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Collegiate sports association restricts transgender women from competing in women’s sports

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics on Monday voted to bar transgender women from competing in women’s sports competitions.

NAIA’s Council of Presidents unanimously voted in favor of the policy that says “only students whose biological sex is female” may participate in women’s sports. But all student athletes may participate in men’s sports.

The association, which serves as the governing body largely for small private colleges, is believed to be the first college sports association to implement such a ban. It’s policy will take effect for the next school year on Aug. 1.

“With the exception of competitive cheer and competitive dance, the NAIA created separate categories for male and female participants,” the association said in its policy. “Each NAIA sport includes some combination of strength, speed, and stamina, providing competitive advantages for male student-athletes. As a result, the NAIA policy for transgender student-athletes applies to all sports except for competitive cheer and competitive dance, which are open to all students.”

The policy has already been met with swift criticism from LGBTQ advocacy groups, which say the policy could push other governing bodies, like the NCAA, to follow suit.

“Today, the NAIA decided to bar an entire category of people from competition simply because of a right-wing outrage campaign that purposefully misrepresents and distorts the realities of transgender athletes while doing nothing to support women’s sports,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “The chilling message this sends not just to other sanctioning bodies but also to youth sports leagues across the country is dangerous and it must be stopped in its tracks.”

But conservative-learning groups and advocates pushing back against transgender athlete participation in women’s sports lauded the policy change and urged other associations to follow.

The Independent Council on Women’s Sports, which is suing the NCAA over its policy that allows transgender women to compete in women’s sports, wrote on X: “The @NCAA is next…even if it’s against their will.”

Key context: Roughly half of all states have a policy that restricts transgender women from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been putting off advancing a regulation under Title IX that would outline the rights of transgender athletes under the anti-discrimination law.

The NAIA formed a Transgender Task Force in April 2022 to review its transgender athlete participation policy after the NCAA made changes to its policy in January 2022. On Monday, the NAIA’s Council of Presidents approved the policy that was recommended by the taskforce after reviewing it for roughly two years.

The association had previously allowed transgender women athletes to compete on teams that aligned with their gender identity so long as they first underwent a year of suppressing certain hormones.