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Talking About Transgender Youth Participation in Sports

The Bottom Line

Young people learn many important life lessons in sports: leadership, confidence, self-respect, self-discipline, what it means to be part of a team, and much more. Sports and athletics are an important part of education—something no child should be denied simply because of who they are.

Anti-LGBTQ opponents have been introducing legislation seeking to ban transgender youth from participating in K-12 school sports. They have also argued that LGBTQ people should be denied nondiscrimination protections at the federal and state levels because these protections would allow transgender youth to participate in sports.

This guide provides approaches for elevating conversations about sports participation, addressing unfamiliarity and concerns, and showing why banning kids from the educational benefits of athletics is harmful both to transgender youth and to all young people.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. April 2021. "Talking About Transgender Youth Participation in Sports." MAP's Talking About LGBT Issues Series.

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The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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