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The NCAA Board of Governors recently announced they're reviewing their policy on transgender student-athlete participation.

Editor’s Note: Layshia Clarendon plays in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) for the Los Angeles Sparks. Brianna Turner also plays in the WNBA for the Chicago Sky. Both authors are ambassadors for Athlete Ally, a national nonprofit organization championing LGBTQI+ inclusion in and through sports. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. Read more opinion on CNN.

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We both grew up dreaming of one day playing in the WNBA — having the opportunity to play the sport we love with teammates we love, with fans across the country cheering us on. We get to live our dream every time we step onto the court. And each time we do we’re reminded of how hard we worked to get to this point — as youth, high schoolers and then as college players in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). We’re proud to be a part of a league where transgender athletes are seen and celebrated, and hope to see other professional leagues follow suit.

Ashley Wandishin
Layshia Clarendon
Alex Subers
Brianna Turner

But that isn’t the reality for most trans athletes today. Policies banning transgender athletes from participation by international sport governing bodies for swimming and track and field, the recent policy announcement by the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and a lawsuit against the NCAA are all byproducts of this mounting pressure, in which time and time again facts and inclusive values are drowned out by political pressure and blatant discrimination.

Now, after the NCAA announced its policy is “under review,” everyone is looking to it to see if they will stand by their stated values of inclusion and listen to their scientific experts, or instead choose to continue down this horrific path of exclusion. Thankfully, there are loud and clear messages coming from over 400 athletes, including us both, telling the NCAA that transgender athletes deserve to play.

Still, it’s devastating to know that if the few outspoken anti-transgender organizations and spokespeople get their wish, the dreams of young transgender athletes may never come true.

What started in the 2010s as fights to kick transgender people out of public bathrooms has moved into efforts to sideline transgender athletes from sports. All of these efforts come together with a singular, chilling aim: to erase transgender people from public life.

Across the country, we are seeing conservative lawmakers, who often can’t name a single transgender athlete in their state, focus their efforts on banning transgender kids from sports, all in the name of “protecting women’s sports.” So far, half the states in the country have laws or regulations in place banning transgender youth from sports. We’re not even halfway through 2024, and already we’ve seen over 550 bills in 42 states attempting to sideline transgender people, of which 37 have passed.

Right now, we are seeing extreme scrutiny of the far less than 1% of NCAA athletes who are transgender — that’s less than 40 out of over 500,000 — and not of what we know to be the documented threats to women’s sports: unequal pay, rampant sexual abuse and harassment, a failure to uphold Title IX (a federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools or educational programs receiving federal funding, which President Joe Biden clarified also extends to LGBTQ+ students), which was shown clearly in viral TikToks during the 2021 March Madness tournaments.

This issue is close to both of our hearts. I (Layshia) am the WNBA’s first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete and have spoken out through the years about the need for transgender athletes to be welcome and included in sports. And I (Brianna) am a proud ally who has joined Layshia in calling for inclusive policies, and for transgender athletes to be treated with respect and dignity.

As athletes who have dedicated our lives to women’s sports, we are beyond frustrated to see these issues go ignored, all in the name of sidelining and dehumanizing a group of athletes who, like their peers, simply want to train hard and support their teams.

Throughout history, we have seen ways that women and girls, and Black and brown athletes, have been systematically excluded from sports. Black transgender women have been especially targeted, as we saw in the lawsuit against Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller in Connecticut, two young Black transgender women who, four years after leaving sports, are still being unfairly targeted and harassed simply for training hard and excelling. The lawsuit was revived by a federal appeals court and has returned to a federal district court in Connecticut, where it’s being litigated. This is all rooted in an antiquated, racist and sexist belief about what a woman or man “should” look like and what an athlete “should” look like. Throughout history, we have seen sports as a space of hope and integrity when barriers to access for specific groups of people are removed.

As the NCAA is facing pressure from select, vocal conservatives telling them to ban transgender athletes, we want to say loud and clear: they don’t speak for us. They don’t speak for the hundreds of NCAA, professional, Olympic and Paralympic athletes who have spoken out to express their support for transgender athletes, including Olympian Erica Sullivan who competed against trans athlete Lia Thomas at the 2022 NCAA Championships and wrote: “We are wasting resources and finding ourselves divided over a question that should have a simple answer: Should the transgender community be included and treated equally in all areas of life, including sports? Yes.”

They also don’t speak for the coach of the current champion NCAA women’s basketball team, Dawn Staley. On the eve of the championship game, the South Carolina Gamecocks coach said firmly and powerfully that transgender women belong in women’s sports. She said this knowing it would bring a flood of negativity from anti-transgender sports fans. “I’m okay with that,” she said of the hate she would receive. “I really am.”

Most importantly, they don’t speak for the simple facts and reality in front of us: The current policy and guidelines at the highest level of sport at the Olympic level were developed by medical and safety experts and informed by vast research affirming that just being transgender does not give someone an inherent advantage in sports.

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In our experience in professional basketball, no one specific type of athlete garners success. Every athlete is different and every athlete’s success is based on a multitude of factors, including their access to nutrition, equipment and coaching. Like all athletes, transgender athletes sometimes win, sometimes lose and work hard to compete.

We often think back to our early days as NCAA athletes, when the future was uncertain, but one thing was not: our deep love for basketball, ourselves and our teammates. We are proud to be part of a league that champions inclusion and encourages players to speak out about what matters to them.

We can’t be silent as the future of the sport we love is threatened — not by an imaginary, hate-manufactured myth about who transgender people are, but by a very real, terrifying drive to ensure there is only one way to be a woman or to be an athlete. We thrive as players, as humans and as a society when we embrace our individual strengths and our collective commitment to justice. That’s what teamwork is truly about — expanding the playing field so that we all have the chance to live our dreams.