U Sports Includes Transgender Athletes
Canadian university athletics governing body U Sports has announced a new inclusive policy for transgender athletes. Effective immediately, they will be allowed to compete on the teams that correspond either with their birth gender, or with the gender that they now identify with.
Lisen Moore, who chairs U Sports equity and manages varsity sports, athletics and recreation at McGill University, said her organisation was looking forward to assisting its 56 member institutions with policy roll out and implementation. But not everyone is as pleased.
Moore added that although the regulations took two years to develop, she feels that the authors got it right. The policy, which has been praised as very inclusive and progressive, was created by close examination of a 2016 report by the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport as well as other documents.
David Goldstein, U Sports Chief Operating Officer, said all questions of fairness were deliberated over in detail. The decision has been to allow transgender individuals to compete on the team they most identify with, but only if they comply with Canada’s Anti-Doping Program.
Athletes taking sex hormone supplements may be out of the range of acceptable levels, which would mean they would fail the doping screening. However, hormone therapy is not mandated as it is with some other institutions, because most experts say that there is no direct evidence that their levels impact on sports performance.
The fact that students will have to pass the doping screen but will not be required to take hormone supplements is clear evidence of U Sports’ desire to find common ground. Insiders have said that, because transitioning is a nonlinear process, levels of testosterone and estrogen can fluctuate quite considerably.
One transgender individual describes their identity as “constantly changing”. While the new regulations recognize that, they still stipulate that every athlete must compete on teams of one gender only for the duration of an academic year – another example of attempts at compromise.
In spite of this, strong objections to the new inclusions have come from several groups. Steve McConkey, speaking on behalf of 4 WINDS Christian Athletics, says the extra testosterone and different musculature of biological males identifying as females gives them an unfair advantage.
This is in spite of the findings that these levels do not directly impact sporting performance, as explained above. The complaint has become a common refrain, and the challenge will be to remain inclusive while ensuring no one has unfair edges over their competitors. Constant conversation and revision is essential – as is an open mind.