U Sports launches new policy on transgender student-athlete participation

Transgender student-athletes in many Canadian universities can now choose to compete in the team of their gender identity or the sex they were assigned at birth.

U Sports, the national governing body of university sports in Canada, announced the new policy this morning. It has taken effect at all 56 U Sports-affiliated institutions across the country — including UBC.

More specifically, transgender student-athletes can compete on the team of their choice as long as they follow the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. Those who choose to compete on the team of their gender identity will not be required to undergo hormone therapy.

The total duration of athlete eligibility will remain at five years, and the student-athletes may only compete on sport teams of one gender during an academic year.

The policy has been in development within the organization’s Equity Committee since 2016.

“The members of the Equity Committee were driven to ensure that all students at our Canadian universities have equal opportunities of being selected to varsity teams regardless of their gender or their gender identity and expression,” said U Sports Equity Committee Chair Lisen Moore in a press release.

The committee also considered input from U Sports membership, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport's “Creative Inclusive Environments for Trans Participants in Canadian Sport” report.

In comparison, the NCAA’s policy in the United States does not allow a transgender man undergoing hormonal treatment to compete on a women’s team, unless the team’s status is changed to mixed. A transgender woman can still compete for a men’s team but not a women’s team without the team changing its status to mixed, unless they have undergone hormonal treatment for a full calendar year.

For those who are not undergoing hormonal treatment, a student-athlete who is a transgender man can compete on either the men’s or women’s team; a transgender woman student-athlete, however, is not allowed to compete on a women’s team.

Currently, with its policy already going into effect, the next step for U Sports will be facilitating its implementation in institutions across Canada.

“We are thrilled by the support of the Board on our leading-edge transgender policy, and we are now looking forward to assisting our member institutions with the roll-out and implementation of that policy,” said Moore.

“UBC supports this policy which is the product of two years of research and consultation by U SPORTS involving its member institutions and outside experts,” said Gord Hopper, UBC Athletics’s director of Athletics, Performance and Team Support, in an emailed statement.

“UBC supports inclusive and safe environments along with equal opportunities for all student athletes and we look forward to further consultation with U SPORTS and member institutions around best practices for the policy’s implementation.”

This article has been updated to include UBC Athletics’ comment and to clarify the NCAA's policies.