IS IT FAIR FOR TRANS ATHLETES TO COMPETE?

Please note that while I have done a good amount of research about testosterone and its effects physiologically, I am not a doctor or a biologist by degree. And, while I do understand the NCAA’s policy on trans athletes having swam as a transgender man on a D1 team, I do not speak for the NCAA. These comments are my interpretations.

I competed for Harvard Men’s Swimming from 2015-2019. Harvard Swimming a Division 1 NCAA program governed by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). The NCAA’s policy for the inclusion of transgender athletes, titled the “NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes” was published in 2011 shortly after Kye Allums, the first openly transgender collegiate athlete in the NCAA, came out in 2010. (Kye Allums competed for GW’s women’s basketball team as an openly trans man.)

The NCAA policy is segmented into two parts: pertaining to folks assigned female at birth (trans masculine folks like me) and folks assigned male at birth (trans feminine folks). (See my page regarding trans terminology if these terms confuse you.)

As of 2015, the NCAA policy is mirrored by the IOC – the International Olympic Committee. This means that the Olympics follow these rules as well. 

The NCAA and IOC rules are as follows

If you are assigned female at birth:

  1. If you do not take hormones, you can compete as either male or female.
  2. If you decide to take hormones (testosterone), you must compete on the men’s team and you must submit labs before, during, and after the season to prove that your testosterone levels are at an average male level. (This is what I did.) You may NOT take testosterone and compete as a woman. (See later discussion for reasoning.) Common arguments in response to transmasculine folks taking testosterone is that it will unfair because we are “doping.” But the reality is, because our testosterone levels are monitored to be at an average male level, there is no possibility for doping above the average male athlete. If anything, trans masculine athletes will have lower testosterone levels as the average male athlete has testosterone levels higher than the average male in the general population.

If you are assigned male at birth:

  1. You may compete on the men’s team, even if you begin testosterone suppression or estrogen therapy.
  2. You may only compete as female after undergoing at least one year of documented hormone (testosterone) suppressants to prove that your testosterone levels are at or below an average female level . You may NOT compete as female without undergoing at least one year of this testosterone suppression therapy. This testosterone suppression eliminates testosterone-based advantages a trans woman might have over a cisgender woman — as her testosterone levels should be the same or lower than an average cisgender woman. 

There are no surgery requirements of any kind for anyone. All regulations are based on hormone levels as stated above. Having or not having a penis does not significantly impact one’s athletic ability.

    For more about testosterone, visit my page on testosterone.

    For more on trans folks competing in sport, check out this post:


    A few more relevant posts:

    Categories: faq