Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An Open Letter to the LPGA

Dear LPGA:

Thank you for voting last night to change your by-laws by deleting the requirement that members must be “female at birth.” I know this change was prompted by a lawsuit, but nonetheless, I applaud your decision to join other sports organizations that have eliminated policies that bar transgender athletes from participating in their self-identified gender. I know you have not made any decision yet about what specific policy will be put into place and I would like to encourage you to give this some careful thought. Many other professional sport organizations have adopted the International Olympic Committee policy known as the Stockholm Consensus. These organizations include the United States Golf Association, USA Track & Field, USA Rugby, the Australian Women’s Golf Association, the Ladies European Tour and the British Ladies Golf Union to name some.

The Stockholm Consensus, enacted in 2004, is a pioneering attempt to set criteria under which transgender athletes may participate in their identified gender. However, it is also, in the opinion of some transgender advocates, medical doctors who specialize in transgender issues as well as other LGBT advocates like me, a flawed policy. I hope you will seek some guidance from some of these experts as you determine how to craft your policy instead of adopting a well-meaning but flawed policy that needs to be revised.

The IOC policy requires that “surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes.” This surgery has nothing to do with athletic performance. Moreover, many transgender people choose not to have surgery at all or only some surgery. Genital surgery for M2F and F2M is markedly different in that the F2M surgery is not nearly as advanced or satisfactory. Not to mention that surgery of this kind is expensive and not many athletes will be able to afford it.

The IOC policy requires that “legal recognition of their assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authorities.” In the United States, the process for obtaining “legal recognition” is different in each state. Imagine what this would look like world-wide. Gaining legal recognition is impossible in some countries and extremely difficult in some states in the USA.

The IOC policy requires that “hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sport competitions.” This wait time is defined as “eligibility should begin no sooner than two years after gonadectomy.” Again the surgery requirement. Plus, the focus on M2F transitions.

In addition, the medical experts that we consulted in writing our report, "On The Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student-Athletes” recommend a one year wait period saying that research shows that this is sufficient time for a trans athlete’s hormone levels to be in the range for their transitioned gender. I have even been part of a meeting where one of the people who developed the IOC policy acknowledged that the two year waiting period requirement was a conservative“best guess” not based on any research.

So, this is my plea for you to be thoughtful in determining what policy will replace your “female at birth” requirement. Please do not just adopt the IOC policy. It would be the easy thing to do, but not necessarily the right thing to do.

Dear LPGA, I have one more plea: Please provide your leadership and your membership with some good education about transgender identity and the issues related to transgender athletes. Also, provide some guidelines and information for the golf media. We do not want to see LPGA players making ignorant comments in the press about the unfairness of having to compete against “men pretending to be women” or referring to transgender women as “he.” Understanding transgender identity is new for many of us, but we can all learn if we have the opportunity to get some accurate information and informed guidance.

In closing, I want to say again, good for you for changing your by-laws. Now, take the next step: Institute a policy that is based on the latest research and medical information, not one that is already out of date and inherently discriminatory. Most of all, be your best selves. Welcome your new transgender members into your sisterhood and may the best golfer win.

Thanks for Listening,

Pat

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