NCAA Policy on Transgender Participation ‘Under Review’ Again

by Riley Overend 39

May 13th, 2024 College, News

Two years after the success of UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas ignited an international debate surrounding transgender participation in sports, the NCAA is once again reviewing its policy on the topic.

The NCAA quietly announced at the bottom of a press release last month that the Board of Governors discussed transgender student-athlete participation and that the current policy is “under review.” Earlier in April, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) became the first national college governing body to require athletes to compete according to their assigned sex at birth.

According to Outsports, the NCAA is expected to ban trans women from five sports starting during the 2024-25 season — swimming and diving, water polo, indoor and outdoor track and field as well as cross country — to align with global governing body policies enacted by World Aquatics and World Athletics over the past two years. Fifteen sports would reportedly still allow transgender women to compete at the collegiate level.

Last month, the IOC funded a study that contradicted the idea that transgender women have definite advantages over cisgender women. More than 400 current and former NCAA, professional, Olympic and Paralympic athletes sent an open letter to the NCAA Board of Governors in late April calling for them to protect trans rights.

“The time is now for the NCAA and the nationwide athletic community to speak up and affirm that sports should be for everyone, including trans athletes,” wrote former women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe. “To my fellow cis women athletes: The time is now to say loud and clear that bans against trans athletes framed as ‘protecting women’s sports’ do not speak for us, and do nothing to protect us. To the trans athletes fearing that they may be sidelined from the sport they love: I see you and hear you and I am WITH YOU.”

On the other side, former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines is leading a lawsuit against the NCAA arguing that the organization’s transgender policy violates Title IX because it discriminates against women. Then last month, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to NCAA president Charlie Baker asking the him to “follow the NAIA’s lead and prohibit biological males from competing in women’s sports.”

At least 25 states currently bar transgender students from participating on athletic teams that correspond with their gender identity.

“None of us have been talked to by the NCAA about this ruling that’s being made without trans athletes in the discussion,” said Rochester Institute of Technology sprinter Sadie Schreiner, a trans runner who qualified for the Division III National Championships in indoor track earlier this year.

The NCAA also reviewed its transgender policy in 2022 before ultimately concluding it would maintain its previously approved testosterone threshold (10nmol/L) and not follow USA Swimming. The organization’s official policy is to align “transgender participation with the Olympic Movement.”

In January, it was reported that Thomas is challenging World Aquatics’ 2022 ban on transgender women who have gone through any part of the male puberty process.

A couple months after winning the 2022 NCAA title in the 500-yard freestyle, Thomas revealed that it has been a goal of hers for a long time to compete at the Olympics. The next month, World Aquatics (then FINA) voted to prevent transgender women from competing in elite women’s categories, instead creating a separate “open” category. However, that category has been a failure so far because there are not many trans swimmers out at the elite level.

Thomas first started transitioning back in 2019, but World Aquatics cited experts who said that suppressing testosterone was not enough to reverse biological advantages from puberty.

“Part of gender affirming care, in a sense, is being able to compete on the team of your gender and with fellow people of your gender,” said Meghan Cortez-Fields, a trans swimmer who broke school records this season as a senior at Division III Ramapo College in New Jersey.

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Swim Mom
12 days ago

The war over language before reality. 2 can play that game. You can identify as whatever you want. Swim categories should be XX and Open. Take a DNA test the day you very first register and compete in the category that matches your genetics. If you take any PED to assist you in matching your chosen gender, you enter the Open category. Done.

swimapologist
Reply to  Swim Mom
12 days ago

Can you imagine the conspiracy theories that people like Swim Mom would launch if national governments had access to a DNA test for every athlete in the world?

I’m a cis-gender man and I would quit sports if this policy was instituted just to stay out of the f’king chaos. I hate that y’all are ruining sports.

Follow my bubbles
Reply to  swimapologist
12 days ago

Or you just swim in the Open category. Simple.

I do think XX on the birth certificate would be accepted by most though.

Last edited 12 days ago by Follow my bubbles
PineappleNoMore
Reply to  swimapologist
12 days ago

Nothing in implementing this proposal would require national gov’ts to access your DNA. Part of why we can’t have reasonable conversations in society is that whenever someone takes a risk to put their ideas out in the world people immediately invent any reason possible to turn it into an attack on the proposer’s character and intelligence. You can disagree without inventing fake things to try to make the OP look bad. It is laughable to think that in order for the governing body of a sport to verify someone’s biological gender the national government would be involved at all, or that anything other than having a doctor or trusted third party verify the chromosomal gender would be required.

swimapologist
Reply to  PineappleNoMore
12 days ago

Most of the world’s organized sports are run by governments, including in America. If you don’t think governments (picture countries where they kill trans or chromosomal abnormality people) are going to get access to that data, then I don’t know what to tell you.

The state of Florida is already requiring high school athletes to inform them of their last period date.

Here’s a good discussion on the history of these kinds of proposals: https://time.com/5431836/dna-transgender-history/

Carnals of Popcorn
Reply to  PineappleNoMore
12 days ago

You missed the part where Swim Mom proposed that trans people are “playing a language game” right?

