Transgender inclusion in sports

States deliberate topic and spark national debate

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Aidan Villegas, Writer

As some have disagreed over the inclusion of transgender athletes and where they stand in certain athletic programs, there is much to take into account. While some athletic programs and organizations accommodate for trans athletes, there are others that argue against full inclusion. With trans rights activists supporting inclusion, others deem it impossible to create new policies that prove fair to all athletes including those who identify as transgender.

Women’s Sports Foundation and the National Center for Lesbian Rights report that “an increasing number of high school and college-aged young people are identifying as transgender.” The foundation proposed a number of policies, suggesting transgender women should undergo a year of hormone therapy before competing against other women. It is the belief that this act would diminish some athletic benefits and advantages. The National Collegiate Athletic Association immediately put this policy in motion.  For high schools, this report suggested transitioning students begin to compete in sports as soon as they transition socially and begin dressing and acting in accordance with their gender identity. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, only ten states allow trans women to compete in high school sports after going through with hormone therapy. Currently 12 states forbid it completely, nine have no policies set in place, and 19 allow transgender women and men to compete disregarding testosterone levels. Recently, conservative lawmakers have pushed bills in over 20 states looking to ban trans athletes and criminalize gender-affirming hormone therapy.

In November a study by British Journal of Sports Medicine found that after a year of treatment from hormone therapy, transgender men were performing better and the transgender women worse. The study was done by monitoring 29 transgender men and 46 transgender women in the Air Force and their completion of a fitness routine consisting of push-ups, sit-ups and a 1½-mile run. Although this analysis gives feedback on those who are 18 and older, schools are still hesitant about high school athletes regarding this study.

There is still controversy over this issue and many opinions about the trans community in athletics. Freshman, Benny Brodhead, when asked about his take on trans athletes stated, “Personally, I believe that a transgender student shouldn’t be allowed to participate in a sport according to their gender identity. Men are typically faster, stronger, and their athletic abilities are much different than women.” When asked about the use of testosterone and hormone therapy for athletes, Brodhead added, “If the hormone therapies have been present in an athlete’s medical history for say two plus years, then absolutely, allow them to participate because at that point the advantage will have lessened enough to not be entirely unfair.”

Others believe the exclusion of trans men and women in sports is completely unfair. Freshman, Kayla DiFede, when asked about schools prohibiting trans athletes stated,” They should be able to participate in the activities they desire to be in, regardless of gender.” When DiFede was asked about the decision to leave athletes out due to testosterone levels, DiFede stated, “I believe students looking to go through with hormone therapy should have the choice if they have the resources to do so and the parents should support this unless they believe it to be too harmful.”

While the hormone therapy seems to be somewhat of a deciding factor for inclusion in some programs, the use of it is still up for debate. With the different restrictions and bans currently set in place, it can seem as though not all are as open to the idea of allowing transgender individuals to participate in sports. While that may be, the Biden administration continues to fight for anti-discrimination protections for transgender people and women’s equality activists continue to voice their opinion against transphobia and their support of transgender rights.