Sports

Transgender Student-Athlete Think Tank Report Released

| by Pat Griffin

I am really proud to announce the public release of the report from the October, 2009 Transgender Student-Athlete Think Tank that the Women’s Sports Foundation and the National Center for Lesbian Rights co-sponsored. Helen Carroll, the director of the NCLR Sports Project and I wrote the report with the support of many other folks with far greater expertise on this topic than we have. You can access the report here. The report will also be available here.

Helen and I have worked on this report for past nine months and the birthing process has been challenging, educational and inspiring. It also represents my final task as director of It Takes A Team. I’m very proud of what we have to offer the intercollegiate and interscholastic athletic world in this ground-breaking report.

The report focuses on high school and collegiate athletics and includes specific policy recommendations for including transgender student-athletes on high school and college teams. The guiding principles of the think tank and report emphasize the importance of viewing transgender student-athletes’ opportunities to participate on school sports teams as an issue of social justice demanding that schools adopt inclusive participation policies that are fair for all. We based our recommendations on the most current medical and legal information available and on our understanding of the particular competitive contexts of high school and collegiate athletics.

The report, entitled, On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student-Athletes, builds on the excellent Canadian report on transitioning and transitioned athletes released in early 2009. The Canadian report provides a comprehensive foundation for understanding the issues and challenges related to the inclusion of transitioning and transitioned athletes on sports teams, but does not offer specific policy recommendations. Our think tank report does provide overall policy recommendations in addition to best practice recommendations for athletic directors, coaches, student-athletes and parents, an overview of the legal status of transgender people in the United States, an overview of medical issues related to transgender participation in sports and a list of resources on transgender issues.

The release of the report comes none too soon as over the last year I’ve been alarmed that some state interscholastic athletic associations (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Colorado, for example) have adopted the 2004 International Olympic Committee policy. The IOC policy, though pioneering, has several flaws which make its adoption by other sport governing organizations problematic: The mandatory two year waiting period after beginning hormone treatment has been challenged by recent research, the requirement that a transgender athlete undergo genital reconstructive surgery is not a choice for many transgender people or even possible for low income families, and the requirement that the athlete’s official identity documents be changed places an impossible burden on many athletes because of the wide disparity in state laws enabling alterations of official identity documents.

In addition, our perspective is that school-based sports, as an integral part of education, requires an emphasis on assuring equitable participation opportunities for all students and that competitive goals in athletics must be viewed through the lens of educational goals that reflect broader educational institutional values such as fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination.

I want to thank all think tank participants and consultants who provided invaluable input into the writing of this report. Your knowledge and expertise as well as your passionate commitment to equality in sport for all student-athletes are inspiring. In particular, I want to thank the transgender and genderqueer student-athletes who participated in the think tank for sharing your experiences and providing such important insights so that the rest of us could better understand the value of sports in your lives and the pain of having it denied unfairly. Because of your openness and commitment, future generations of transgender student-athletes, with their parents support, will have opportunities to play the sports they love in an athletic climate where they are respected and understood by coaches, teammates and opponents.