USA Hockey has released a new trans-inclusion policy that paves a path to participation for transgender and gender non-binary athletes, whether they are boys, girls or otherwise.

Core to the new policy, which was ratified in the last week, are several elements.

First, it points out that many hockey programs are not limited by gender. “Boys” teams are actually “open” teams, and athletes can participate regardless of gender or gender identity.

Second, trans girls can play recreational hockey on a girls team with a couple written letters stating their gender identity. However, trans girls ages 14 to 19 who want to play competitive hockey must have had hormone therapy for at least a year.

Third, the policy specifically addresses gender non-binary athletes and largely applies the trans-athlete policy to them.

Fourth, it recommends steps teams should take to make sure teams are able to use locker rooms together, including the guidance that all athletes should be wearing at least undergarments at all times. “Use of showers shall be permitted in a manner respecting all players’ privacy.”

USA Hockey trans policy earns praise

Chris Mosier, the trans world-class athlete and advocate, consulted on the policy with USA Hockey and is generally pleased with the outcome.

“I think it’s a very comprehensive and sensible policy that addresses play at various levels,” Mosier said. “I think it’s a thoughtful policy, and an impressive step from USA Hockey.”

He pointed to the inclusion of a specific non-binary policy as groundbreaking, and also praised the sensible approach to teams being united in the locker room.

“We know that so much of the team bonding, strategizing, and unifying takes place in pre-game discussions and team meetings, many of which happen in the locker room. This is a sensible recommendation for youth that should help not only transgender athletes, but all athletes.”

Rachel McKinnon, a world cycling champion who is transgender, also expressed a positive response to the policy.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by the USA Hockey new policy on transgender athlete eligibility,” McKinnon said. “It forefronts inclusivity, and expresses that value throughout.”

Advocates of trans inclusion in sports will certainly point to the mandate of testosterone suppression for girls ages 14 to 19. Many teens have are just figuring out their gender identity and expression at that age, let alone engaging in a year of hormone therapy.

Yet the positives seem to outweigh the concerns. USA Hockey is getting the praise of trans athletes and advocates, and that’s a welcome development.