This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.
Under heavy sun, Salt Lake Community College students took to the Taylorsville Redwood campus for Trans Sports Ball Day, one of many events that commemorated the college’s pride month in June.
The June 26 event was a response to the political climate surrounding transgender participation in sports, said Peter Moosman, coordinator for the college’s Gender and Sexuality Student Resource Center (GSSRC). Last year, Utah lawmakers voted to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in girls’ high school sports, but a judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the ban.
“Trans folks are being denied access to play sports. We wanted to do a response to that,” Moosman said, adding that the event was aimed at providing a space “where they can show up in full authenticity … to be intentional about creating space for people who feel marginalized and left out.”
The event started outside with bag toss, Frisbee, soccer and spike ball. As the heat increased, the activities were moved indoors, where participants played basketball and pickleball.
Charlie Erickson, a student specialist for the GSSRC who is majoring in social work, said he was “absolutely excited” about the event.
“There is a certain amount of queerphobia that comes with sports,” Erickson said. At the event, he added, “people can come out and play sports and not worry. I think it’s fun to be able to get out and do athletic things, regardless of your ability level. We’re judge-free, so we welcome anyone regardless of their sporting abilities.”
Cory Smith, a health sciences major, joined for the camaraderie. She also brought her little brother.
“I wanted to feel a sense of community, find people who are like me and understand my struggle, and be involved in my school,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have activities with SLCC outside of the regular sports activities.”
The issue of transgender inclusivity in sports, Erickson said, is “a big red herring. I think trans people perform at the same level as their peers after the waiting period.”
Bans on trans athletes, Erickson said, are “just putting people down that are already down, and it’s a distraction from really big issues, like the economy.”
A 2020 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that more than 12 months of testosterone suppression “may be needed” to ensure transgender women do not have an unfair competitive advantage.
Speaking to the BBC podcast “The Sports Desk” last year, Loughborough University sports scientist Joanna Harper, a trans woman, said “the question isn’t, ‘Do trans women have advantages?’ but instead, ‘Can trans women and [cis] women compete against one another in meaningful competition?’”
Harper added, “Truthfully, the answer isn’t definitive.”
For Erickson, SLCC’s Trans Sports Ball Day was a chance for the college’s queer community to be themselves. “This is the kind of space where we don’t care if you’re an oddball or a star player – you’re invited,” they said.
Teresa Chaikowsky wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.