“Exploring Transgender Policy in Sport”
December 9, 2022
On December 5, the University of Florida College of Health and Human Performance hosted its second Transparency event, an informational and resource-driven event with a featured speaker, panel discussion and community expo. The 2022 event focused on exploring transgender policy in sport.
“We’re interested in learning what the laws currently say about transgender athletes participating in sports,” said Joslyn Ahlgren, Ph.D., instructional professor in applied physiology and kinesiology. “This event is not a platform to push an agenda other than learning from experts and those closest to the issue.”
This year's event featured:
The event began with a poster symposium of projects completed by students in the UF Sport Management program. Attendees were encouraged to grab snacks while visiting the students to hear about their findings on topics relating to transgender policies in youth, collegiate and professional sports.
Following the poster symposium, Ahlgren spoke on the history of the event and its relevance to the college before introducing the speaker.
Kroc kicked off her speech by noting that her story is unique to her. She delved into her familial, athletic and professional backgrounds, referring to these as her three separate lives. Kroc spoke of her success in each of these areas including her devotion to her sons and the bonds they share; her passion for strength conditioning and the records she set; and her high rankings within the marines and the achievements involved with becoming a pharmacist. Kroc also touched on the hardships she has faced in each of her lives and her perseverance through each including the anxieties of coming out, the fear felt once outed, the loss of sponsorships, and losing her position as a pharmacist.
After Kroc's speech, Ahlgren introduced two panelists that would join Kroc in the Q&A session, Mack Beggs and Dr. Cunningham. Cunningham provided statistics from his research in the topic, noting that transgender people are a part of a marginalized community. Beggs shared his experience and passion for protecting transgender youth, explaining the impact that positive support from a young age can have on one's mental health.
Dr. Ahlgren and the candidates were able to address questions regarding fairness, inclusivity and physiology. Both Kroc and Beggs went in depth about how sport policies have impacted their lives as athletes and what changes they wished to see in the future.
There was much interest in how sports could be kept both fair and inclusive, with the concern that transgender athletes may have a predisposed physiological advantage. The panelists and Ahlgren concluded that though there is much research to be done as current findings suggest that transgender athletes do not have any physiological advantages over nontransgender athletes once committing to hormone therapies for one year. With more research, the panelists alluded that sports could be both inclusive and fair with proper policies in place, suggesting athletes who have committed to puberty blockers or hormone therapies should be permitted to compete while those who seek to compete should comply with undergoing these therapies. With this in mind, the panelists also spoke on the importance of ensuring that transgender youth can have access to these therapies as many career aspirations may rely on early transitioning.
The panelists also touched on how media has distorted the success of transgender athletes, often having a negative impact on the transgender community. Kroc explained how these distorted tales of success have misled many to confirm their own bigotry.
Though there are many distorted story examples, specifically of transgender women athletes, all have the same storyline, ‘transgender female athlete dominates women's competition,’ often featuring a photo of the athlete pretransition. However, when digging deeper into these stories you will find that the athlete either competed in a low-stakes competition, not as well as the story alluded to or within the same percentile as they would have pretransition.
Transparency got its start in 2019 through one of Ahlgren's physiology students, Stephen Marangi, who was a second-year student majoring in applied physiology and kinesiology at the time. Marangi questioned Ahlgren why medical transitioning was absent from physiology textbooks. Together, Marangi and Ahlgren designed a class project with small groups of physiology students researching the effects of medical transitioning on various organ systems.
The 2022 event was supported by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer and College of Health & Human Performance, including the Dean’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Council; Department of Sport Management; Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology; Institute for Coaching Excellence; and dean’s office.
The event was open to the public and included community organizations like Tranquility, RecSports and Kimberley Sims from the Gender Spectrum Portrait Project.