Colorado Springs, Colo. (Dec. 16, 2020) – USA Ultimate is excited to announce today the creation of a new Gender Inclusion Policy!
Led by 2019 EDI Co-Chair Julia Lee, current EDI Co-Chair Larry Melton and Community Liaison Volunteers Ashleigh Buch and Kellan Gibboney, this new policy revamps the old policy by taking a new approach to prioritizing inclusion while increasing access to and participation in ultimate.
After a full 12 months of research and drafting by this group, along with collaboration from other USAU staff, volunteers and members of the Competition, Equity and Diversity, and Medical Working Groups, the policy was unanimously approved by the USA Ultimate Board of Directors.
“I am so thankful to the leadership shown by our EDI co-chairs and our Community Liaison Volunteers in their work on the Gender Inclusion Policy,” stated USA Ultimate President Robyn Fennig. “The group not only came up with the most inclusive recommendation, but also presented best practices and samples in a way that showed how their proposal would clarify organizational guidance and support our current Strategic Plan. Our Board excitedly and unanimously supported this important policy as written.”
The new Gender Inclusion Policy states the following: “Within our divisions as they currently exist, USA Ultimate will not discriminate on the basis of gender identity, regardless of sex assigned at birth, or any other form of gender expression for participation in any division.” The policy advocates for the ability of all athletes to participate in the division in which they feel most comfortable and safe based on their indicated gender identity.
“For me, this policy means that no matter what my gender identity is today or how it may be fully realized in the future, I will still be able to play this amazing sport,” described Gibboney.
The vision for this new policy was born out of a day-long meeting held in December of 2019 between Lee, Melton, Buch and Gibboney, along with Mags Colvett and Jack Verzuh who volunteered their time, expertise and lived experience identifying as LGBTQIA+ (along with Buch and Gibboney). The group discussed a number of relevant topics impacting trans and non-binary members of the ultimate community, including concerns regarding the previous Transgender Inclusion Policy passed in the fall of 2018.
“As both an athlete and a coach in ultimate, I have seen firsthand how the previous policy failed to serve the trans and non-binary athletes within our community,” explained Buch. “I think this new policy, with inclusion at its heart, is a huge step forward in fixing that.”
The biggest takeaway from the meeting was that the existing policy fell short in truly being inclusive of trans and non-binary participation in ultimate. The group felt strongly that inclusion for transgender and non-binary players should not be limited by medical requirements for competition. Upon implementation, the eligibility guidelines detailed in the policy were found to have been more restrictive than inclusive because they dictated where trans and non-binary players could and could not participate.
Additionally, the group believed that misconceptions around hormone treatment and a holistic understanding of all that encompasses one’s gender identity needed to be addressed as part of the re-evaluation and proposal process.
“I hope that when people see this policy, they don’t have to worry about if they belong or if they have to sacrifice parts of themselves to keep playing,” added Gibboney. “Ultimate has given me the space to start to become the best version of myself, and this policy is one part of that.”
From there, the decision was made to start work on drafting a proposal to the Board for a new policy – one that would prioritize inclusion and eliminate restrictions to participation – and to conduct extensive research to back up the group’s position. Members of the ultimate community are strongly encouraged to read the group’s complete proposal to the Board for more information.
“There is still work to do,” remarked Buch, “But I am so excited and encouraged that USAU is taking these steps to make our community more inclusive, opening up doors for more athletes that have been pushed to the margins.”
The new policy will take effect immediately, and Lee and Melton will collaborate with USA Ultimate’s competition managers to implement this policy across their respective divisions and teams. Anyone with questions, comments or concerns about the new Gender Inclusion Policy should email firstname.lastname@example.org.