Model Policy: Transgender and Nonbinary Athlete Inclusion

This model policy was adapted from Lewis & Clark College Athletics and was created in partnership between Athlete Ally and Out in Athletics. Many policies allowing the participation of transgender athletes in sport follow the 2015 International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism. This consensus statement — an update from the 2003 statement — no longer requires transgender athletes to get gender affirming surgery, but still contains problematic and arbitrary restrictions on hormone levels.

It is important to note that policies on transgender and nonbinary participation in sport are constantly changing. U Sports — the national sport governing body of university sports in Canada — released a groundbreaking policy in 2018 that allows transgender athletes to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity, no hormone treatment needed. What U Sports leadership found was that there was a serious lack of scientific evidence that hormones significantly impact athletic performance.

The policy that the NCAA endorses is based on the 2015 Consensus statement. We have written the below policy based on NCAA guidelines. We hope that you will use this policy as a resource for your athletic department to ensure the full inclusion of transgender and nonbinary athletes.

Below is a model policy. Hover over the bolded and underlined heading titles and text to learn more about the purpose behind each of the policy sections.


Introduction

[COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY] and the Department of Physical Education and Athletics prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. In accordance with the principles of equity and inclusion, [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS] maintains the following policies to facilitate and encourage the participation of transgender and nonbinary students, staff, faculty, and visitors. These policies cover: participation in intercollegiate athletics, intramural sports; physical education; and accommodation for trans and nonbinary people who attend and participate in athletic activities that take place at [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY].

Definitions

  • Transgender or trans is sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe anyone whose identity or behavior falls outside of stereotypical gender norms. More narrowly defined, it refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match their assigned birth gender. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation (attraction to people of a specific gender.) Therefore, transgender people may additionally identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
  • Sex assigned at birth refers to the assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth often based on physical anatomy at birth and/or chromosomal makeup.
  • A Male-to-Female (MTF) transgender person is someone who was assigned male at birth, but who identifies as a girl or a woman.
  • A Female-to-Male (FTM) transgender person is someone who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies as a boy or a man.
  • Nonbinary (also non-binary) is an umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Jim is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as transgender and not all transgender people identify as nonbinary.

NCAA Guiding Principles

    • Participation in intercollegiate athletics is a valuable part of the education experience for all students.
    • Transgender student-athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports.
    • The integrity of women’s sports should be preserved.
    • Policies governing sports should be based on sound medical knowledge and scientific validity.
    • Policies governing sports should be objective, workable, and practicable; they should also be written, available and equitably enforced.
    • The legitimate privacy interests of all student-athletes should be protected.
    • The medical privacy of transgender students should be preserved.
    • Athletics administrators, staff, parents of athletes, and student-athletes should have access to sound and effective educational resources and training related to the participation of transgender and gender-variant students in athletics.
  • Policies governing the participation of transgender students in athletics should comply with state and federal laws protecting students from discrimination based on sex, disability, and gender identity and expression.

NCAA Bylaws Related to Transgender Student-Athlete Participation

The following policies clarify participation of transgender student-athletes undergoing hormonal treatment for gender transition:

  1. A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who has received a medical exception for treatment with testosterone for diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for purposes of NCAA competition may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team.
  2. A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing on calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.

The following policies clarify participation of transgender student-athletes who are NOT undergoing hormonal treatment for gender transition:

  • A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who is not taking testosterone related to gender transition may participate on a men’s or women’s team.
  • A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.

Banned Substances – NCAA Bylaw 31.2.3 identifies testosterone as a banned substance and provides for medical exception review for a demonstrated need for use of a banned medication.  It is the responsibility of the NCAA institution to submit the request for a medical exception (see www.ncaa.org/drugtesting) for testosterone treatment prior to the student-athlete competing while undergoing treatment.  In the case of testosterone suppression, the institution must submit written documentation to the NCAA of the year of treatment and ongoing monitoring of testosterone suppression.

Mixed Teams – A mixed team is a varsity intercollegiate sports team on which at least one individual of each gender competes. (Revised: 5/8/06)  NCAA Bylaw 18.02.2 for purposes of meeting the required minimums set forth in Bylaws 18.2.3 and 18.2.4, a mixed team shall be counted as one team.  A mixed team shall count toward the minimum sponsorship percentage for men’s championships.

  • NCAA rules state that a male participating in competition on a female team makes the team a “mixed team.”  The mixed team can be used for sports sponsorship numbers (provided other conditions, such as being an acceptable NCAA sport, outlined in Bylaw 20.11, are met) and counts toward the mixed/men’s team minimums within the membership sports-sponsorship requirements.  Such a team is ineligible for a women’s NCAA championship but is eligible for a men’s NCAA championship.
  • A female on a men’s team does not impact sports sponsorship in the application of the rule; the team still counts toward the mixed/men’s numbers.  Such a team is eligible for a men’s NCAA championship.
  • Once a team is classified as a mixed team, it retains that status through the remainder of the academic year without exception.

Recommendations for Students Identifying Outside the Gender Binary Not Taking Hormones

A student-athlete who identifies as gender fluid, genderqueer, nonbinary, agender or another gender outside the gender binary not taking hormones may participate in sex-separated sports activities in accordance with the individual’s assigned birth sex.

