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Gender Standard for ACBL Events

This letter has not been sent to the ACBL. But it raises an issue of interest and importance for consideration by the bridge community, so I am posting it on Bridge Winners at the request of my client.

In the “new normal” of Caitlyn Jenner and Chas Bono, it was inevitable that the question of the qualification of transgendered men and women for mixed and women’s bridge events would arise. As a Colorado-licensed attorney, I am writing on behalf of a transgendered client who is considering playing in the fall NABC to be held in Denver. While my client wishes to remain anonymous at this time, suffice it to say she is an expert, well known in the bridge community, and is likely to have an immediate impact on the national women’s bridge scene.

Let me state at the outset that my client has no present intent to seek legal action against the ACBL. But we do observe that in Colorado, as in many states, there is an “anti-discrimination statute” which specifically identifies gender as a “protected class” and that any discrimination on the basis of gender would be a violation of Colorado law. Nor is this request intended to be a crusade for transgendered persons or the making of a political statement. We very simply want to know what the ACBL standard is for gender as it relates to gender restricted events.

I do not hold myself as having expertise in these matters and urge that you consult with those who do. In your deliberations, you may consider the following to be useful.

1. At the progressive end of the spectrum, the ACBL could adopt the “I am what I say I am” standard for qualification. In theory, that could find Jeff Meckstroth donning a dress and terrorizing the womens’ pairs.

2. While the standard for the determination of gender is not specifically addressed in the Colorado law, the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles has adopted a standard for purposes of driver’s license identification. That standard recognizes a person’s gender based upon a written “professional opinion” of a licensed physician that, “based on the patient's gender identity and full time gender role expression, or on prior completion of medical sex reassignment, the person’s gender is [male/female].” It is not necessary that the transgendered person has had sex reassignment surgery or is undertaking hormone replacement therapy. A Colorado court could reasonably be expected to take cognizance of this standard in a state law proceeding.

3. A similar federal standard applies for changing a gender designation on a United States passport. The State Department requires a letter from a licensed physician identifying the applicant’s gender, however the passport is only good for 2 years while the transition is ongoing, and may be replaced with a 10 year passport only once transition is complete.

4. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has adopted its own rules with respect to changes in gender. “Men’s teams” are actually “open teams” where persons of either gender may participate. However, the NCAA rule provides that,

  • A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria and/or transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.

I am not aware of any challenge having been made to this standard on the basis of a state anti-discrimination statute, however, recent high profile litigation with respect to student-athletes as employees could offer an interesting question if presented to a court of competent jurisdiction.

5. The International Olympic Committee has also adopted a standard for qualification. The IOC has three main requirements for transsexual athletes to be recognized in their acquired gender:

  • They must have had gender reassignment surgery.
  • They must have legal recognition of their assigned gender by the appropriate official authorities.
  • They must have at least two years of hormone therapy.

There was a time in the dark history of the IOC where there was a “sex parade” and athletes competing as women were required to walk naked before a panel who confirmed their eligibility. This practice was understandably short-lived.

6. And at the draconian end of the spectrum, the ACBL could decide that gender be strictly defined in accordance with “birth sex.” However, implicit in the recognition of gender as a protected class is the distinction between sex and gender, and a standard which is limited solely to birth sex could run afoul of state anti-discrimination laws.

Any standard adopted by the ACBL should consider that it is equally applicable to trans males (a gender change from female to male) with respect to eligibility in women’s and mixed events. For example, it would be incongruous if two trans males were permitted to play as partners in a mixed pairs event.

I urge you to consider this request with reasonable diligence. Lack of clarity or standards on this issue could lead to an awkward situation that would be better avoided. Thank you for your consideration.


David Caprera

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