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Department of Education proposes Title IX change to prevent bans on transgender student-athlete participation

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A new proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Education seeks to combat restrictions placed on transgender student-athlete participation by educational institutions.


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APRIL 12, 2023

The U.S. Department of Education, or ED, has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM, establishing a violation of Title IX should an educational institution place a categorical ban on transgender students participating in athletics that align with their gender identity.

A fact sheet sent out by the ED on April 6 mentions the two-year effort to develop the proposed rule in hopes of providing “much needed clarity” for students, coaches and parents. The proposed rule builds upon long-standing Title IX rules that provide equal opportunity in athletics for women and girls, the fact sheet said.

According to the fact sheet, the ED still allows for the establishment of sex-related criteria in order to participate in competitive sports at the high school or college level when it achieves “an important educational objective” such as “fairness in competition” — still leaving room for the exclusion of transgender students in some cases.

Sydney Hubbard, an external intern for the Queer Alliance & Resource Center, or QARC, mentions the extensive process that transgender students must go through in order to participate in collegiate athletics that are in line with their gender identity.

Transgender and gender nonconforming student athletes on campus must first meet with an athletic director, who would then inform the National Governing Board of the student’s request. The student must also submit a letter from their physician that details their gender assigned at birth, Hubbard said in an email.

The athletic director ultimately makes the decision regarding the participation of the student and the gender label of the team the student is assigned to on the basis of documentation, UC Berkeley participation policies and other regulations, Hubbard said in the email.

On campus, staff and coaches are trained to respect the name and pronouns of transgender or gender nonconforming students. They may use facilities and have a uniform consistent with their identity, Hubbard said in the email.

However, heavy NCAA regulations on hormone treatments can often prevent students from competing in athletics consistent with their identities, Hubbard said in the email. For example, someone who is undergoing a feminizing hormone treatment may only participate on a women’s team after a year on the treatment.

“The fact that there are so many steps that transgender students must go through indicates a systematic focus on the comfort of cisgender people over the experience of transgender student-athletes,” Hubbard said in the email.

While the proposed rule does provide guidance on how teams can be organized based upon gender identity, it is unclear as to whether it has any effect on this lengthy admission process for transgender athletes. In the fact sheet, the ED mentions that Title IX allows schools the flexibility to organize their athletics as they wish, as long as they provide “equal athletic opportunity.”

Although the rule may be a step forward in the inclusion of transgender athletes at lower levels of competition, Hubbard said that there are still many loopholes and exceptions that can limit the protection of transgender student-athletes’ rights regarding athletic participation — particularly at the intercollegiate level.

In addition, they mention the policy only discourages the limitation of athletic participation for transgender and gender nonconforming students, while they feel it should be prohibiting these limitations in all circumstances.

“The policy stating how in some instances schools may adopt policies that limit trans students’ participation indicates that the comfort of trans students is not at the core of this policy,” Hubbard said in the email.

Contact Eleanor Dalton at 


APRIL 12, 2023