Apr 29, 2024 - News

Pressure mounting on NCAA transgender student-athlete participation policy

The outside of the NCAA headquarters

The NCAA headquarters in downtown Indy. Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A group of transgender athletes and allies is asking the National Collegiate Athletic Association to protect trans and nonbinary athletes' place in NCAA sports.

Why it matters: The Indianapolis-based NCAA is the largest college sports governing body in the country, covering more than 500,000 student-athletes at 1,000-plus higher education institutions.

Driving the news: The NCAA hosted its annual Inclusion Forum in downtown Indianapolis last week, with programming focused on each of the NCAA Office of Inclusion's five core areas: disability, international, LGBTQ, race/ethnicity and women.

  • Ahead of the forum, hundreds of athletes, allies, scholars, advocacy organizations and others sent letters to the NCAA Board of Governors calling for transgender athletes to be included in NCAA sports.

Catch up quick: This month, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, a smaller collegiate athletic governing body, decided to ban transgender women from competing in its collegiate women's sports.

  • In 2022, the NCAA Board of Governors set a policy that transgender athlete participation should follow the guidelines set by the international governing bodies of each sport.
  • This sport-by-sport approach was phased in over several years, with full implementation set to start this fall.

Friction point: Advocates are worried the NCAA will instead reverse course and follow the NAIA by putting new restrictions on transgender athletes.

  • "There's been mounting pressure on the NCAA in the last year and, really, in the last month, to put in place an even more restrictive policy," said Anna Baeth, the director of research for Athlete Ally, a national advocacy organization.

The other side: Last month, a group of female athletes sued the NCAA over the 2022 policy, arguing that allowing trans women to participate in women's sports violates Title IX.

Zoom out: In recent years, dozens of conservative state legislatures around the country — including Indiana — have passed laws banning K-12 transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.

What they're saying: "Every person should have the opportunity to be their authentic self and continue to play the sports that they love," said Chris Mosier, attending an LGBTQ+ inclusive Day of Play at Hudnnut Commons, across the street from the hotel where the NCAA was holding its forum.

  • Mosier is a Team USA duathlete and the first trans man to be selected for a men's U.S. National team. He didn't play competitive sports in college because of the difficulties navigating the space and his own identity at the time.

What's next: Advocates are watching for the NCAA Board of Governors to make any policy changes in the coming month, in order to have them in place by the fall.

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