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Study says access to school sports vital for trans students

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A study released by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on Monday found that being able to join school sports is vital for the mental and emotional health of transgender students.

The study comes out as a number of states have introduced bill that would restrict trans student’s participation in school sports.

Currently, only 16 states allow trans students to participate with no restrictions. Illinois allows trans students to participate, but with restrictions.

The report found that when trans students can participate in sports, they had better grades, were less likely to suffer from depression and felt more of a part of their schools. And inclusion had no negative effect on cisgender students.

The report made the following suggestions:

  • Transgender-inclusive and age-appropriate sports participation policies, which allow transgender athletes to compete in accordance with their gender identity, should be implemented nationwide. 
  • Coaches and athletic staff should receive training on how to navigate existing policy in their school district around transgender sports participation, as well as on how to ensure a transgender-affirming sports environment.
  • Efforts must be made by all stakeholders, including coaches, athletic directors, administrators, and state organizations, to ensure that sports environments and policies remain welcoming and affirming for youth who don’t identify with a male or female gender. 
  • Schools should ensure that transgender and nonbinary students can participate in sports according to their gender identity.78 
  • Congress should pass the Equality Act to clarify that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination is prohibited in key areas of life, including school. 
  • Congress should pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which would require school districts to adopt and implement anti-bullying and harassment policies that specifically prohibit bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity—along with other identities. The SSIA has not yet been reintroduced in the current Congress.

“Transgender people—like all other people—belong in sports. Bans on their participation do nothing to ‘save sports.’ Instead, they serve to deny access to transgender youth, risking serious harm for transgender athletes and nonathletes alike,” said study author Shoshana K. Goldberg, an LGBTQ health and policy researcher with faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and University of Illinois-Chicago Schools of Public Health.

The full report, “Fair Play: The Importance of Sports Participation for Transgender Youth,” is available at the CAP website.

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