As state lawmakers around the country advance legislation mandating that trans girls must compete on boys’ teams, a topic which has sparked debate in U.S. Congress and in the media, The Pride Center, the Bryant Pride student group and the PwC Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Bryant hosted Kristen Worley, a transgender woman athlete, world-class cyclist, educator and advocate for inclusive policy change. On April 8, she presented a talk via Zoom to share her story and answer questions from the Bryant community.
“As issues surrounding the acceptance and affirmation of transgender folx has played out on a national scale, we’ve also seen our own Bryant community grapple with these issues, said Kelly Boutin, Director of the Hochberg Women’s Center and Pride Center and the staff advisor of Bryant Pride. “It was important […] that we address this issue programmatically.”
Global change maker
For the event organizers, Worley was the perfect choice.
Worley is the first openly transitioned athlete to attempt to compete in the Olympics. She is also the first athlete to submit to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) gender verification process as outlined in the Stockholm Consensus, which was first instituted by the IOC in 2003.
“We want to ensure the well being of every athlete no matter how he or she or they participate in any activity and sport, anywhere in the world.”
In 2008 Worley applied for a therapeutic-use exemption for her use of testosterone supplements, which all transitioned women need to maintain their health, but the IOC denied her request, regarding the hormones as performance-enhancing. Worley filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, arguing that the policy was not backed by science. Worley won and in 2017, the IOC agreed “to promote inclusive sporting environments,” the ramifications of which could be far-reaching in the sport world and beyond.
During the talk with the Bryant audience, Worley, co-author of the biographical work Woman Enough: How a Boy Became a Woman and Changed the World of Sport (Penguin, 2019), discussed the values of inclusion, including from a systemic institutional lens, as well as the role of design thinking in creating systematic policy change.
Inclusivity as a design problem
Over the last 15 months, nearly 20 years after her first attempt to compete in the Olympics, Worley has been working with the IOC advocating for inclusive policies.
“It’s really important that we’re successful together.”
Problematically, current notions of inclusivity are about “segmenting” people, or individually identifying people “rather than trying to find the intrinsic points of commonality between the various diversities that bring us all together.” Inclusivity, she says, is unequivocally “a design issue.”
“What we came up with was a focus on health and well being,” said Worley of her recent work with the IOC. A human-centered design approach to inclusivity, “the idea is that we want to ensure the well being of every athlete no matter how he or she or they participate in any activity and sport, anywhere in the world.”
Consequently, Worley said the IOC will present new information on the topic of gender and sports; no longer will athletes be mandated to limit hormones they need for health, a reversal of the policies outlined in the Stockholm Consensus.
By asking “How do we support our constituents to ensure their health and well being?” a human-centered approach can similarly be applied in a range of settings and organizations outside of sports.
No new design, however, will be successful without collaboration, Worley advised. “It’s really important that we’re successful together.”