That kind of person doesn’t get the respect of assuming they have the best intentions to me. That kind of person deserves everything they get.

I can assume Swim Mom is a certain kind of person just like Riley Gaines can assume that every trans person in a women’s lockerroom is trying to r*pe her.

Swim Mom – help us clarify how you feel about trans people in general, would you? I have a guess.

Patrick
12 days ago

There is no ban against trans athletes, MEGAN. Rules are being written that say.. born male, compete male.

It’s really so simple that only the human race could be capable of making it convoluted and complicated. We have collectively become a clown show.

Batting .300 at swamming
13 days ago

“Fifteen sports would reportedly still allow transgender women to compete at the collegiate level.”

No. That’s not true at all.

All sports allow these individuals to compete… with the gender that they were “assigned” at birth (aka, their biological reality… with the very rare exception of chromosomal abnormalities)

Wendy
13 days ago

Have any people that transitioned to male broken records or placed highly in NCAA or similar caliber competitions?

Wendy
Reply to  Wendy
12 days ago

Have any qualified for NCAAs? Does anyone know?

I miss the ISL (Go dawgs)
13 days ago

Glad the NCAA is finally realizing that they need to do what’s right!

Last edited 13 days ago by I miss the ISL (Go dawgs)
MIKE IN DALLAS
13 days ago

Sports were a “safe space” for my three sisters, years ago.
I grieve that this will no longer be the case for future generations of XX chromosome women.

Swamtoday
Reply to  MIKE IN DALLAS
12 days ago

The issue isn’t safety; it’s fairness.

MaryHall
Reply to  Swamtoday
12 days ago

In water polo, it’s both

Swamtoday
Reply to  MaryHall
12 days ago

Touché.

PineappleNoMore
Reply to  Swamtoday
12 days ago

Well put, Swamtoday. Sports should be a safe place for all including trans people. The question isn’t safety, it’s whether the purpose of creating gender categories in sports was to affirm people’s identities or to create a fair playing field. We can still respect someone without putting them in a category based purely on biology (not psychology or identity) where their biology does not fit. Just like we can respect people of different sizes and shapes but not allow a 300lb wrestler to compete in a lighter weight class, regardless of the heavier wrestler’s identity, self perception, etc.

swimgeek
Reply to  Swamtoday
12 days ago

Swimming is not a contact sport but athletes should be allowed to feel comfortable (and safe) in locker rooms too.

YGBSM
13 days ago

Let the doctors and physiologists figure out how (if ??) the physical competitive advantage of a formerly male competitor can be negated / moderated. If so, legislate that, and let’s just move on.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  YGBSM
13 days ago

Yeah but as we saw with that recent IOC study, as soon as something comes out doesn’t confirm one’s priors – and most people are vehemently anti-trans participation, unfortunately – people pretend none of the results are valid for w/e reason. (This time it’s mostly “sample size” harumphing, but it’ll always be a moving target.)

Just like how people will have issues if the current rules are followed as written – as soon as a trans athlete makes it through the higher barriers currently in place, people’ll want them disallowed, too.

Last edited 13 days ago by Steve Nolan
Emojilo
Reply to  Steve Nolan
13 days ago

The study was very obviously flawed.

swimapologist
Reply to  Emojilo
12 days ago

The problem with the internet is that everyone things they’re a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, and a scientist, regardless of whether they are.

Therefore all of the internet ‘experts’ thing that they can throw out any research that doesn’t agree with them because ‘I understand science and I know this was flawed.”

A real scientist doesn’t operate that way. A real scientist reviews the information, understands the limitations of any research, and builds upon it. A real scientist understands that flaws in research does not make that research without value or merit.

The rest of y’all schmucks just run in and say “ITS FLAWED IGNORE IT!!!” but no real scientist would. When we let scientists science, then we’ll make… Read more »

Swamtoday
Reply to  swimapologist
12 days ago

So what to do about the fact that you can almost always find studies that seem to suggest opposite conclusions? What good is science then if we all just have to sit back and withhold judgement forever due to our lack of expertise? How will we know when “the science” is settled?

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Emojilo
12 days ago

This is one of the funniest replies I’ve ever gotten.

PineappleNoMore
Reply to  Steve Nolan
12 days ago

You are definitely right about people fitting data to reinforce their priors. That said, one study funded by the IOC isn’t the basis for forming policy and calling everyone else with questions a bigot or anti-science. There is not a large enough body of evidence here for anyone to claim that they have an evidence based policy decision in either direction. On the one hand the IOC study didn’t find evidence of advantage. On the other hand there are more notable examples of trans women playing sports at a higher level than they did in the male category pre-transitioning than the other way around, there are studies like PIMD: 37466198 that show former steroid users (read: people who have formerly… Read more »

You will know my name
13 days ago

2 + 2 = 4

Facts
Reply to  You will know my name
13 days ago

Minus 1 thats 3 quick maths

Last edited 13 days ago by Facts
Steve Nolan
Reply to  Facts
13 days ago

this is when I realized I never actually knew what that was from, only ever came across it as clips.

And thus was the last thing I enjoyed being down in these comments.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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