Shedding light on gender identity issues among student-athletes, USC’s LGBT Resource Center sponsored an ally discussion Thursday about the new policies the NCAA has made for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender college athletes.
The new NCAA policy defines regulations for transgender athletes, stating that a transgender man can play on a men’s team but is not eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing the team status to a mixed team. A transgender woman also can compete on a men’s team but not on a women’s team without changing its status to a mixed team.
The change aims to allow student-athletes to maintain their gender identities while still upholding the competitive quality among sports teams, according to Lani Lawrence, a doctoral student at the University of Denver.
“The NCAA was proactive in developing guidelines to support [LGBT] individuals,” Lawrence said. “One thing they wanted to focus on was how to maintain equity between the sports. It’s a tricky subject, and it’s not very clear-cut. [The] NCAA is trying to find a balance, and this [policy] is one of the first times it is really trying to question the guidelines.”
The NCAA also created an Inclusion Initiative Framework that states how the organization will “provide or enable programming and education which sustains foundations of a diverse and inclusive culture,” honoring athletes’ differences in gender expression or sexual orientation.
Though the initiative is a step in the right direction, many still believe the framework will not bring about direct change, Lawrence said.
“The general framework is pretty broad,” Lawrence said. “The policy is not very specific in generating certain types of programming, and it doesn’t name how these initiatives can be created.”
The changes in NCAA policy were created proactively by the organization without being incited by court cases of discrimination, Lawrence said.
“It was something that the NCAA wanted to go ahead and put up front as a way to be inclusive,” Lawrence said. “They do want [LGBT] athletes to compete and realized the issue is something that they should take up and discuss. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in a good direction to figure out what the guidelines should be regarding LGBT athletes.”
Mirroring the strides made by the NCAA, USC is also working to provide more adequate support for student-athletes, said Vincent Vigil.
“Something as simple as adding the LGBT center as part of USC student resources is a step for us in making sure that our student-athletes know that our center exists,” Vigil said. “We’re also doing an ally training with our student affairs staff members at athletics. We’re making certain that our athletics personnel is aware of the services we provide and that our students know that there are resources available.”
Drawing on her own experiences as a college athlete, Lawrence said the NCAA has made progress but the issue still requires more communication and action.
“This new policy wasn’t around when I was an athlete,” Lawrence said. “So the NCAA is right in putting out statements that they want to be inclusive and want there to be more programming. If people want to create [LGBT programs], they won’t be put down but will be encouraged to become more known to our student-athletes. It’s becoming better now, but there is still a struggle.”