This article was published on April 22nd, 2021
As the world continues to readjust and reassess the state of normal, LGBTQI+ student athletes have these issues coupled with their schooling as well as athletics to consider. They are also forced to consider what their options are and if they will be sidelined for their sexual orientation and gender.
In 2021, the Athlete Ally’s Athletic Equality Index (AEI) provides the most comprehensive look yet at LGBTQ+ inclusion across all NCAA Division I athletic departments. The intention is to use it as a blueprint for schools nationwide as anti-LGBTQ hate crimes rose under the Trump administration – over 35 discriminatory anti-transgender athlete state bills have already been proposed this year, with more predicted in the near future.
At the crux of this year’s reports are the depletion of comprehensive resources, practices, and policies that cover LGBTQ+ students. It is understood that better training and dissemination of information is the best way to prepare both athletes and staff about the queer umbrella and foster inclusive policies. As of March 2021, the reports are that 92% of Division-1 athletic departments don’t currently have athletic policies that are inclusive of trans athletes.
Additionally, 70% of Division-1 athletic departments don’t offer LGBTQ+ educational resources to athletes and staff. And 80% do not have a Fan Code of Conduct, which prohibits discriminatory fan behavior at games. There are more athletes that have come out in college than ever before, but to date, less than 3% of NCAA D-I athletes compete in departments that fully support their LGBTQ+ identities.
NCAA Women’s Sports Make History in 2021
At this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, history was made as the game featured two Pac-112 teams, and Pac-12 is the highest scoring conference of the AEI with an average of 68.8. The University of Arizona made it to their first-ever Championship game, earning a perfect score of 100 on the AEI. There were 9 additional teams that achieved this historic distinction as well, including The Ohio State University, Boston University, Kent State University, University of Miami, University of Southern California, George Mason University, University of California at Davis, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania.
There are currently some states that have active anti-transgender legislation against trans athletes, but even schools such as Clemson and Texas Christian University have begun to adopt policies that are more inclusive to transgender athletes.
President Biden Takes a Stand
In less than 100 days in office, the Biden administration has tackled a range of issues to reroute the previous Trump regime. His Executive Order on LGBTQ+ non-discrimination applies to schools and promises a dramatic turnaround from Donald Trump’s stance and is regarded as a monumental step forward. Still, the move requires specific guidance from the Department of Education, and further intervention and support from individual institutions.
As the effects continue to unfold on how the Biden administration will handle this issue, what is clear is that the more people are educated about trans-inclusion in colleges, the better things will become for all involved. Having resources on hand to disseminate this information places a spotlight on the dilemma and ensures that more coaches and teams are inclusive. The AEI has been viewed as an important addition for putting trans athletes on the radar in heteronormative communities.
Professional Athletes Join the Cause
To combat this issue, there have been several professional athletes that have lent their support on expanding the rights of queer athletes to ensure the proper resources and support are available. Julian Venonsky, US Rowing Senior National Team coxswain, weighed in recently:
“As an out gay athlete, I know that having on-campus resources for LGBTQ+ student athletes, like Cal SAGSA, help foster an ongoing culture of inclusion. These resources, and policies that ensure nondiscrimination, make a tremendous difference. I’m proud to be a UC Berkeley alum and to see my alma mater modeling what an inclusive athletic environment looks like.”
2021’s results have already shown that funding and status in the Ivy League automatically equates to inclusion and diversity. Many smaller institutions are operating on miniscule budgets in proportion to team participation. Nonetheless, these departments still scored higher when rating policies protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ athletes and cross-campus initiatives.
Climate Under Trump Administration
Form 2017 until 2021, the LGBTQ+ community was dramatically compromised in several areas, with hate crimes against queer people rising to 43% in 2019 alone. There has been a marked change under the current Biden administration, which has renewed hope that new programs will work towards inclusion across campuses for all athletes.
As the status continues to develop, HomoCulture will provide up-to-date coverage in the coming months. Which areas have hit closest to home for you? Let us know in the comments section below.