On October 25-26 in Indianapolis, The Women’s Sports Foundation initiative, It Takes A Team will be partnering with the Sports Project of the National Center for Lesbian Rights to host a national think tank entitled, “Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student-Athletes”. Helen Carroll, director of the Sports Project and I have been working for the past several months on this collaborative project. We’ve invited 35 participants from across the U.S. whose legal, medical or athletic knowledge and perspectives will inform a discussion about effective, respectful and fair policy recommendations and guidelines for the inclusion of transgender, genderqueer and gender variant young people in collegiate and high school athletic programs. Think tank participants represent a broad range of transgender and non-transgender professional and personal expertise related to transgender and gender variant experience. The WSF and NCLR will issue a joint report following the think tank which will include policy recommendations and guidelines for athletic administrators, coaches, parents and student-athletes.
Some sport governing organizations have developed pioneering policies aimed at providing guidance for decision-making about the inclusion of transsexual and transgender athletes who have completed a transition process. The International Olympic Committee, the Federation of Gay Games, the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (sponsors of the Outgames) are examples of organizations that have developed policy at the international level. USA Track and Field, the United States Golf Association and USA Rugby have also developed policies modeled largely on the IOC policy. The Washington State Interscholastic Association, which governs high school athletics in that state, is the only high school organization that has developed a policy that addresses gender identity and sports participation.
I call these efforts pioneering because, as is often the case with pioneering efforts, some are flawed in some ways and, with the exception of the WIAA policy, each is focused on the inclusion of adult transgender athletes who have no eligibility limitations on their ability to participate in their sports as is the case with collegiate or high school athletes.
Our goal in the think tank is to address, not only the participation of athletes who have completed a transition or who are in the process of transitioning, but also athletes who are not undergoing a transition but whose gender identity and expression do not conform to typical expectations. We plan to discuss overall inclusion of transgender athletes as well as the day-today issues such as locker room and toilet access, hotel room sharing, language use, and education of athletic staff and athletes.
This is a topic fraught with much misunderstanding and prejudice as well as concern for competitive fairness to all athletes and I’m excited that the think tank report might be able to offer some guidance on sound policy recommendations based on the best thinking of a gathering of people who, collectively, bring to the table legal, medical, practical and experiential knowledge about transgender issues and an understanding of the world of high school and collegiate athletics.
I know I, as a non-trans-identified woman whose gender expression is a little queer, am continuing to learn about trans issues in sport so that I can be an effective advocate for good policy that enables all young people to participate in sport regardless of their gender identity or expression. I expect to learn a lot at the end of October.