Sports and Gender – The Implications of the New U Sports Policy

In Faith / Life, Social Issues, Uncategorized by Kirk Giles1 Comment

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Last week, the governing body for University Sports in Canada made a major announcement.  “Effective immediately, U SPORTS student-athletes will be eligible to compete on the team that corresponds with either their sex assigned at birth or their gender identity, provided that the student-athlete complies with the Canadian Anti-Doping Program.”

This is a new step taken by U SPORTS to ensure equal opportunity for all student athletes.  “The members of the Equity Committee were driven to ensure that all students at our Canadian universities have equal opportunities of being selected to varsity teams regardless of their gender or their gender identity and expression,” said Lisen Moore, Chair of the U SPORTS Equity Committee and Manager of Varsity Sports, Athletics and Recreation at McGill University.

This decision is one step beyond what other governing organizations in sport will allow.  The Olympic Games have not gone to the point of allowing a person to compete based on their self identified gender.  There are one set of rules for competing in university sports in Canada and another set of rules outside of that environment.

U Sports adds a further layer – hormone therapy is not a requirement for competing as an athlete’s identified gender.  It is entirely based on the person self identifying as a certain gender.  The individual does not even need to be going through a process of gender change.

Why Does This Matter?

Imagine this:  A six foot five, 215 pound hockey player born as a male decides to self identify as a female.  This person is now eligible to try out for the women’s hockey team in university.  What could possibly go wrong?  There are all kinds of concerns for fairness and safety to be considered in this kind of a situation.  I will not pretend to be aware of all the conversations that took place among U SPORTS leaders, but one would certainly hope the fairness and safety questions have been thought through.

Living in an Age of Gender Confusion

As a Christian, there are some things I need to consider in my response to a situation like this.

  1. Remember – every person has equal value and worth.  It can be easy in stories like this to respond out of emotion and lose sight of the people involved.  Every single human being has value, worth, and purpose – we are all made in the image of God.  Our response must live in this reality.
  2. Gender is God’s idea – not humans.  The Bible teaches God made us in His image, but it also teaches He made us male and female.  This is much deeper than a biological function.  Gender has value in the eyes of God.  We must celebrate what it means to be male and female.
  3. We all fall short.  Unfortunately, every human being is not fully expressing the image of God they were created to express.  That image has been broken but not destroyed.  We get glimpses of it in the life of every human, but there is something more that is missing.
  4. God’s way leads us to who we were always meant to be.  The Bible describes Jesus as the perfect “image” of God.  It also teaches that for those who believe and follow Jesus, He is conforming us – shaping us – to the image of Jesus.  This means, through Jesus, we can all become who we were always meant to be as image bearers of God.

Responding

For the purposes of the safety and fairness of all athletes, I respectfully disagree with the decision by U Sports.  But I believe they are on to something deeper.  There are a lot of people searching for their place in this world.  As a Christian, I just happen to believe this deeper sense of value and purpose does not come through sports, but comes through Jesus.

There may be someone who is reading this and you have had a bad experience with people talking about Jesus.  I encourage you to read the Bible and discover for yourself who Jesus is.  He will meet you where you are at in life. But He also cares about you enough to say that where you are at is not OK and there is a better way.

For my brothers and sisters in Christ who may want to become angry over this decision by U SPORTS – please know your anger will get you or the mission of Jesus nowhere unless it drives you to love people better.  We are called to a greater mission than complaining about U SPORTS.  Stay focused on what matters most.

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