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National Center for Transgender Equality Responds to Harmful NAIA Ruling

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Contact Name
Ash Orr (they/he)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Monday, April 8th, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), one of the nation's largest organizations overseeing college sports, voted to ban transgender women from participating in collegiate sports teams affiliated with NAIA, taking effect on August 1st, 2024. The NAIA is responsible for overseeing sports activities in nearly 250 schools, impacting tens of thousands of student athletes across the nation. 

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), expressed disappointment at the decision, stating, “The recent decision by the NAIA to ban trans women from participating in collegiate sports is both divisive and unnecessary. This new policy, based on fearmongering and misinformation, contradicts the inclusive values the NAIA claims to uphold. Research consistently shows the numerous benefits of participating in school sports, yet the NAIA has chosen to exclude trans athletes, depriving them of these opportunities unjustly.” 
Despite trans people participating in sports for years and recent research alleviating concerns over trans athletes dominating sports, policies that impact transgender women’s participation in sports are the continuation of a long history of exclusion of all women from competitive sports – an exclusion that ultimately led to the establishment of a separate “women’s” category of sport. This decision by the NAIA perpetuates anxieties over trans people, who just want to be included, while diverting attention from genuine issues facing women's sports such as pay equity and sexual abuse.

“Trans people deserve to participate in all aspects of life – including athletics”, Heng-Lehtinen went on to say. “The problem here is that for the last two years, extremist politicians have been taking advantage of the American public, projecting a false image of trans people – especially trans women – to stoke fear and distrust of a community that many people don’t understand.”

NCTE believes that participating in sports allows people of all backgrounds to learn and play, be part of a team, find role models, develop leadership skills and confidence, and nurture relationships. Rather than highlighting an already marginalized community, organizations should establish policies rooted in inclusivity and acceptance, advocating for the advancement of everyone – including trans people. NCTE strongly encourages NAIA members to educate themselves further and reconsider this harmful policy.


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