By Patrick Bohn
A recent study by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and It Takes a Team, an initiative of the Women's Sports Foundation, provides the first set of policies for athletic directors to ensure transgender students have equal access to activities.
The full report includes a list of 10 guiding principles the group recommends using as the basis of a transgender student-athlete policy. Those principles include the ideas that:
"Participation in interscholastic and intercollegiate athletics is a valuable part of the education experience for all students" and "Transgender student-athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports."
The report goes on to detail recommendations for addressing a host of issues, including how participation in sex-separated sports should be handled, facilities access, and responsibilities for students, schools, and governing bodies. It also provides administrators with a list of resources should they require more information.
In response, the NCAA release admitted that it currently lacks a "specific policy related to transgender student-athletes when it comes to competition," but that its goal is to "adopt policies that best meet student-athlete's unique needs." Leaders from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and It Takes a Team feel this new report provides a comprehensive set of recommendations which they hope will help the NCAA reach its goal.
"So many diversity issues start with a misunderstanding of the facts and stereotypes that we are presented with from such an early age," the NCLR's Director of the Sports Project Helen Carroll, who co-authored the report with Pat Griffin of the WSF, told the NCAA News. "Much of this is just working to get through all of that misinformation in order to understand the core issue, which is the equality of all people."
In 2008, Athletic Management reported on the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which became the first state association to enact a policy on transgender participation in high school sports.
"We realized we needed a policy, so we asked other state associations what they do," Colbrese told Athletic Management at the time. "None of them had policies, either. The best one we could find came from the International Olympic Committee, so we based our rules on that." Currently, Washington and Colorado are the only two states that have official policies, although the Maine Human Rights Commission proposed guidelines for the state's schools to follow.
"As an association, as individual schools and as individuals, we want to meet the needs of every student in our buildings," Dick Durost, the Maine Principals' Association executive director told the Portland Press-Herald in March. "But at the same time, we have to do it with a look toward safety, a level playing field, and the comfort level in the locker room and bathroom situation of the gender that the locker room or bathroom is assigned."
Report co-author Pat Griffin told www.passportmagazine.com that the ultimate goal is to make sure transgender athletes have their needs met by their respective schools. "Once we recognize that transgender young people are part of school communities across the United States, educational leaders have a responsibility to ensure that these students have equal access to opportunities in all academic and extracurricular activities in a safe and respectful school environment," she said.
Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor atAthletic Management.