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Transgender golfer sues LPGA

This lawsuit against the LPGA filed by a transgender woman will be worth watching.

Lana Lawless, a 57-year-old retired police officer who had gender-reassignment surgery in 2005, made her name as an athlete in 2008 after winning the women’s world championship in long-drive golf with a 254-yard drive into a headwind. But this year, Lawless was ruled ineligible in the same championship because Long Drivers of America, which oversees the competition, changed its rules to match the policy of the L.P.G.A. Lawless wrote a letter in May asking for permission to apply for L.P.G.A. qualifying tournaments and was told by a tour lawyer that she would be turned down.

“It’s an issue of access and opportunity,” Lawless said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I’ve been shut out because of prejudice.”


The L.P.G.A.’s policy has remained the same even as several sports bodies have changed their rules to accommodate people who are transgender. In 2004, the International Olympic Committee began allowing transgender people to compete if they have undergone reassignment surgery and at least two years of postoperative hormone-replacement therapy. Several other sports organizations then passed their own policies permitting transgender people to compete, including the United States Golf Association, the Ladies Golf Union in Britain and the Ladies European Golf Tour.

“I think the L.P.G.A. is really out of step with other professional sports organizations of its size, and it’s a wake-up call to other entities that we’re not going to tolerate discrimination based on gender identity,” said Kristina Wertz, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco. She said California was one of 13 states, and the District of Columbia, that had laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Lawless said she had no competitive edge over other female golfers. The reassignment surgery removed her testes, and her hormones and muscle strength are in line with someone who was genetically female, she said. According to her birth certificate, she is a woman. “It doesn’t say ‘female-ish,’ ” Lawless said. “There is no such thing as born female. Either you’re female, or you’re not.”

The main point of confusion seems to come when rules or laws define someone’s gender as being what it was at birth. That was the case with the marriage question that Attorney General Greg Abbott declined to answer. As with many things, society’s understanding of gender needs to keep up with modern reality. Hopefully, the LPGA will see the writing on the wall and come to an agreement quickly.

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