Trans athlete task force created to encourage equal sports participation

A task force was formed this year in order to ensure the inclusion of trans students in Macalester’s sports scene.

The Macalester trans athlete taskforce is a group of students, faculty and staff established to promote and facilitate trans athlete participation in intercollegiate and club sports. It includes one student representative from MCSG, two student representatives from intramural and club sports and the two task force co-chairs, faculty athletic representative Ron Brisbrois and athletic coach Vanessa Seljeskog. Other members of the taskforce include Chris MacDonald-Dennis, the Dean of the Department for Multicultural Life, Addy Free of the Registrar’s office, and Dr. Stephanie Walters from the Health and Wellness Center.

Working from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules and regulations currently in place, the task force hopes to facilitate trans athlete participation in intercollegiate sports in a way that is best for Macalester students.

“[We’re trying] to make sure we are ensuring inclusion in collegiate sports and allowing [trans students] to participate in intercollegiate sports in a way that’s meaningful to them, but it’s complicated. So it’s most fair if Macalester keeps thinking about those complications and that we have guidelines in place,” said Laurie Hamre, Vice President of Student Affairs.

The impetus for the task force’s creation, an initiative that has been on the agenda since 2011, was simply determination. “We can’t wait any longer,” Hamre said. “We should start encouraging and recruiting.”

“We’re working to create as streamlined a process as possible for trans athletes at Mac,” task force member Max Guttman ’16 said, adding that it will enable athletes “to be able to participate on the team they feel best suits them, while still keeping Macalester athletics NCAA eligible.”

The taskforce was formed with three goals. The first is to “make sure we know how to move trans students into intercollegiate sports so that they don’t feel excluded,” Hamre said. “They can participate, they step in, they go.”

The second goal is to mediate on-campus circumstances such as club sports and intramural sports, where “we can really think about what we want to do.” There, the NCAA requirements are “less restrictive” in terms of “where students are in the process,” Hamre said.

Hamre added that this step is the most exciting as Macalester would be a “groundbreaker” in both recruiting and encouraging trans students to participate in sports, allowing them to take part and be comfortable in the sports they love.

“It really has to do with culture on the Mac campus,” Hamre noted of the final goal. “As with the restrooms and residence hall policies, [how] can we use this to make people more aware?”

The task force formed this year will primarily focus on the logistics of interpreting and “getting [the NCAA] guidelines in place and understand what they’re asking us to do and then we’ll decide if that’s fair to our students or not,” Hamre said.

This semester, the task force will mainly discuss what the NCAA guidelines mean for trans students to provide recommendations for implementing guidelines and “some rationale with how [those recommendations] fit with Macalester’s mission and our students,” Hamre said.

While the task force was prompted by NCAA legislation, “our number one goal is definitely the comfort of the student—respecting their privacy, their time, and their knowledge of their own gender,” Guttman said.

“I think that this is really important and I appreciate that the task force will spend their time this spring working on inclusion in Macalester athletics,” Hamre added.

For further information, interest or comments, contact the task force co-chairs Vanessa Seljeskog or Ron Brisbrois.