CIF adopts policy for transgender athletes

The CIF San Diego Section’s board of managers now has a policy in place to determine whether an alleged transgender athlete is eligible to play in a sport of that athlete’s self-identified gender rather than of the athlete’s birth gender.

The board of managers suspended normal rules Jan. 23 to allow for a first reading and adoption at the same meeting. The San Diego Section policy echoes a state Federated Council by-law approved Nov. 1.

“There is some difficulty in trying to determine the eligibility of a student like this,” said CIF San Diego Section commissioner Jerry Schniepp. “It lays out for us how to make a determination like that.”

CIF state associate executive director Ron Nocetti attended the Board of Managers meeting and noted that on a statewide basis approximately five cases of transgender athletes are addressed annually. “This is here only if questions arise in your district,” Nocetti said. “You now have a process to use.”

Sex-change surgery is not recommended for individuals under the age of 18. In 2011 State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced legislation which would allow students to participate in the gender in which they identify. Prior to the state by-law adoption school districts did not have a process in place to determine actual gender identification.

The state by-law was based on a 2009 Washington Interscholastic Activities Association policy which was adopted with assistance from school and medical professionals. That process became the basis for the San Diego Section policy which allows individual schools or districts access to a review panel consisting of a physician with gender identify health care, a licensed mental health care professional familiar with World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards, a school administrator, a CIF staff member, and an advocate familiar with gender identify and expression issues. The panel would ensure that boys who do not actually identify themselves as girls would not be able to use the policy as an excuse to play girls’ sports.

The CIF guidelines call for the student or parents to notify the school that the student has a gender identity different than his or her actual gender, for the school administrator to notify the CIF office, and for the CIF to assign a facilitator to assist the school and student with the appeal process.

In addition to covering students who identify with a gender different than their own, the policy also ensures eligibility for intersex athletes who were born with both male and female organs or otherwise with chromosomal mutations making that person both female and male.

The two most prominent historical cases of transgender or intersex athletes are probably Renee Richards and Stella Walsh. Richards, who played tennis as Dr. Richard Raskind prior to a sex-change operation, joined the women’s pro tour after her sex change. Richards sued the United States Tennis Association to obtain her right to play in women’s tournaments and thus became the only player to win rounds in both the men’s singles and the ladies’ singles at the U.S. Open.

An autopsy on Walsh revealed that the 1932 Olympic 100-meter dash gold medal winner was a biological hermaphrodite with sex organs of both genders. Walsh was (posthumously) allowed to keep her Olympic medals (she also won a silver medal in the 1936 Olympics).

There are no guarantees that a biological male identified as a female would be allowed to play in a girls’ sport. “You’ve got to figure that out, is it fair?” Schniepp said.

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