New study shows why trans inclusion in school sports is so important for young people


A new study has shown the importance of transgender inclusion in school and college sports, and the impact bans can have on young trans people.

According to a report published by a group of sports-medicine physicians and health services researchers in JAMA Pediatrics, bans on trans participation in sport could contribute to “lasting deterioration of the physical and mental health of this at-risk population”. 

The US-based research has been published following 23 states banning trans youths from participating in school sports because of their gender identity.

“A large body of research has demonstrated that physically active youths have improved mental-health outcomes, greater self-esteem and social supports, increased school retention rates and lower risks for chronic disease and teenage pregnancy,” the authors said.

Alexander Sin, a sports medicine fellow at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who co-authored the article, told STAT, which reports on health and medicine, that sports activities for children “are important for development”. 

‘Athletes are not only about numbers and strength, speed,

Commenting on bans targeting trans girls, because of a perceived physical advantage they could have over cisgender girls, Sin said of people who undergo hormone therapy: “We take away the muscle strength to a certain degree. And will that still translate to the same kind of advantage? You have a bigger frame, but your muscles are now not designed for that frame.

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“Athletes are not only about numbers and strength, speed [and] co-ordination, there’s also the mentality and psyche of the athlete.

“So, being able to break through the barriers and access sports and being able to advocate for themselves to get to a spot there, also means a lot, and could play a role in why someone might be a better athlete.” 

Sin, who made it clear that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Association are all in favour of transgender youth participation, added: “Children slowly develop their gender identity as they mature, so it’s important to be able to create an inclusive environment by doing things like having all-gender bathrooms in your clinic and being an ally or a visibly out physician.” 

The suggestion that transgender people, particularly trans women, have an innate physical advantage has been debunked by a report, commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, finding they do not have any advantages over their cisgender peers when participating in elite sport. 

Additional research revealed that the role testosterone plays in trans eligibility rules in athletics is often exaggerated, with the hormone having little impact in performance differences. 

The new research comes amid a torrent of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the US.

In the year to May alone, a record number of more than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, with more than 220 of these specifically targeting trans and non-binary people, according to the Human Rights Campaign.