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Thursday, December 2, 2010
LPGA allows transgender athletes to compete

By Adena Andrews

The transgender community gained a victory as LPGA players voted in a year-end meeting to allow transgender athletes to compete on tour and eliminate the requirement players be "female at birth". The vote was in response to a lawsuit filed by Lana Lawless, a California woman who had her sex changed five years ago. The LPGA is following in the footsteps of other organizations like the International Olympic Committee that have made similar rulings to allow transgender athletes to compete.

This rule change seems so typical of a women's league. Women have been on the sidelines wanting to play and being told they could not for decades, and to deny another person who considers themselves part of the "sporting sisterhood" is not really part of an woman's makeup. Do you think men's leagues will start letting in female-to-male transgenders who meet IOC conditions? Chances of that happening any time soon are as good as a snowball's chances of surviving in hell.

IOC rulings state that anyone who undergoes sexual reassignment surgery before puberty is allowed to participate in the field of their new gender. Surgery before puberty is important because hormones have not dramatically changed the body in order to produce an unfair competitive advantage. It gets a bit trickier for those who have sexual reassignment surgery after puberty. Anyone who undergoes sexual reassignment surgery after puberty must meet these conditions to participate:

• Surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy.

• Legal recognition of their assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authorities.

• Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sport competitions.

• Eligibility will be granted no sooner than two years after genitalia changes.

While these rules are super complicated and take away from the simple rule of "girls play with girls and boys play with boys in pro sports," they make a ton of sense. The IOC covered its bases to make sure no one tries to sneak into a sport using the transgender rule by pretending to be another sex. In addition, the rules also make the field as scientifically balanced as possible.

The LPGA needs to follow the IOC rules to a tee (bad pun intended) in order to not become a circus. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement on Tuesday, "Steps will be taken in the coming weeks to make the appropriate changes in the language of the Constitution."

The most important adjustment in the constitution will be to the word transgender. Transgender is an umbrella word that can cover an array of individuals. Those who have sexual reassignment surgery to those who just mentally identify themselves as the opposite sex are considered transgender. By allowing transgender individuals to compete and eliminating the "female at birth" rule this means if a man can prove he mentally feels he is a woman he can compete in the women's field. And that just sounds like a bad scene out of Juwanna Mann.

While Lawless is the center of attention for the current ruling, her addition to the LPGA field should not threaten the balance of the playing field. She is 57 years old and not much of a competitive threat, Renee Richards, the male-to-female transgender who successfully sued tennis authorities in the 1970s to compete on the women's professional tour, told USA Today.

While the LPGA has changed their constitution with the advancement of science, the rule will be tested many times in the future. Each individual will have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. The LPGA's ruling is very fresh in the world of sports and only time can test its strength and validity.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.