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NCAA LGBTQ+ Group: End the Attacks on Transgender Athletes

Trans rights demonstrator in Arkansas
Photo by Sydney Rasch/ACLU of Arkansas

States must withdraw legislation seeking to exclude trans athletes from school sports, says an open letter from the NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program and Working Group.

A National Collegiate Athletic Association group that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusion in college sports, has released an open letter calling for an end to legislation that seeks to exclude transgender athletes from school sports and repeal of existing exclusionary laws.

"We cannot, in good conscience, fail to speak out at this critical moment," reads the letter, issued Monday by the NCAA Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program, which is a national training program that fosters LGBTQ+ inclusion in Division III athletics, and members of the NCAA's Division III LGBTQ Working Group. The Human Rights Campaign is helping to circulate the letter.

"Given the recent rise in legislation that is focused on excluding transgender people from athletics across the country, we have decided to use our collective voice to condemn such actions," the letter notes. "We call on elected officials across the country to immediately halt legislation that is aimed at excluding transgender youth and young adults from equal and equitable participation in sport."

More than 90 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the nation in the current session, about half of them aimed at keeping trans athletes, especially female ones, from competing on school and college teams according to their gender identity. Many of the remainder seek to deny gender-affirming health care to trans minors. Anti-trans sports bills have been signed into law this year by governors in Arkansas,Mississippi, and Tennessee, and executive orders to this effect have been issued in South Dakota. Such a law was enacted in Idaho last year and has been blocked by a federal court while a lawsuit against it is heard. Bills are advancing in several other states.

"Legislation aimed at categorically banning transgender people -- and particularly transgender girls and women -- from sport is inherently discriminatory," the letter continues "Such legislation is often 'informed' by hate and misinformation rather than science, and it is most certainly 'informed' by fear instead of fact. Conversely, trans-inclusive policies, such as those established by the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), are better informed by the current scientific evidence, and this evidence shows that transgender women do not have an inherent competitive advantage over cisgender women."

The missive further notes the "serious consequences" exclusionary bills have for trans young people. "Such legislation dehumanizes transgender students, refuses them the opportunity to participate equally and equitably in athletics, undermines their support in educational settings, damages their mental health, and ultimately harms these students, while also contributing to an exclusionary athletic environment and a more hostile school climate for all students," it notes.

The letter closes by calling for an end to all such legislation, repeal of the measures that have been signed into law, and for legislators to consider the "importance of an inclusive athletic environment for all student-athletes."

The full letter and list of signatories can be viewed here.

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