Can transgender athletes play women's college sports? -Deseret News


A new policy from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics largely bans transgender athletes from participating in women's sports at small colleges across the country.

The NAIA Council of Presidents unanimously adopted the policy Monday at its annual meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. The NAIA serves approximately 83,000 athletes competing at 241 schools in more than 25 sports. It is believed to be the first collegiate sports organization to take such action.

About 82% of NAIA colleges are private and 65% are parochial institutions. There are no NAIA schools in Utah.

The policy states that “only NAIA student-athletes whose biological sex is female may participate in NAIA-sponsored women’s sports.” The policy states: “Biological sex is defined by distinguishing characteristics and may be evidenced by a birth certificate or a signed affidavit.”

Athletes who have begun “masculinizing” hormone therapy are allowed to participate in workouts, practices and team activities, but not in intercollegiate competitions. Students who have not yet started hormone therapy can participate without restriction. Under the policy, transgender athletes may, at the school's discretion, participate in games that do not depend on the team's win-loss record.

The policy states that Title IX ensures that female athletes have separate and equal opportunities.

With the exception of competitive cheer and competitive dance, which are coed events, the NAIA has separate categories for male and female athletes. It points out that every other sport “involves a combination of strength, speed and endurance that provides male student-athletes with a competitive advantage.”

The policy is scheduled to come into force on August 1, 2024.

Fair or unjust?

NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr told the Associated Press he understands the policy will cause controversy, but it is best for member schools from a competitive perspective.

“We know there are a lot of opinions and a lot of people have very emotional reactions to it, and we want to respect all of that,” he said. “But we feel that our main responsibility is fairness in the competition, so we are going that route. And we have tried as best we could to allow everyone to have some participation.”

The National Women's Law Center condemned the policy.

“We are outraged by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ recent decision to ban transgender women from participating on women’s college sports teams,” Shiwali Patel, director of Justice for Student Survivors and lead attorney, said in a statement.

“This is unacceptable and blatant discrimination that not only harms trans, non-binary and intersex people, but also limits the potential of all athletes. It is important to recognize that these discriminatory measures do not contribute to fair competition. Instead, they send a message of exclusion and reinforce dangerous stereotypes that harm all women.”

The Independent Women's Forum and the Women's Sports Foundation hold opposing views on NAIA policy. The former believes it protects and provides equal opportunities for female athletes, while the latter believes it is harmful to all female athletes.

What are the NCAA guidelines for transgender athletes?

Shortly after the NAIA announcement, the NCAA released a statement saying, “College sports are the premier stage for women's sports in America and the NCAA will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women's sports, and ensure fair competition for all.” “Ensure female student-athletes in all NCAA championships.”

NCAA policy requires transgender athletes to complete a year of testosterone suppression treatment before competing on a women's team. In addition, transgender athletes are required to meet the sport-specific standard for documented testosterone levels prior to the regular season, prior to an NCAA championship event, and prior to any non-championship competition.

A group of female athletes, including Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer, sued the NCAA over its policies toward transgender athletes. The lawsuit alleges that the NCAA violated Title IX by allowing transgender athlete Lia Thomas to compete in the 2022 swimming championships and argues that female participants do not have “equality and equal opportunity” in sports competitions.

Responding to NAIA Police, Gaines Posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Watch out for @NCAA.”

Can transgender girls play sports in Utah?

At least 24 states, including Utah, have laws banning transgender women and girls from competing in women's or girls' athletics.

Utah bans girls who are transgender from participating in women's sports sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association. Three transgender girls who attend public schools in Utah sued the state over the ban. The law is effectively on hold pending a legal challenge, although transgender girls who want to participate in UHSAA-sanctioned girls' sports can appear before the School Activities Eligibility Commission, which will decide on a case-by-case basis whether their participation jeopardizes fairness.

Under the law, the selection committee is allowed to inquire about and assess the athlete's height and weight to decide whether a transgender girl would have an unfair advantage.