State bills may threaten NCAA guidelines for transgender athletes

By Jackson Pham, Mar. 02, 2021

With Republican-controlled state legislatures introducing more anti-transgender bills regarding student-athletes in the last months, it raises questions on how institutions – including those within the California State University system – are upholding inclusivity while complying to NCAA guidelines on transgender student-athletes.

CPP competes at the NCAA Division II level and participates in the CCAA conference, offering 10 competitive sports teams. In an emailed statement to The Poly Post, Brian Swanson, director of Intercollegiate Athletics, said the CPP Athletics Department follows guidelines from the NCAA and the CSU system regarding transgender student-athletes.

Swanson was unable to schedule an interview with The Post prior to deadline, but Swanson noted that CPP policy regarding transgender student-athletes is currently being reviewed.

“Since we are not competing, we will be working with a few different areas of campus for this review and I would expect this to take most of the semester or longer,” Swanson stated. “We need a full vetting of our policy.”

NCAA policy recommendations on transgender student-athletes, first adopted in 2011, states that any advantages “arguably” a transgender woman may have due to testosterone levels compared to cisgender women would “dissipate” after a full year of undergoing estrogen or testosterone-suppression therapy.

According to the policy, a transgender woman student-athlete who is taking testosterone-suppressants for “gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria and/or transsexualism” may compete in the women’s team after one year of treatment.

A transgender man student-athlete, who has been diagnosed with “gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria and/or transsexualism” and has received testosterone treatment may participate in a men’s team, but will no longer qualify for a women’s team, according to the policy.

However, diverging from NCAA guidelines, lawmakers in Montana passed House Bill 112 with a 61-38 vote in January, requiring all public institutions in the state to halt transgender student-athletes from competing in public schools or collegiate sports unless they compete with their gender assigned at birth. The bill is currently in the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to the Montana Free Press, proponents of the bill claimed that a person assigned male at birth are acquired with a “biological athletic advantage” compared to a cisgender woman even after participating in testosterone suppression.

Three coaches from the CPP Athletics Department declined, while one did not respond to interview inquiries made by The Post regarding this matter.

CPP Pride Center Coordinator Bri Serrano believes the Montana bill may not provide an “inclusive feeling” to institutions and could impact students’ sense of belonging.

“I think it is the issue of the larger conversation, right? What is causing this attack on trans folks? And it really is just hate,” said Serrano. “I think that it’s not about trans athletes, it’s about cisgender folks who are making policy and laws in order to control trans people.”

According to an NCAA statement, the association will “closely monitor” the Montana bill and other state legislation that may affect transgender student-athletes.

Dana Recio, a fifth-year liberal studies student and Pride Center social justice leader, believes that institutions should promote an inclusive environment for all students, but with this legislation, it could allow bullying to occur.

There have been similar cases, such as Idaho’s HB 500, which was made into law but was placed on “preliminary injunction” by a U.S District judge, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Similarly, in North Dakota, HB 1298, which halts transgender student-athletes from competing on teams coinciding with their gender identity, is now also heading to its state Senate.

There has not been any bill passed in the California legislature that would restrict transgender student-athletes from competing in line with their gender identity.

Lara Killick, an assistant professor in the Kinesiology & Health Promotion Department who studies transphobia in sports, believes anti-transgender bills on student-athletes will “contribute to a hostile environment” and can cause students to question where they belong at an institution.

“For many trans athletes, sport is their safe space,” Killick said. “Sport is the space where they are competent, competitive and gaining a huge amount of self-efficacy and self-worth from their achievements on the sports field.”

In a statement last summer, the NCAA also denounced the Idaho bill describing it to be “harmful” for the transgender student-athletes. It reiterated the NCAA’s values, and stated that all NCAA student-athletes are “welcomed, treated with respect, and have nondiscriminatory participation wherever they compete.”

“I hope they (NCAA) continue to push back against statewide policies, but I also hope they continue to do the real on the groundwork to ensure that trans athletes are welcomed, and not just survive, but thrive within the collegiate workspace,” Killick added.


Feature image courtesy of Lena Balk.

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