Update to Trinity’s Athletics and Recreation Transgender Participation Policy

A policy update in trans inclusion in sports in response to changes in NCAA guidelines

A major source of controversy in recent years has been the participation of transgender athletes in sports. While trans participation in college athletics has become more normalized, much anti-trans legislation has been passed in recent months. Amid all of this, Trinity University released transgender participation in athletics policy for revisions on March 2. This policy, officially named the Trinity Athletics and Recreation Transgender Participation Policy, was finalized on March 23 and will go into effect in the near future.

The new policy closely follows the NCAA’s athletics framework for transgender student-athletes. The Trinity policy stresses that transgender students have to be approved for participation by the national governing body of their specific sport. Additionally, the student’s eligibility is dependent on the Associate Director of Athletics for Compliance.

The policy also makes it a point to prioritize the student’s safety and comfort. This includes access to a single-user changing room and restroom, ensuring the use of correct pronouns, finding travel accommodations and creating conflict resolution strategies among students and coaches.

Richard Reams, Associate Director of Counseling Services and a consultant on the creation of the policy, says that this policy was based on one that already existed.

“Back in 2016, President Anderson asked for some policies for the inclusion of trans and nonbinary [students], so one of the arenas was for athletics […] That was approved finally in the fall semester of 2018.” said Reams.

The NCAA recently changed its guidelines for transgender participation, so Trinity added revisions to its existing policy too. Julie Jenkins, Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Compliance Officer, had a role in the process of creating and changing this policy.

“In January, the NCAA issued a revision to its policy on transgender athletes, and since then we have been revising our policy to align with the new requirements. Our goal is to meet the NCAA and NIRSA Leaders and Campus Recreation mandates which govern our actions while providing a welcoming atmosphere for all athletes. In addition, we are providing support for athletes seeking to meet requirements as set out in the policy,” Jenkins wrote in an email.

Students were invited to help with the revising process of the policy in an email sent on March 2, which asked them to “provide feedback that can help clarify the policy or resolve ambiguity in any details that may give rise to concern.” Steven Drake, Spanish major and president of PRIDE (Trinity’s LGBTQ student group), stressed the importance of the phrasing of the policy to create a safer and more comfortable space for non-cisgender students.

“It’s already on the policy website, but it says ‘Teammates, coaches and all other college personnel shall refer to student-athletes by their chosen name and pronouns.’ We’re just trying to make things like that more visible and make student-athletes feel like they’re prioritized,” Drake said.

The transgender student-athlete policy and others like it, such as the Gender Neutral Housing Policy, are meant to support diversity and inclusion for the non-cisgender students on Trinity campus.

“I have seen that they are dedicated to ensuring that the athletic spaces that this policy affects are ones that are welcoming and supportive,” said Drake. “While the work is never done, it is heartening to see efforts made to keep moving Trinity towards a more accessible and actively supportive campus for our trans and nonbinary students.”

Especially as legislation targeting transgender and nonbinary adolescents is passed in more and more states, Drake said it is crucial that Trinity create an accepting environment for students.

“It’s really timely, given what’s happening across the country. So to see an explicit statement from Trinity and from athletics supporting transgender and nonbinary students — it’s really huge and really important,” said Drake.

The finalized version of the Trinity Athletics and Recreation Transgender Participation Policy can be found via the Trinity policies page.