TPAC Revises Transgender Inclusion Policy


Mike Plotz

College sophomore Augie Blackman (left) and College senior Aran Schultz lead a Transgender Participatory Advisory Committee forum on Monday, April 13 in Wilder Hall. The committee is expected to present its updated draft of the “Guidelines for Inclusion and Respectful Treatment of Intercollegiate Transgender Student-Athletes” to the General Faculty in upcoming weeks.

Tyler Sloan, Editor in Chief

The Transgender Participatory Advisory Committee and the Multicultural Resource Center partnered to host the TPAC forum last Monday in Wilder Hall to discuss the latest draft of the “Guidelines for Inclusion and Respectful Treatment of Intercollegiate Transgender Student-Athletes.” The policy adheres to NCAA guidelines, but provides additional resources in the hopes of improving accessibility and institutional support for transgender student-athletes.

The NCAA addressed transgender student-athlete participation for the first time in 2011 with the official release of its policies in the publication, “NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes.” Following the NCAA’s release of its guidelines, the Club Sports Trans Policy created TPAC to oversee the policy’s content and application at Oberlin.

Since then, TPAC members and faculty have been working together to address how the NCAA’s provisions affect transgender student-athletes and to evaluate how to administer stronger support systems and advocacy within the NCAA’s strictly regulated guidelines. College sophomore Augie Blackman said that they believe these policies can be discouraging for younger trans athletes.

“Trans athletes aren’t particularly encouraged to participate in sports in the first place,” said Blackman, who co-led TPAC’s forum with College senior Aran Shultz this week. “The reason I joined this committee was because I grew up playing soccer, and I’m wondering, if I had a different experience growing up — a mixed-gender team or a team that had honored my gender — would I still be playing soccer now?”

Blackman and Schultz navigated the complex and often medicalized NCAA policies with those attending the forum. The duo highlighted language alterations in Oberlin’s guidelines for intercollegiate transgender student-athletes, which initially used much of the language from policies at Bates College and Grinnell College.

“What we’re doing right now is working on revisions for the second version of the policy,” said Schultz, who has been working with TPAC since last summer. “The first version was mostly lifted from other schools’ policies and was very basic. So this is the revamping of the policy, listening to more students and seeing what their opinion is on the policy and how we can make it better.”

TPAC’s next step is to have the latest draft of its guidelines approved by the General Faculty. TPAC has made several major revisions since the General Faculty last approved the policy guidelines in April 2014, including updating the resource list, clarifying the appeals process, editing definitions of cisgender and transgender and rewording several paragraphs in response to student concern or to improve clarity. Director of Recreation and Club Sports Betsy Bruce said that she hopes these revisions will yield more assistance to incoming transgender student-athletes who may not understand the NCAA’s policies.

“We really didn’t have a process for how a student was supposed to self-identify and get through the process,” said Bruce, who has worked closely with the committee to continually improve the guidelines’ language. “We’ve really tried to clarify that.”

Intercollegiate athletics, unlike club and intramural sports teams, are governed by the NCAA. This, along with other factors, may help explain the higher level of participation of transgender student-athletes in club sports than at the varsity level at Oberlin. Vice President and Dean of Students Eric Estes said that in recent years, he has seen the NCAA make progress, but believes there is still a long road ahead.

“There is greater flexibility in the club sports realm than in varsity athletics,” said Estes, who has worked with TPAC by connecting the committee with potentially helpful faculty members. “I think the NCAA has shown some real progress over the last five years or so, which is hopeful. But progress has also been the result of courageous work by student-athletes themselves like Kye Allums, who spoke on campus last year. My hope would be that we can develop a policy that creates as much accessibility and support as possible.”

As recent progress has been made in improving the accessibility of athletics to transgender student-athletes, other student organizations have begun to organize safe spaces for trans people in Oberlin’s athletic facilities. Student Senate’s Student Health Working Group piloted a Women and Trans Hour at South gym on Saturday, April 4.

In an email sent to the student body, Student Senate said that the purpose of the event was to “help determine the level of interest in establishing a permanent safe space hour at South gym for Women and Trans folx.” College sophomore Dana Kurzer- Yashin said that the safe space was set aside for women and trans people because, in a very body-conscious place, these two groups might appreciate the ability to have a space where they don’t have to worry about one more level of body-awareness.

“The gym is a super body-conscious place, so we wanted to try this to create some kind of space for women and trans folx,” said Kurzer-Yashin, who hosted Women and Trans Hour at South gym. “I, as a cis woman, don’t think it’s my position to push for trans hours, but of course I support those efforts. If, going forward, trans folx want to have their own hours, we would definitely support that.”