USGA Welcomes Trans Golfers
By Cyd Zeigler, Jr.
To little fanfare, the United States Golf Association this week adopted a policy to allow post-op transgender male-to-female golfers to participate in women’s tournaments.
Nary a whisper of it hit the airwaves. Not a peep was uttered about it on the Outsports.com discussion board. Even the guys on “Pardon The Interruption” missed it.
Sure, we’re talking about an incredibly miniscule number of people who might be affected. The number of transsexuals is a small fraction of the population; the number of transsexual golfers – well, I surely have more toes on one foot.
But, for heaven’s sake, the USGA is going to welcome transgender players on the women’s tour! This is the same organization that outwardly seems to try to quiet the lesbian talk surrounding its tours and still hasn’t seen a male pro come out. And they’re allowing former men to play on the women’s tour?
I can imagine the tears Danielle Swope shed when she heard the decision. Last summer, Swope, a hermaphrodite born with both male and female sexual organs, was denied her request to play in a women’s event. Raised as Daniel, a boy, Swope underwent sex-reassignment surgery from 1995 to 1997 and has since lived as a woman.The problem was that the USGA’s policy stated that, to play on the women’s tour, a golfer had to be “female at birth,” and that her birth certificate had to reflect that. Because Swope was outwardly male at birth, her birth certificate reflected that.
While the women’s tournament denied her request last July, she was invited to play in a men’s qualifier for the Fort Wayne Men’s City Tournament. She was 5-foot-4 and weighed 160 pounds.
“I have respect for the men for at least giving me the opportunity to play,” she told the Associated Press at the time. “The women I don’t have any respect for.”
With the new policy, Swope, whose sex-reassignment surgery was now 10 years ago, and others like her will be able to compete on the women’s tour.
The USGA is certainly not the first. Golf has lead the rest of the sporting world in acceptance of transgender athletes. Australia’s Mianne Bagger has become the poster child for the cause. The female transgender golfer has participated in the Australian Women’s Open and just last month she made her European Tour debut. The International Olympic Committee has already opened the doors for transgender golfers.
On the surface, it’s surprising that the conservative sport of golf would be the first to open its country-club doors to transgender people. How could a sport that just recently began allowing black people in its clubs, still won’t let women join some clubs and keeps gay couples at bay be so progressive as to allow a former man to play on the woman’s tour?
While it may not make sense on the surface, there is logic to the madness.
A former man competing on a woman’s tour could be physiologically unfair. When testosterone is pumping through a person’s body for 20 or 30 years, that body is stronger than one that hasn’t had the luxury of that hormone. Of course, the USGA isn’t opening the door for every cross-dresser who likes to swing a golf club to enter women’s tour events; instead, the person must have had sex-reassignment surgery and must have been taking estrogen for at least two years.
According to Pauline Park, co-chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy, the estrogen actually reduces some of the muscle the testosterone has built over the years.
“It’s hard to generalize because it differs dramatically from individual to individual,” Park said. “But if someone is living as a post-op, male-to-female transsexual woman, who has significantly enhanced her levels of estrogen, then what advantages there are will be significantly diminished, if not, over time, eliminated.”
While that might not be enough to open the doors to sports that are governed by speed and jumping ability, like basketball, soccer, track and field, volleyball and football, golf is the perfect place for sport to take its first step. In golf, the level of play between men and women is a lot more even than in these other sports. Speed and jumping are taken out of the equation. Even a certain lack of strength can be overcome with the right technique. As women have shown us in the last couple of years, they may not be able to win a men’s tournament yet, but they can compete in one.
Just think: While dozens or hundreds of men are injecting themselves with hormones to help improve their play in baseball, you have transgender females taking hormones to decrease their physical advantage.
And while many men are taking those steroids in a constant attempt to win that batting title or that elusive championship, the USGA need not worry about opening the flood gates.
“I can’t imagine we’ll see a lot of men rushing to have sex-assignment surgery so they can be champions on the women’s tour,” Park said.
Or, as Outsports discussion-board member George_Twinsfan said, maybe Sergio Garcia has found the way for him to win a Major. Unless Danielle Swope stands in his way – she’s got to be even more hungry than he is.
This article originally appeared on the OutSports.com website.