USTA Transgender Policy
Winnie Fink served as GLTF President from January 2011 through December 2014. We asked her to tell the story of her efforts to acquire the formal policy on transgender inclusion from the USTA. Here is her reply, which details her journey and the policy. However, fair warning: since the USTA doesn't publicly furnish their official policy via any of their print materials or on their website, the copy we share with you here, which she received in August 2013, may now be out of date, inaccurate, amended, or even revoked. Should this policy become publicly accessible via the USTA directly, we will gladly update this page to simply link to it.
Journey to Uncover the Official USTA Transgender Policy
by Winnie Fink
In early June 2011, on behalf of a transgender woman who was pre-operational and did not want to 'out' herself to USTA, I approached USTA to ensure she would be fully supported to play as a woman in leagues and tournaments. As an LGBT tennis organization, GLTF should strive to create a place where queer tennis is inclusive tennis, so I enthusiastically pursued this advocacy. My first stop was USTA NorCal. They assured me that their regional policy allowed her to play in whatever gender she identified, as long as her playing level was appropriate based on the gender switch. I asked if there was a written policy and what USTA National's policy was, and was told that there was not one of either, as far as they knew. What? The Renee Richards case was adjudicated in 1977 -- how could this be?
The next step was to reach out to USTA National's Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Director. He got back to me right away and agreed that there should be a policy, and so his office wrote one and sent it to their legal department for review. Over the course of the next 2 years I followed up with numerous inquiries, both in person and via email / phone. My attempts to keep track of the process were hampered by many USTA staff changes, which led to referrals to multiple people / departments. Finally, in April 2013 I connected with the current D&I Director, D.A. Abrams. He referred me to the LGBT community tennis associations’ liaison in his office, who was working on the policy. She provided me the draft (basically the same as the policy outlined below) and asked for my feedback. My response was that: 1) we should reach out to bring a variety of people into the conversation, given that the two of us were not experts in either creating policy or the transgender experience, and 2) in my personal opinion, we should get rid of all of it, except the last paragraph, which basically says "we welcome all, and play as you identify."
Two months later, after attending the LGBT Sports Summit in Portland, Oregon in June, I reached out to the liaison again with new support documents in hand, including US Soccer Federation's recently approved and distributed policy on transgender inclusion (USSF Ratified Policy Amendments), which supports people playing according to their self-identified gender. Helen Carroll of NCLR helped construct the soccer policy, and she sent me several supporting documents that were very helpful. I took all of that information along with the USTA’s policy draft, and returned a version similar to USSF’s. I included specific suggestions as to placement of the policy in USTA's handbook, Friend at Court. I also added rationale / other policy statements to support why professional and collegiate level players were already covered by policies of their umbrella organizations (see related policy information below), suggesting that elite level of play does not need to be addressed in the USTA policy.
In August 2013, the USTA staff member working on the policy resigned, so I again reached out to D.A. Abrams. He replied by sending the policy below, saying that he had been recently advised to follow the stated policy. While it is not a revised version as we had begun working on, it was at least gratifying to finally have a written policy that supports the vast majority of USTA members who are league players, via the last paragraph of the policy. D.A. gave his blessing to distribute the policy freely.
The policy as it stands still has lots of room for improvement. Ideally we should create a living, breathing, publicly accessible policy that serves the goal of inclusiveness. To that end, I sent out the policy via email to many other LGBT tennis leaders around the country that I have met through my journey as GLTF President. D.A. and I have spoken since sending out that communication, and he clarified that, although hard to access, this policy has actually been in effect for many years. He agrees that the policy should evolve, both in content and accessibility. It does seem though that there are bureaucratic forces at work, which make this challenging to accomplish.
USTA's Transgender Inclusion Policy (verbatim as provided in August 2013)
Any individuals undergoing sex reassignment from male to female before puberty are regarded as female, while those undergoing reassignment from female to male are regarded as male.
Individuals undergoing sex reassignment from male to female after puberty (and the converse) are eligible for participation in female or male competitions, respectively, under the following conditions:
1. Surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy.
2. Legal recognition of their assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authorities.
3. Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sport competitions.
4. Eligibility should begin no sooner than two years after gonadectomy.
On the league side of the equation, our stance is that we do not require confirmations of any of these 4 items. Above all, we do not want to be an obstacle to recreational participation. We seek to respect all backgrounds, lifestyles, and personal choices, and we take it on faith that players who compete under these rules are doing so not to gain a competitive advantage, but to enjoy participating in a manner in which they are comfortable.
Related Transgender Policy Information To provide more context, you might be interested in related policies within USTA, as well as related organizations' transgender and interrelated policies that would apply to elite tennis players: