For ATs: Transgender Policy Development

June 19, 2020 by Claire Higgins

Editor’s note: Throughout June, NATA News will share content written by members of the NATA LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee related to different facets of LGBTQ+ health and patient care. For more information about transgender patient care and developing a transgender policy, read the latest Sports Medicine Legal Digest. This post specifically expands on the “Considerations for Developing a Transgender Policy” article for ATs to reference when drafting policies, either for student athletes at the secondary school and collegiate levels or for an athletic training facility.

Because transgender athletes face discrimination legally, as there were more than 20 bills attempting to ban participation by transgender athletes in 2019, and also may lack safe, inclusive health care options at their athletic training facilities, it is important for ATs to ensure policies are in place to protect them.

Instead of stigmatizing these athletes, participation in sport requires policies to be written and adhered to; however, the younger the athlete, the more challenging the policy creation. Current interscholastic transgender policies are insufficient and impractical because they tend to mirror the National Collegiate Athletic Association or International Olympic Committee, which were written for adults and, therefore, force medical treatment on transgender minor athletes, ignoring the scientific differences between adults and children.

The authors of “Considerations for Developing a Transgender Policy,” LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee members Dani Moffit, PhD, LAT, ATC, and Amanda Tritsch, PhD, ATC, CSCS, in the summer edition of Sports Medicine Legal Digest stressed that ATs need to consider their role with transgender athletes. ATs are health care professionals and should be held to a high standard when treating all patients.

Additionally, athletic trainers must be aware of the applicable policies and procedures created by governing bodies for athletic organizations when developing an inclusive policy. These often offer clear criteria outlining transgender participation in sports.

When working to develop a transgender policy, there are models to reference. For secondary school athletics, the authors recommend the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) model high school athletics policy that is easily adaptable for school districts. This model, outlined below, allows districts to adapt to the needs of the athletes while maintaining the integrity of sport for all athletes. 

GLSEN Policy Key Points

  • The student has a right to participate in athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
  • When a student or parent comes to administrators with a request to compete consistent with their gender identity, the school district should work with the state association to help ensure eligibility.
  • The state association should promote a fair and affirming hearing to consider the participation of the particular athlete.
  • The student has a non-negotiable right to both privacy and confidentiality throughout this process.
  • Transgender student athletes, once approved for play, have the right to access the same facilities as their teammates.

When developing a policy for an athletic training clinic or for faculty, the authors created a model that includes considerations on inclusiveness, appropriate language and visible Safe Spaces.

Recommended Components of Clinic or Facility Policy

  • Statement of non-discrimination inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Definitions and usage of appropriate language (i.e., transgender vs. transgendered)
  • Visible Safe Space or similar facility designation
  • Collection and appropriate use of preferred names and pronouns
  • Communication with parents or guardians about using student’s legal name and pronoun corresponding to sex assigned at birth unless student, parent and/or guardian has requested otherwise (privacy protection per FERPA and HIPAA)
  • Sources of law establishing the legal rights of transgender students
  • The rights of transgender students regarding participation in:
    • School athletics programs
    • Physical education courses
    • Extracurricular activities
  • Access by transgender students to restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms
  • Housing and other issues during sports and extracurricular activity road trips
  • Dress codes and their applicability to transgender students and student athletes
  • Strategies for communicating transgender policies to all school district constituents

For more information about transgender health and patient care, connect with the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee. To read more about transgender policy, read the latest Sports Medicine Legal Digest.