In what is being hailed as a "groundbreaking report" on transgender student-athletes, a new document sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the It Takes A Team! initiative of the Women's Sports Foundation, urges high school and college athletic associations to adopt standard policies to provide transgender student-athletes fair and equal opportunities to participate on sports teams. The free report, "On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student Athletes," was released Monday and is intended to provide leaders in education and athletics with the information to make effective policy decisions about the participation of transgender student-athletes in high school and college athletic programs. "Educators and parents must be open to this challenge if we are to create educational institutions that value and meet the needs of all students," says report co-author Pat Griffin, former director of It Takes A Team!, an educational campaign designed to end homophobia in sports.
In October 2009, NCLR and It Takes A Team! invited experts on transgender issues from a range of disciplines - law, medicine, advocacy, and athletics - to take part in a national think tank on equal opportunity for transgender student-athletes. Think tank participants, including leaders from the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations, met over several days to identify best practices. Co-authors Griffin and NCLR sports project director Helen Carroll developed these best practices into model policies and a framework for high school and college athletic administrators to ensure the full inclusion of transgender student-athletes. "An increasing number of high school- and college-aged young people are identifying as transgender," Carroll says. "No student-athlete should ever be turned away from a team because an athletic department hasn't established policies that would allow them to participate."
According to the 56-page report, although "the needs of transgender students in college have received some attention in recent years, this issue has not been adequately addressed in the context of athletics. Few high school or collegiate athletic programs, administrators, or coaches are prepared to fairly, systematically, and effectively address a transgender student's interest in participating in athletics. The majority of school athletic programs have no policy governing the inclusion of transgender student-athletes, and most coaches are unprepared to accommodate a transgender student who wants to play on a sports team. In fact, most school athletic programs are unprepared to address even basic accommodations, such as knowing what pronouns or names to use when referring to a transgender student, where a transgender student should change clothes for practice or competition, or what bathroom or shower that student should use."
The report also determined that the adoption of transgender-inclusive policies and practices dispels stereotypes and fears about gender diversity, and that failure to adopt policies that ensure equal opportunities could result in costly and divisive litigation. An increasing number of states and localities are adopting specific legal protections for transgender students, according to the report, and state and federal courts are more frequently applying sex discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination against transgender people.