Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Access to Organized Sports Is Vital for Transgender Students, New CAP Study Finds
Press Release

RELEASE: Access to Organized Sports Is Vital for Transgender Students, New CAP Study Finds

Washington, D.C. — States across the country are slowly resuming regular, in-person instruction for millions of students, both inside the classroom and out. For many, that includes the resumption of organized sports. And while many parents and students are grateful to be able to return to the playing field, thousands of transgender students who want to participate alongside their peers don’t have a team to return to.

After previous attempts to marginalize the transgender community failed due to overwhelming public backlash, opponents of LGBTQ equality have zeroed in on the participation of transgender youth in sports as part of their assault on the equal rights of transgender people. At the state level, and in clear violation of federal law and the Constitution, conservatives have sought to ban transgender students from sports participation and cast inclusivity as a threat, to women’s and girls’ sports in particular. Often these attacks rely on frivolous scare tactics, junk science, or plain old transphobia.

In a new report from the Center for American Progress, author Shoshana K. Goldberg unravels the disingenuous and destructive arguments put forward by opponents of transgender inclusion and provides hard data demonstrating how allowing and encouraging transgender students to participate in school-organized sports provides tangible benefits for transgender youth and has no impact on cisgender participation or performance. 

“Transgender people—like all other people—belong in sports. Bans on their participation do nothing to ‘save sports.’ Instead, they serve to deny access to transgender youth, risking serious harm for transgender athletes and nonathletes alike,” said Goldberg, an LGBTQ health and policy researcher with faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and University of Illinois-Chicago Schools of Public Health.

“Transgender youth are already vulnerable to discrimination, violence, harassment, bullying, and social rejection—and exclusionary policies such as sports bans further legitimize transphobia and hate by sending the message that transgender youth are not welcome in spaces that are otherwise open to all other youth. And with already staggeringly high rates of suicidality among transgender youth, the continued rise of transgender sports bans may have life-threatening consequences.”

In addition to hard data and analysis, the report also includes the personal stories of transgender athletes themselves, who share their stories of competing openly and the impact that sports have had on their lives. Lex, a queer nonbinary transmasculine squash player, is one of them. “Athletics, with a focus on squash, are my life. I identify as an athlete, and athleticism is a huge part of how I know myself to be, and a big thing that I am prideful in,” said Lex. “No one should have to feel like they are giving up themselves for something that is supposed to be accessible and available to all.”

For more information on transgender participation in sports or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck at [email protected].