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Transgender athletes

Sports are an important part of life for many people, including many transgender people.


For all children, including gender diverse and transgender children, participating in sports can help psychosocial development by teaching important life skills like discipline, respect, persistence, dedication, and patience. Sports can improve a child’s health, mood, and self-esteem. All children deserve to experience those things.

Youth and adolescents

As more and more youth and adolescents make a gender transition, some people have expressed concern about transgender athletes in competitive sports. This is especially true in sex-segregated sports, where some people question if it is fair for transgender athletes to compete with non-transgender athletes. This concern most often arises around transgender women and girls participating in a sport with non-transgender women and girls.

That concern is sometimes heightened by the level of competition and what can be won. For instance, earning a ribbon or trophy is valuable, but winning a local, state, regional, national, or international competition can lead to other opportunities and sometimes has financial value. Notable adolescent athletes who are transgender include:

  • Mack Beggs, wrestling
  • Aayden Gallagher, track
  • Terry Miller, track
  • Andraya Yearwood, track

Balancing fairness with inclusion is very complicated, and every athletic organization all the way up to the Olympics wants to find the best path forward.

In 2021, a number of US state legislatures considered laws around trans minors participating in sex-segregated sports. The Human Rights Campaign put together this profile of Rebekah, a student-athlete affected by these laws.


Transgender adults participate in sports at all levels of ability, from casual participant to professional athlete.

Did not compete after gender transition

A number of transgender people were noted athletes before transition, but they did not compete in their sports after making a gender transition. They include:

  • Balian Buschbaum, track and field
  • Roberta Cowell, motorsports
  • Michelle Duff, motorcycle racing
  • Ellia Green, rugby
  • Caitlyn Jenner, track and field
  • Andreas Krieger, track and field
  • Janae Kroc, powerlifting
  • Bobbi Lancaster, golf
  • Erik Schinegger, skiing
  • Gabbi Tuft, professional wrestling
  • Mark Weston, track and field

Competed after gender transition

  • Tifanny Abreu, volleyball
  • Kye Allums, basketball
  • Alessia Almeri, volleyball
  • Chloe Anderson, volleyball
  • Mianne Bagger, golf
  • Schuyler Bailar, swimming
  • Harrison Browne, ice hockey
  • Savannah Burton, dodgeball
  • Balian Buschbaum, track and field
  • Parinya Charoenphol, Thai boxing
  • Roberta Cowell, motor sports
  • Willy De Bruijn, cycling
  • Michelle Dumaresq, downhill mountain biking
  • Fallon Fox, mixed martial arts
  • Amelia Gapin, running
  • Keelin Godsey, track and field
  • Iszac Henig, swimming
  • Laurel Hubbard, weightlifting
  • Lauren Jeska, fell running
  • Zdeněk Koubek, track
  • Andreas Krieger, shot put
  • Bobbi Lancaster, golf
  • Lana Lawless, golf
  • Patricio Manuel, boxing
  • Danielle McGahey, cricket
  • Cate McGregor, cricket
  • Rachel McKinnon/Veronica Ivy, cycling
  • Chris Mosier, triathlon
  • Hannah Mouncey, handball and Australian football
  • Renée Richards, tennis
  • Stevie Romer, running
  • Jaiyah Saelua, soccer
  • Erin Taylor, running
  • CeCé Telfer, track
  • Lia Thomas, swimming
  • Natalie van Gogh, cycling
  • Mark Weston, athletics
  • Chelsea Wolfe, BMX

Eligibility and fairness concerns

As with transgender youth and adolescents, most concern involves adult transgender women participating in competitive sex-segregated sports. Discussions about this go all the way back to the 1936 Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee has issued many revised regulations on sex testing and physiological thresholds for sex categories.

In the 20th century, some organizations required physical examinations of athletes’ naked bodies. Several track and field athletes had their eligibility challenged based on these exams:

  • Stanisława Walasiewicz (Poland)
  • Dora Ratjen (Germany)
  • Zdeňka Koubková (Czechoslovakia)
  • Foekje Dillema (The Netherlands)
  • Mary Edith Louise Weston (England)

Some organizations later required chromosome testing. Several athletes had their eligibility challenged based on these exams:

  • Ewa Kłobukowska (Poland)
  • Renée Richards (United States)
  • Erika Schinegger (Austria)
  • Maria José Martínez-Patiño (Spain)
  • Santhi Soundarajan (India)

Later, some organizations began hormone testing. Some created policies for women with “hyperandrogenism,” an unusually high level of naturally-produced androgen like testosterone. Several athletes had their eligibility challenged based on these exams:

  • Dutee Chand (India)
  • Beatrice Masilingi (Namibia)
  • Christine Mboma (Namibia)
  • Caster Semenya (South Africa)

Many of the cases above led to long legal fights. In some cases, the athletes were found to have differences of sex development. In some cases, they later made a gender transition and identified as men. Some won their cases, and others lost.

Organized political opposition

The first major organized backlash against trans athletes emerged in 1976, when Renee Richards began playing tennis professionally. Richards successfully sued the United States Tennis Association for imposing genetic requirements on athletes. Richards played professionally from 1977 to 1981, reaching a high ranking of 20th and having most success in doubles. An anti-transgender movement began to coalesce around that time, with sex-segregated sports being a major flashpoint.

Other backlashes have occurred following success by some trans athletes, including:

In the 21st century, several organizations explicitly dedicated to maintaining sex segregation in sport emerged.

The future of sex segregation

Most of these discussions center on physical competitive advantages, but in 2023 The International Chess Federation (FIDE) unveiled a controversial policy claiming that sex-segregated chess is needed because cisgender women are mentally disadvantaged. For many, this policy exposed larger questions about any kind of segregation, including sex segregation:

  • Do sex-segregated competitive sports perpetuate inequality and help keep women and girls in a subordinate social role?
  • Are many sports popular specifically because they help keep women and girls in a subordinate social role?
  • Is it fair to force competitors with “natural advantages” like high testosterone to alter their bodies in order to compete as women and girls?

Current debates about sex-segregated competitive sport eclipse these larger ethical issues. Some people argue that sex segregation in general, and sex-segregated competitive sports in particular, reinforce sexism and are thus antithetical to human progress. Most of the world is not ready to consider the ethical problems of either sex-segregated sport or competitive sport.


Each amateur and professional competitive sport has its own governing body, so there’s no general rule about how this is handled in sex-segregated sport. The resources below have additional information on this complex topic.

TransAthlete (

  • Created by Chris Mosier, this site compiles policies and resources related to participation in sports by transgender athletes.

Let Us Play (

  • Campaign to clarify the US Title IX Athletics Rule
  • Created by The National Center for Transgender Equality in partnership with Athlete Ally, the GenderCool Project, InterACT, National Education Association, GLSEN, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and TransAthlete


Athlete Ally (

  • Works to to end homophobia and transphobia in sport.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (

  • The NCAA governs college sports in the United States. They published a 2011 resource titled “Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes.”
  • Current resources can be found at:

Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (

World Athletics (

 International Olympic Committee (

  • 2015 IOC Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism (PDF)

Archival resources

Veronica Ivy ( [archive]

  • Transgender athlete formerly known as Rachel McKinnon ( [archive]
  • Appears in the media and publishes on the topic. Active 2012-2020.
  • Twitter: @SportIsARight Active 2010 until suspended. Run by transphobes since 2023