen to some Lana Del Ray.
The sudden and abnormally cold temperatures that hit Texas left everybody shocked. Local volunteers usually rescue a few sea turtles every year from minor cold snaps, but this year, thousands have been washing up on the shores, stunned by the freezing temperatures. Volunteers are working around the clock and have rescued over 2000 sea turtles so far.
Endangered Green Sea Turtles
Among the species that roam and live in Laguna Madre in Texas are green sea turtles. As reptiles, they can’t regulate their body temperature. The waters around South Padre Island and Laguna Madre are usually warm enough for the turtles, but when the cold front hit, thousands of them were left cold-shocked. Anyone in the area that sees a cold-shocked turtle is advised to report it so that the turtle can be rescued and rehabilitated.
These Reptiles Can’t Handle Cold Weather
When the water temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the sea turtles begin experiencing hypothermia and can no longer swim. That makes them float up to the surface where they are in danger of predators, boat collisions, and the currents. Many of them end up frozen on the shore. The volunteers from the non-profit Sea Turtle Inc. along with Texas Fish and Wildlife have been taking the washed-up sea turtles to their facilities to warm them up and keep them safe until warmer weather returns.
The Texas Turtle Rescue Continues Against Many Obstacles
Sea Turtle Inc. quickly ran out of room for turtle rehabilitation because of the staggering number of turtles that have been affected by this sudden cold front. South Padre Island’s convention center is being used as a temporary shelter for the turtles, although space is quickly running low. Additional problems arose due to the power outages that are affecting large parts of Texas. The power was knocked out at Sea Turtle Inc. making it impossible to properly heat the five large tanks they use for keeping the turtles warm.