Kids Sports News Network

Transgender Inclusion in Youth Sports

Transgender rights are a hot topic in the United States.

Society has made leaps and bounds to not only acknowledge this demographic, but to accommodate the specific needs that individuals who identify as transgender entail. Gender neutral bathrooms have been added to establishments, gender neutral pronouns added to our vocabulary, and gender-neutral selections have been incorporated on application forms. Something that still contains a lot of gray area is the topic of transgender individuals and youth sports.

Should a child be assigned to play with a team of the sex they identify with, or a team of the sex that matches what’s on their birth certificate?

Both sides of the argument have passionate reasoning behind their stances. Critics fear that transgender female athletes pose an unfair advantage when it comes to strength and height, while those in support think a child’s gender shouldn’t be relevant in youth sports. They argue inclusion of all children, and not alienating those that identify as transgender is far more important.

Policies across the United States vary by state when it comes to addressing the integration of transgender individuals into youth sports. States including Texas and Indiana requires a child to have undergone surgery and hormone therapy, otherwise they must play for a team that matches the gender on their birth certificate. South Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee currently have no policy in place regarding the matter. California has established inclusive policies, and allow kids to participate on teams based on the gender that they identify with.

Per TransAthlete.com, The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) policy states: “All students should have the opportunity to participate in CIF activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.”

There appears to be no evidence to suggest abuse of these policies in states that allow transgender youth to participate in sports based on the gender they identify with. California policy makers believe they have taken a much-needed step in the right direction. Suicide rates amongst the transgender youth community are alarmingly higher than other youth demographics. These results are partially due to their higher rates of exposure to bullying, discrimination, and alienation.

Per a study published by The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, “30 percent of transgender youth report a history of at least one suicide attempt, and nearly 42 percent report a history of self-injury, such as cutting.

Transgender youth activists post the argument that alienating transgender youth by forcing them to either play sports with a group that they don’t identify with, or to not play at all is not the answer to reducing these statistics. They feel the purpose of youth sports should be about getting children involved in the community and providing them with positive social interaction in a safe environment. It shouldn’t be a source of alienation for any child, including the transgender youth community. Many transgender youths that live in these inclusive states have found benefits in the freedom of participating on sports teams based on the gender they identify with.

Mac, a 12-year-old Washington resident, encountered extreme bullying both before and after coming out as transgender. To cope with his tumultuous journey as a transgender youth, he turned to sports and his love for basketball. Washington State’s policies regarding the inclusion of transgender individuals in youth sports mirrors that of California, and his middle school didn’t hesitate to accommodate his interest in joining his junior high’s basketball team.

“You have to have an outlet. Mac’s outlet has been sports,” said Mac’s mother in an interview with Time Magazine in July. “To let oneself go and let it out. Because on playing fields, basketball specifically, everybody’s equal and there’s no pointing and name calling. It’s all about team work. And Mac’s embraced that.”

Those in support of inclusion in youth sports hope that inclusive policies regarding the transgender community in school and government systems will lead to the inclusion and acceptance of this demographic in society as a whole. They argue that if incorporating inclusion into youth sports reduces the suicide rate of transgender youth by even one percent or saves even one life, then the benefits far outweigh any potential cons.

Supporters feel youth sports should be about acceptance and teamwork, while eliminating childhoods filled with memories of discrimination. Letting kids be free to be kids.

Stay tuned.

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