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USA Gymnastics adopts pro-transgender inclusion policy

“This policy will help ensure athletes who identify as transgender or non-binary feel at home in our sport,” said USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung.

Gymnastics: U.S. Gymnastics Championships
USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung and International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari Watanabe during the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships at Sprint Center.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In gymnastics, it’s not just skill and strength but timing that wins medals. Given that this is Transgender Awareness Week, USA Gymnastics could not have timed its announcement of a new policy on inclusion of transgender and non-binary gymnasts any better.

According to the press release, this change from the 2015 policy is aimed at promoting a safe and inclusive environment for athletes of all gender identities, and at the same time, designed to protect the privacy of trans and non-binary athletes.

“Our top priority is and must always be the safety of our athletes, including their emotional and psychological safety,” said USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung in the statement. “Inclusivity plays an important role in creating safe and welcoming environments for our community members, and this policy will help ensure athletes who identify as transgender or non-binary feel at home in our sport.”

USA Gymnastics said its new policy is based on current medical research and scientific findings, and consistent with an array of anti-discrimination legislation. It stipulates:

  • Transgender athletes no longer need a special application just to participate in the discipline that matches their gender identity.
  • The requirements that gymnasts undergo surgical sex reassignment, legal gender recognition and receive hormone therapy have been tossed out.
  • Non-binary athletes will find greater acceptance with guidance that has been added.
  • The policy incorporates educational resources to help build a more informed community.

The research on which this new policy is based comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics, The American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, GLSEN, Trans Youth Equality Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and The Trevor Project.

USA Gymnastics also did something that World Rugby did not do enough of, prior to issuing its recommendation against trans inclusion last month: they solicited input directly from the transgender athlete community.

“We are grateful to the members of the Athlete Health and Wellness Council as well as those in our gymnastics community who contributed their time and expertise to this policy,” Kim Kranz, USA Gymnastics’ Chief of Athlete Wellness, said in a statement. “This policy is part of our commitment to help create an inclusive environment within our sport. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in gymnastics with the knowledge that they will be safe and have their dignity respected.”

Nearly all members are covered by this new policy, however there is an exception for those competing on the elite level, known as ‘International Track’ gymnasts, according to the release. They’re defined in the statement as those who intend to qualify for the Junior or Senior National Teams in the next 12 months, and who may represent USA Gymnastics internationally, or who qualify to any event where a National Team is selected. These gymnasts will continue to be governed by the policies of the International Olympic Committee, and it’s believed the IOC may adjust its current transgender participation policy following the Summer Games set for 2021 in Tokyo. Scientists so far have not able to come to agreement on what that policy will look like.