Transgender athletes

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

Children

For all children, including 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, or national competition can lead to other opportunities and sometimes has financial value. 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.

Adults

Transgender adults participate in sports at all levels of ability, from casual participant to professional athlete. As with transgender youth and adolescents, most concern involves 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. Several high-profile cases have made the news since then.

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


Resources

TransAthlete (transathlete.com)

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

Rachel McKinnon (rachelmckinnon.com)

  • Transgender athlete who appears in the media and publishes on the topic

National Collegiate Athletic Association (ncaa.com)

  • The NCAA governs college sports in the United States. They published a resource titled “Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes” (PDF)
  • Additional resources can be found at ncaapublications.com

GLSEN (glsen.org)