Transgender Athletes in Sports: The Time for Change is Now!

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Basically, in secondary 3 I started to question a little, on my gender identity. I met with several psychologists. I realized that I had gender dysphoria. I had been realizing for a long time that I wasn’t necessarily like the other girls. For me, it was clear when I looked back that this was what I wanted, to be a boy. As ringette is a sport mainly for girls, I felt less comfortable staying during this period of questioning. I really found my place through this sport. That’s why I took a break from ringette. One day my old ringette coach wrote to me and he said we need a goalie, if you are ready to comeback, we will welcome you with open arms. Then, said there’s no problem with it and I jumped at the chance because I was really tempted to start my sport again and I really liked it.    

The reintegration into the team went really well, everyone had the chance to say yes or no as to whether or not they were comfortable with me being in the changing room with them. Principally, the league is a girl’s league, I would say that the only small difficulty is maybe that we had to wait for the approval of the Quebec League.   

I know that Ringette Canada has a policy for Quebec. They have the trans-inclusion policy on their website. Is it well applied or not? That remains to be seen. There were also some reactions from the president, if I’m not mistaken, of Ringette Quebec, which leaves to doubt if trans people are well accepted in Ringette Quebec.    

I know that there are two other goalies in exactly the same situation as me in Ringette who had more difficulties than me because they were in the more competitive teams. People had a harder time accepting I guess that they compete with girls. The federations definitely have started to already use a more inclusive French. Maybe in asking trans people what could be done to better accommodate them. As long as there are try-outs and I’m at the right level, for me it doesn’t make a difference if I’m trans or not, I still enjoy it. It’s my sport, I love it.     


In 2016 the CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport) created a guide for National Sports Organizations to adopt policies regarding the participation of trans athletes. We’re really in the early stages of establishing rules for the participation of trans athletes in different sports in Canada.  


It’s important to understand that sport in Canada isn’t really regulated. We leave it to the various national sport organizations to manage. Canada had its first trans Olympian at the Tokyo Olympics, on the women’s soccer team.   

I still hope to evolve only in a binary mode. It is only recently that the scientific community has recognized that humans are not necessarily biologically constituted in a binary way and therefore sport must play catch-up and adapt to this new reality that is scientific.   


This is a challenge for the sports community. Governments are being called upon to take a stand on this issue. There are 18 American states that prohibit trans athletes from participating in sports competitions. An approach such as that of the United Kingdom, on the other hand, leaves it to organizations within sport to decide whether or not to implement a ban on the participation of transgender athletes.   


In reality, the Canadian government leaves it up to the NSOs to legislate their own competition rules. We’re in much the same situation as the United Kingdom, although the United Kingdom, had the courage to put it that way.  


Most countries are waiting to see how the sport will fit in, rather than imposing. I don’t know if it’s wise to do so because sport has to take its responsibility for establishing the participation of trans athletes. Some federations have begun to do so under the guidance of the International Olympic Committee which asked international federations to establish rules to make them predictable and to include the participation of people who are transgender. This is a discussion that needs to be pursued with the various expert players to achieve more inclusive participation in sport, while also taking into consideration not only the rights of the individual transgender athlete, but equally the interests of the other athletes who find themselves competing against that person, because it’s not just a question of society’s inclusion in society, but also a question of fairness in sport in a sporting competition where at the finals there are prizes and medals. 


We have to be as exhausted as possible for transgender athletes and be demanding. There are going to be certain restrictions depending on the physical advantage a transgender athlete might enjoy, and that’s something we have to take into consideration. It is the responsibility of the sport community not to just passively wait for a rule to be imposed by the government or even by third parties or to wait for it to be resolved by itself because this is not an issue that will be resolved by itself, it will be an issue that will be resolved only with the communion of all parties around the table, the scientists, the sport community, the athletes as well, who have to participate in the discussion.  


I believe that Canadian national sport federations must also be present in the dialogue and in the development of these policies with their international federation. We tend to underestimate the power of persuasion, the leadership that Canadian sport administrators have on the international scene – we have great leadership.   


I don’t think the national sport federation has any advantage in isolating itself with policies that are directly caused to its international federation, so it all has to be done for the common good of sport development.   

It’s sometimes necessary to volunteer with international federations to change things in the right direction, so the medical community is a source of inspiration, but in the end it’s the people in sport who make the decisions.  

International and national federations must do their utmost to accommodate as many participants as possible.   

My hope for sport in the future is that everyone will be able to do the sport they love without fear of judgment, and then integration.  

The subject of transgendered people is frequently in the news these days. It’s a reality that provokes reaction and debate in many sectors of society, including sports. Some show openness towards trans athletes, while others fiercely oppose their participation in sporting competitions. In the absence of a binding legislative framework, it is up to sports organizations to establish the regulatory framework to respond to this phenomenon. There are many issues to consider, including the inclusion of trans athletes in sport, as well as biological realities and equity concerns for high-level female athletes. Who within Canadian sports federations is responsible for adopting these regulations? Is there a legal vacuum?

Law students took a closer look at the rules applicable to trans-atheletes and their inclusion in Canadian sports, with the help of expert Me Patrice Brunet and Anthony Ferland, a young trans ringette athlete who spoke about his daily reality.

This video was produced by Maika Assels, Mira Boles, Justine Grenier, Mackenzie Harvey, and Maxim Prineau, law students who took part in the Visual Advocacy course offered by the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section in the winter of 2023.

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