The United States has an estimated transgender population of 700,000 people, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.
What this means for the sports community is that the standards and rules that have been put in place by the many different sports need to include provisions enabling transgender people to participate according to their proper gender identity.
Organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the International Olympic Committee, the Ladies Professional Golf Association and the United States Soccer Federation have all adopted such policies.
Many of the policies adopted by the governing sports bodies require surgical or hormonal treatment verification prior to competitions. This creates economic barriers for the athletes due to high surgical costs, which are rarely covered by insurance carriers.
Interscholastic athletics are governed by state athletic associations and each of the 50 organizations must put in place their own polices. To date, several have adopted a wide range of policies, not all of which are as inclusive as they should be.
What we have been seeing too often is that the rules are not being followed and the trans athletes are being subjected to discrimination.
Below is a list of just a few of the trans athletes who are competing openly and that have received the permission required from their sports’ governing bodies.
Schuylar Bailar. While he was in high school in McLean, Va., Bailar was recruited by the Harvard women’s swim team. Now 19, he took a year off to transition and subsequently received an invitation to swim on the Harvard men’s team this fall. The governing body for Harvard sports is the NCAA, which has a recommended policy, but each individual school adopts its own policy.
Fallon Fox. After some initial struggles with licensing and discrimination, Fox is competing in mixed martial arts (MMA). Originally from Toledo, Ohio, her last match was the Prize Fighting Championship 10 in Denver on Aug. 14. Licensing is state-run and she has been promoted in the past by the Championship Fighting Alliance.
Chris Mosier. Mosier is from Chicago and is the executive director of GO! Athletes. He is also the founder of transathlete.com. He recently qualified to represent Team USA at the 2016 Duathlon World Championships in Spain in the men’s 35-39 category. The governing bodies are USA Triathlon and the International Triathlon Union.
Gabrielle Ludwig. In 2012, in the middle of a debate over transgender legislation in California, Ludwig returned to the sport of basketball at age 51 by joining the Mission College of Santa Clara team where she played for two years. The 6’6” Ludwig grew up in Wyoming and New York and is a Desert Storm veteran. Assembly Bill 1266 went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014 and requires that California schools respect the gender identity of all students and allow them to participate in all activities, including sports.
Ryland Whittington. Whittington is from San Diego and was diagnosed as deaf at 13 months old in 2009. After receiving his cochlear implants at 19 months, he began communicating to his parents that he identified as a boy. Because he lives in California, he will be allowed to play soccer with no barriers. The sport’s governing body is the California Interscholastic Federation.
Savannah Burton. Burton is originally from Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada and rowed with another trans teammate in the Canadian Sculling Marathon in 2014. This year she was one of eight women selected to compete for the Canadian national team for the World Dodgeball Championships that were just held Aug. 15-16 in Las Vegas. Her impact has affected multiple sports bodies, including Team Canada, the Canadian Dodgeball Association and the World Dodgeball Federation.
Jazz Jennings. Florida-born Jennings is a 14-year-old YouTube celebrity, spokesperson, LGBTQ activist and athlete. She and her family fought for more than two years for her to be allowed to play on the local girls’ soccer team. The United States Soccer Federation stepped in and created a trans-inclusive policy for youth and adult recreation soccer players of all ages that required the Florida soccer league to allow Jennings to play.
Shane Ortega. Ortega is active duty Army and competed in his first physique competition in Honolulu in June where he qualified for junior nationals. At his second competition this September, the Paradise Cup, the 28-year-old will attempt to qualify for nationals. Ortega is stationed in Hawaii and grew up on military bases around the country as well as with family while his mother was deployed. His participation was approved by the National Physique Committee.
Dr. Bobbi Lancaster. Hailing from Chatham, Ontario and residing in the Phoenix area, Lancaster is pursuing a spot on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. At age 64, she is currently playing on the Cactus Tour, which serves as a gateway to the LPGA. In 2011, the LPGA’s membership voted to join other sports bodies, including the International Olympic Committee and USA Track and Field, in eliminating the “female at birth” clause from its constitution.
Matt Dawkins. Dawkins, 17, will be a senior at Cherokee High School this fall in Marlton, N.J. He competed in his first meet on the boys’ track team in April and won his heat in the 100. His time was sixth best among 19 Cherokee boys. He is protected by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s transgender policy.
Pat Griffin contributed to this report. A list of transgender athlete inclusion policies can be found at transathlete.com.