The Case for Trans Women in Sports

The science is clear: The integrity of women’s sports can be preserved while still including trans women athletes.

Photo by Getty Images/leezsnow.

Transgender athletes continue to be misunderstood, as evidenced by Martina Navratilova’s uninformed comments about the “cheating” of trans women and that, “Even if they’ve had hormone treatment,” they have an “unfair advantage over other female competitors.”

The word “transgender” is meant to describe those whose gender identity is divergent from the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may take hormones and have surgical procedures, while others may choose not to.

Pat Griffin and Helen Carroll were responsible for writing the NCAA’s original transgender policy, entitled “NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes.” This resource was meant to serve as a guide for NCAA athletic programs on “how to ensure transgender student-athletes fair, respectful, and legal access to collegiate sports teams based on current medical and legal knowledge.”

In the document, the authors define the term “transgender” and further specify the two types of transgender identity, including male-to-female (a person who was assigned male sex at birth but identifies as female) and female-to-male (a person who was assigned female sex at birth but identifies as male). They go on to explain the variety of steps transgender people take to adapt to their actual gender identity.

An important area Griffin and Carroll address in this guide is the difference between transgender and intersex individuals. Intersex individuals (“disorder of sex development”) have “physically mixed or atypical bodies with respect to sexual characteristics such as chromosomes, internal reproductive organs and genitalia, and external genitalia.”

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