Right to run, play and participate

Griffin Ell / Art Director

“Three Connecticut high school girls, represented by their mothers, have filed a lawsuit over a policy which allows transgender athletes to participate in sports based on their gender identity,” according to an article in CNN.

“The lawsuit, filed Wednesday [February 12] by the conservative nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom, claims that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference [CIAC] policy allows ‘biological boys’ to beat them at track events and deprives them of possible scholarships,” according to an article in the New York Post.

The transgender policy according to CIAC’s Reference Guide for Transgender Policy says, “the CIAC is committed to providing transgender student-athletes with equal opportunities to participate in CIAC athletic programs consistent with their gender identity.” 

The CIAC has concluded that it would be fundamentally unjust and contrary to applicable state and federal law to preclude a student from participation on a gender specific sports team that is consistent with the public gender identity of that student for all other purposes. 

Keene State College follows the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) dialogue and the Little East Conference (LEC) championship regarding transgender policies, according to Director of Athletics Philip Racicot. 

According to Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information Compliance & Operations Abraham Osheyack, “Transgender athletes need to fall within the acceptable policies for competition as it relates to any other student-athlete in terms of their eligibility, academics, team rules, things like that.” Osheyack added, “We do not treat them any differently than any other athlete.” 

The diversity and inclusion policy of the LEC describes “transgender” as an individual whose gender identity (an internal, deeply held sense of one’s gender) and gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Commissioner of the Little East Conference Dr. Pamela Samuelson said, “They are as inclusive as they possibly can [be] with any kind of underrepresented student population.” She added, “…and that would certainly include transgender athletes and we would welcome transgender student-athletes in our competition.”

Osheyack said, “Not every transgender student is ready to take the hormones of the gender that they are, but if they wish to, they need to get that approval from the NCAA first before they can compete.”

The NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation says, “a transgender female [male-to-female] student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team, but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.”

The CNN article said that the Connecticut high school girls and their families claim in their lawsuit that the CIAC policy is a violation of the Title IX act—which bars discrimination on the basis of sex.

Osheyack doesn’t think allowing transgender female athletes to compete with born female athletes is a violation of Title IX. “We recognize the identified gender of the person. So if a person is identifying as male when they were born with female organs or vice versa, then that’s the gender we recognize and we will include them as on the team of that gender, so in that way, we are not treating them any differently than a cisgender athlete on that team,” Osheyack said.

Racicot said it is important to have an open, honest discussion and stick to facts and to determine the best outcome for everybody. “You certainly don’t want to exclude people based on their gender expression,” said Racicot.

Keene State athletes are extremely welcoming, inclusive and respectful to people from different backgrounds, according to Osheyack. “The word that’s constantly used is ‘family,’” said Osheyack, “and there is a very strong feeling of that within this department no matter who you are and where you come from and that includes our transgender athletes.”

Osheyack said gender is one of the many social matters that is getting changed over time. Stigma around marijuana, attention toward mental health and sexuality are some other social matters that people were uncomfortable about 10, 20 and 30 years ago, according to him.

Osheyack added, “As more and more young people change and their viewpoints become more and more accepted, more things will start to be knocked down.”

Puja Thapa can be contacted

at pthapa@kscequinox.com