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September 21, 2023

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Some athletes face gender issues that may cause problems for teams

With multiple athletes in major sports recently coming out, including NBA Center Jason Collins and Major League Soccer midfielder Robbie Rogers, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues has become a widely discussed topic in the sports world.

Gay, bisexual and transgender athletes’ role in sports has been debated for many years and the recent New York Times article, “Changing Sex, and Changing Teams,” has helped bring the issue back into the spotlight.

For junior Daniel Rivera, this is an important topic people should be aware of because it could help young athletes dealing with sexuality issues.

“I think it’s good if [Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers] are looked up to,” said Rivera, a student and employee of University’s LGBT Resource Center.

He also pointed out that it helped show that not all gay men are feminine like many stereotypes may be suggesting.

More than six states, including Washington and Massachusetts, have set rules in place requiring that high schools allow students to compete on sports teams based on the genders they identify themselves as rather than the genders on their birth certificates, according to the article.

Six other states are also considering similar policies, according to the article. These policies are causing debate, however, and some believe that athletes would be able to acquire an unfair advantage because of physical traits associated with males and females.

Rivera said he doubts that a student would go through the struggle and bullying associated with being transgendered just to “win a trophy.”

“I don’t think a person would go through that kind of ridicule just to get an upper hand,” Rivera said.

The NCAA’s rules on transgender athletes’ participation in college sports differ from the high school rules adopted by multiple states. A transgender male athlete, which is a person who is making the transformation or has made the transformation from female to male, who has been treated with testosterone may compete on a male sports team but cannot compete on a female sports team without the team’s status being changed to a mixed team.

In contrast, a transgender female athlete must go through at least a year of testosterone suppression treatment before being allowed to play on a female sports team.

Rivera said he does not think these rules are fair, in part because of the difficulty and expenses of buying the testosterone suppression treatment,

“The treatment isn’t cheap, it’s actually really expensive” he said, “I have a transgender friend that has to go a long distance to get her supplements.”

Rivera also said that some people do not want to go through a complete transformation.

Just because a person identifies him or herself as a male or female, Rivera said he does not think it always means they want to go through a full physical and chemical transformation. He said he thinks the high schools’ policies are more reasonable.

Liz Grabski, president of University’s LGBT organization VISION said that the NCAA rules are unfair to those who are unable to immediately start hormone treatment.

“Those individuals would not be able to play with a team that is congruent with their gender identity and I don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “If teams are separated by performance and physical capability, I can understand why they would want the individual to physically be at the same level as the player’s female-bodied counterparts, which is what testosterone-suppression treatment would do.”

Although it’s not known how many NCAA athletes are transgendered, the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute estimated in 2011 that the total number of transgendered people in the United States was around 700,000.

According to the Sports Illustrated article “The Transgender Athlete,” Karen Morrison, who has been the NCAA’s director of gender initiatives and student-athlete well-being since 2006, has handled around 40 transgender issues cases from different universities and their athletes’ parents and attorneys.

Transgender athletes seem to have become more accepted recently.

Last December, 50-year old Gabrielle Ludwig, a transgender female at Mission College in Santa Clara, California, made history when she became the first transgender person to play college sports as both a female and a male. Ludwig joined the Mission College basketball team last year. She had been taking hormone supplements since 2007, which by NCAA rules, made her eligible to compete on a women’s college sports team.

Although she said she thinks things are getting better, Grabski said that she hopes more research is done on the transgender community to help better improve the NCAA’s policies.

“I think research of transgender people is needed and should be evaluated and cited with changing policies,” she said, “There isn’t enough research about the trans community in general, and if policies are going to start changing to be more inclusive, research needs to do the same.”

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