As the controversy over male-born transgender golfer Hailey Davidson continues to roil women’s professional golf, the whole issue was precipitated by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) itself when it eliminated its “female at birth” rule back in 2010.
The turmoil over Davidson’s lopsided wins, as he strives to earn an LPGA membership card, would not even be happening if the league had not changed its rules.
The LPGA voted in 2010 to end its “female at birth” rule when a transgender player named Lana Lawless took the league to court for not allowing him to earn the chance to participate in the qualifying championship in long-drive golf, the New York Times reported in Dec. of 2010.
Transgender golfer, Hailey Davidson, says she fears for her safety after winning a place on a US tour designed to provide 'growth opportunities' for female players.— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) January 22, 2024
She has been accused of having an unfair advantage because she can hit a ball further than a female born player. pic.twitter.com/iN1JGwOuD4
At the time, Lawless, a former police officer who said he had transition surgery in 2005, had won the 2008 women’s world championship in long-drive but was barred from further contests.
The golfer’s lawyer, Christopher B. Dolan, blasted women’s golf, saying, “Ms. Lawless finds it regrettable that she had to bring a lawsuit to get somebody to follow the law, but is glad that the civil justice system in this instance worked.”
With the threat of a lawsuit over its head, the LPGA soon changed its rules.
Cristie Kerr, who was the LPGA’s top golfing star at the time, hastened to tell the Times that the lawsuit was a “dead issue” since the LPGA had changed its rules.
“She can compete if she can qualify,” Kerr told the paper. “We certainly don’t want to discriminate against anybody; that’s not what the L.P.G.A. is about. And if she can qualify, she’ll be able to play.”
The pro golf association’s move was made at the same time many other pro sports governing bodies were beginning to turn against natural-born women to allow male-born transgenders to compete against women, including the Olympics, the United States Golf Association, Britain’s Ladies Golf Union, and the Ladies European Golf Tour.
"We have requested Hailey Davidson to undergo additional testosterone testing to ensure compliance with the appropriate guidelines"- NXXT Women's Pro Tour— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) January 22, 2024
Public pressure works. Don't make the mistake of assuming people will do the right thing unprovoked.https://t.co/uSibXpZ1An
Since those years, however, some sports organizations have begun to swing back the other way. In the past few years, several sports have banned men claiming to be women from playing as women.
In July of last year, for instance, the international body that governs swimming competitions partially reversed a transgender athlete ban by announcing a new “open category” that will allow transgender athletes to compete.
World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam said the debate over transgender athletes is a “very complex topic” but also insisted, “Our sport must be open to everybody,” NBC News reported.
Then there was the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which officially banned male-born athletes from competing in the women’s category that same month.
UCI’s move came on the heels of British Cycling’s decision to ban men from competing as women, a rule that went into effect in May of 2023.
Several other sports have also banned men from competing as women. In Sept. of 2022, international rugby passed a rule preventing male-born athletes from competing as women. Also, in Dec., pro disc golf banned men from competing as women, as did the International Sport Fishing Confederation, which prohibited men from competing as women in Oct. of last year.