Transgender Athletes: Why Lana Lawless Is Suing the LPGA

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Does a league designated for women have the right to bar a woman who underwent gender reassignment surgery?

Back in 2008, retired police officer Lana Lawless turned to golf, discovering that she had a knack for a daunting drive. Lawless used a 254-yard shot to become the world champion in long-drive play. But a rule regarding participants’ gender kept her from a 2010 repeat performance.

As the New York Times reports, Lawless is now immersed in a battle against the gender binary. The newspaper writes that both Long Drivers of America and the LPGA hold policies requiring that its participants be female at the time of their birth. That edict has prompted Lawless to file a lawsuit against both units, alleging those rules evade Civil Rights protections in California. As of Wednesday afternoon, the golf organizations declined to comment to the Times, on grounds that they had yet to view Lawless’ suit.

Principles toward transgender athletes’ inclusion in sports are fledgling at best. The Women’s Sports Foundation notes that no mainstream organization officially instituted a policy until the International Olympic Committee did so for its 2004 summer games. Other golf groups, notably the USGA, do have courses of action in place for transgender athletes to participate in tournaments.