    • A student assigned female at birth who is not taking hormones related to gender transition may participate on a women’s team.
  • A student assigned male at birth who is not taking hormones related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.

Student-Athlete Responsibilities

  1. In order to avoid challenges to a transgender and/or nonbinary student’s participation during a sport season, a student-athlete who has completed, plans to initiate, or is in the process of taking hormones as part of a gender transition should submit the request to participate on a sports team in writing to the director of athletics upon matriculation or when the decision to undergo hormonal treatment is made.
  2. The request should include a letter from the student’s physician documenting the student-athlete’s intention to transition or the student’s transition status if the process has already been initiated.  This letter should identify the prescribed hormonal treatment for the student’s gender transition and documentation of the student’s testosterone levels, if relevant.

[COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY] Responsibilities

    1. The director of athletics should meet with the student to review eligibility requirements and procedure for approval of transgender and nonbinary participation.
    1. If hormone treatment is involved in the student-athlete’s transition, the director of athletics, or designee, should notify the NCAA of the student’s request to participate with a medical exception request.
    1. To assist in educating and in development of institutional policy and practice, COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY] has established the Inclusive Practices on Gender and Gender Identity Working Group.
  1. All discussions among involved parties and required written supporting documentation should be kept confidential, unless the student-athlete makes a specific request otherwise.  All information about an individual student’s transgender and/or identity and medical information, including physician’s information provided pursuant to the policy, shall be maintained confidentially.

Additional Guidelines for Transgender and Nonbinary Student-Athlete Inclusion

Facilities Access

  • Changing Areas, Toilets, ShowersTransgender and/or nonbinary student-athletes may use the locker room, shower, and toilet facilities in accordance with the student’s gender identity. When requested by a transgender and/or nonbinary student-athlete, [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY] Athletics Department will work to provide private, separate changing, showering, and toilet facilities for the student-athlete’s use, but transgender and/or student-athletes are not required to use separate facilities. In addition, the athletics department will also work to provide private, enclosed changing areas, showers, and toilets for use by any student-athlete who requests them.
  • Competition at Another Institution – If a transgender and/or nonbinary student-athlete requires a particular accommodation to ensure access to appropriate changing, showering, or bathroom facilities, the athletics department, in consultation with the transgender and/or nonbinary student-athlete, will notify their counterparts at the host institution prior to competition to ensure that the student-athlete has access to facilities that are comfortable and safe. This notification should ensure that the student’s identity as a transgender or nonbinary person not be disclosed without the student’s expressed written permission.
  • Hotel Rooms – Transgender and nonbinary student-athletes generally should be assigned to share hotel rooms based on their gender identity, with a recognition that any student who needs extra privacy should be accommodated whenever possible.

Language

  • Preferred Names – Teammates, coaches, and institutional personnel should refer to transgender and nonbinary student-athletes by a student’s preferred name.
  • PronounsPronoun references to transgender and nonbinary student-athletes should reflect the student’s gender and pronoun preferences.

Dress Codes and Team Uniforms

  • Dress Codes – Transgender and nonbinary student-athletes should be permitted to dress consistently with their gender identities.
  • Dress Codes when Traveling – Policies should be gender neutral; clean, neat, well cared for, and professional.
  • Team Uniforms – Official team uniforms that are sport specific, ideally, should not conflict with a student-athlete’s gender identity.

Education

  • [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY] AthleticsAll members of the athletics department shall receive information and education about transgender and nonbinary identities, institutional and conference non-discrimination policies, the use of preferred names and pronouns, and expectations for creating a respectful team and institutional climate for all students, including transgender and nonbinary students.
  • Opposing Teams/Institutions – In consultation with the transgender and/or nonbinary student-athlete, athletics administrators and coaches will develop a plan for communication with their counterparts at other institutions and officials prior to competitions in which a transgender and/or nonbinary student-athlete is participating. This is a best practice rooted in establishing expectations for treatment of transgender and/or nonbinary student-athletes on and off the field. This does not require “outing” or otherwise identifying a particular student-athlete as transgender and/or nonbinary, but rather establishing general expectations for the treatment of all student-athletes, including those who may be transgender and/or nonbinary.
  • [CONFERENCE NAME] Personnel – [CONFERENCE NAME] personnel will receive information and education about the institutional policies of [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY], in relation to the inclusion of transgender and nonbinary student-athletes.

Media

  • Confidentiality – All medical information shall be kept confidential in accordance with applicable state, local, and federal privacy laws.
  • Training – All athletics department representatives who are authorized to speak with the media will receive information about appropriate terminology, use of names and pronouns, and institutional policies regarding the participation of transgender and nonbinary student-athletes.

Enforcement and Non-retaliation

    • Enforcement – Any member of the athletics department, or [COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY] community, who has been found to have violated this policy by threatening to withhold athletic opportunity or harassing any student on the basis of their gender identity or expression, or by breaching medical confidentiality, will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension or expulsion from the institution. The institution will take appropriate remedial action to correct the situation.
    • Retaliation – Retaliation is specifically forbidden against anyone who complains about discrimination based on gender identity or expression, even if the person was in error.
    • Reporting