NAIA bans transgender women from competing in women’s sports

Written by gaymennewsApril 10, 2024

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The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which oversees more than 200 mostly small colleges, is the most recent sports governing body to restrict the participation of transgender athletes.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), the governing body for over 83,000 athletes primarily at smaller colleges, has introduced a new policy that prohibits transgender women from participating in women’s sports, marking a significant decision within U.S. college sports governance.

According to the new policy, only student athletes identified as female at birth will be eligible to compete on NAIA-sponsored women’s sports teams. The Council of Presidents of the organization unanimously voted 20-0 to endorse this policy, scheduled to be enforced starting August 1.

Under this updated policy, transgender men and individuals identifying as trans masculine can join women’s teams if they haven’t initiated masculinizing hormone therapy. Those who have started such therapy will be ineligible for NAIA competitions but can engage in training, practices, and team events for women’s teams, subject to their college’s discretion. All students, regardless of gender identity, will retain the right to participate in men’s teams under this policy.

The NAIA has yet to respond to requests for comment. Jim Carr, the organization’s President and CEO, acknowledged that while the policy may spark controversy, it was deemed beneficial for member schools.

“We understand there are diverse opinions, and emotions run high on this topic, and we aim to respect all perspectives,” stated Carr. “However, our foremost priority is ensuring fairness in competition, hence we are steadfast on this path. We have endeavored to accommodate participation for all parties to the best of our ability.”

This decision positions the NAIA, overseeing more than 200 institutions, as the latest entity to regulate the involvement of transgender students as such matters have gained greater political attention. Numerous states have recently implemented laws limiting or prohibiting trans students from participating in sports teams corresponding with their gender identities across educational levels.

The NAIA previously adhered to a transgender sports policy akin to the NCAA’s, which governs collegiate athletics for over 1,000 institutions. However, the NCAA revised its stance in January 2022 following the Lia Thomas controversy, opting for a sport-specific eligibility approach aligned with guidelines from respective national or international sporting bodies.

In response to the NCAA’s adjustments, the NAIA established a Transgender Task Force in April 2022. The Human Rights Campaign, a primary LGBTQ advocacy group in the nation, criticized the NAIA’s new policy, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and equal opportunities for all student athletes, including transgender individuals, in sports programs.

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