Lana Lawless: Should LPGA Allow Her To Play?

Rachel SasakiContributor IOctober 14, 2010

PITTSFORD, NY - JUNE 23:  A flagstick is seen during a practice round prior to the start of the LPGA Championship presented by Wegman's 2010 at the Locust Hill Country Club on June 23, 2010 in Pittsford, New York  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Lana Lawless has recently filed a lawsuit against the Ladies Professional Golf Association for barring herself and other transgender women from participating in the league.

Lawless, a 57-year-old transgender and former cop in Rialto, California, first came into the public spotlight in 2008 when she won the ReMax Long Drive competition in the women's division. This year, Lawless was denied the opportunity to compete, when the LDA (Long Driver's Association) changed its transgender policy to match that of the LPGA.

The lawsuit—which charges the LPGA, the LDA, as well as three of the LPGA's sponsors—argues that their current transgender policy is in violation of California civil rights law. Both the LPGA and LDA have adopted a "female at birth" regulation, which bars any transgender women from participation.

Lawless' fight for equality for transgenders in sport does not stand alone. Controversy concerning the dilemma of where transgender females belong in the world of sport has garnered much publicity, with one of the more recent and notorious cases being that of South African runner, Caster Semenya.

Semenya, a woman diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, is considered an intersex woman. Earlier this year, Semenya lost her eligibility to compete, but has since been reinstated following a lengthy legal process.

Regarding transgender athletes, the International Olympic Committee adopted a policy in 2004 which allows transgender persons to compete if they have undergone reassignment surgery and at least two years of post-operative hormone replacement surgery.

Since then other professional sports' bodies have adopted similar policies for the inclusion of transgender athletes. Washington state has even amended its public school's sports policy to allow individuals to compete in the division which they feel is compliant with their own gender identity.

In recent years, the inclusion for transgender persons in the world of sport has made headway. It is surprising that the LPGA and LDA would have these anti-transgender policies in place despite transgender inclusion in a number of other sporting bodies.

In the case of Lana Lawless, who underwent reassignment surgery in 2005 and whose muscles and other physical attributes are in line with what's considered a genetically female standard, she just seems to have fallen victim to reactionary policy. But it seems that the issue is reaching a critical period, and that the ruling of the United States District Court may finally bring the transgender issue to a head.