Young transgender people are often bullied or subjected to other physically violent treatment by classmates, which puts them at greater risk of suicide than other students. Many transgender students also experience discomfort related to the disparity between their psychological understanding of their gender identity and their physical body, which can be intensified when school athletic and physical education programs are unprepared to accommodate them in physical activity-based programs or force them to use locker rooms and bathrooms that conflict with their gender identity.
Recommended transgender-inclusion school policies for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 should all focus on enabling students to participate in physical education classes, intramural sports and interscholastic athletics according to their self-affirmed gender identity. The focus of all of these programs is to encourage participation in physical activities and sports based on the educational value of these programs to student psychological and social health, well-being, and sense of belonging to a community.
Because students in grades K-5 are typically pre-pubescent and have not yet experienced the growth and developmental changes associated with puberty, there is no need to separate students by sex for participation in physical education classes, intramural sports or interscholastic sports. Students in grades 6-8 reflect a wide range of developmental stages. Girls often go through puberty earlier than boys and are often taller and stronger than many boys at this age, making separation of the sexes in physical education, intramurals and athletics unnecessary when basic safety measures are taken to protect all students. While most students in grades 9-12 have completed puberty and exhibit the physical changes associated with this process, physical education and intramural sports should continue to encourage mixed-gender participation, as well as make sex-separate activities available to all students according to their self-affirmed gender identity.
Interscholastic athletics has traditionally been divided into girls’ teams and boys’ teams. This division recognizes the physical changes resulting from experiencing a male or female puberty and the generalized sex differences in height, strength and endurance between most girls and boys. As such, dividing interscholastic athletic participation by sex increases most girls’ and boys’ opportunities to play. The number of transgender students in any school is small and their presence on a team can be effectively accommodated if school leaders have adopted inclusive policies and received education about best practices. Policies that enable transgender students to participate on these school sports teams according to their self-affirmed gender identity is a workable and equitable solution to providing all students with the opportunity to participate on school teams without undermining the integrity of girls’ or boys’ sports teams or compromising the safety and privacy of any student.
If a school or district does not have a policy in place, it is strongly encouraged to begin to put one in place. Resources have been provided below to help educators, administrators and/or community members to begin the process of a creating a policy that is inclusive of transgender students.
Transgender Law & Policy Institute — Guideline for Creating Polices for Transgender Children in Recreational Sports: http://media.wix.com/ugd/2bc3fc_6cd03b8e19147c71c0153c81e96babcb.pdf
Human Rights Campaign —Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools: http://www.hrc.org/resources/schools-in-transition-a-guide-for-supporting-transgender-students-in-k-12-s
Proposed Model High School
Policy —"All 50": The Transgender-Inclusive High School Sports and
Activities Policy and Education Project- http://www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/All-50-Model-High-School-Policy.pdf