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NCAA transgender policy background, resources

Latest Social Series podcast provides overview of topic

The NCAA’s transgender policy — the focus of the most recent Social Series episode and recently affirmed in a statement by the Board of Governors — exists to provide pathways to athletic participation for transgender and nonbinary student-athletes. It is based on the Association’s core values of inclusion and competitive equity.

Amy Wilson, managing director of inclusion, and LaGwyn Durden, director of sports medicine with the NCAA Sport Science Institute, discussed the policy’s history and purpose in last week’s Social Series. Their conversation also highlighted other key work, including the NCAA Gender Identity and Student-Athlete Participation Summit held last October.

Below are a few takeaways and additional resources:

The policy

The NCAA’s transgender policy — available in the NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes handbook — clarifies participation of transgender student-athletes undergoing hormonal treatment for gender transition.

A trans female treated with testosterone suppression medication may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one year of testosterone suppression treatment.

A trans male who has received a medical exemption for treatment with testosterone is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team.

The policy was established in 2010 after widespread input from the membership and subject-matter experts in science, medicine and inclusion. The policy was approved by the NCAA Board of Governors — called the NCAA Executive Committee at the time. Key groups providing input included the three divisions’ highest governing bodies, their Student-Athlete Advisory Committees, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and various committees focused on inclusion, as well as groups and subject-matter experts outside the NCAA.

“It’s an Association-wide policy,” Wilson said. “What it was trying to achieve was a balance between fairness and inclusion, between competitive equity and providing that pathway to opportunity.”

Resources

In addition to the handbook, which includes educational material, best practices, campus policy recommendations and first-person accounts from former student-athletes, Wilson pointed to the NCAA office of inclusion website as a place where relevant resources are available and outreach to its staff can be made.

Additionally, Wilson recommended membership administrators and student-athletes attend this year’s virtual Inclusion Forum on June 2-4. It will include an educational session on transgender and nonbinary student-athlete participation.

NCAA members can visit the 2021 NCAA Inclusion Forum registration webpage to register for this virtual event. There will be no registration fee for the Inclusion Forum, but registering early is recommended as space is limited.

Moving forward

The NCAA regularly assesses its practices related to transgender participation and solicits feedback from NCAA members, current and former student-athletes, medical community experts and inclusion thought leaders as part of those efforts. The NCAA Gender Identity and Student-Athlete Participation Summit is the latest example.

The summit left participants with a few immediate takeaways, Wilson said. Among them was the obvious need to prioritize the voice of student-athletes even more in these discussions in the future.

“We need to continue to listen to those voices and those stories,” she said.

Additionally, the summit shed a light on a need for more relevant data and a stronger focus on research in the area of transgender and nonbinary athletes.

“We need to wrap our arms around the research that exists and identify the places that it’s not there,” Wilson said, “and as a higher ed organization we need to be at the table to try to encourage that research and to find ways forward for our student-athletes.”

Durden noted that a core writing group was established out of the summit to perform a narrative literature review. This group, she added, will “take a deep dive into the research that exists and examine that and determine what is applicable to our scenarios with our student-athletes and hopefully provide some real grounded foundational information, grounded in the science and the literature, information that will help inform us when we move to make policy recommendations.”