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Diversity Facilitator Withdraws From NCAA Program in Wake of Association’s Trans Eligibility Change

Kenyon College’s Dorian Rhea Debussy stepped down from their volunteer post at Division III’s LGBTQ One program.

An associate director for diversity, equity and inclusion at Division III Kenyon College withdrew from an NCAA-run LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion program Monday in protest over the governing body’s new transgender eligibility policy, announced Wednesday. Dorian Rhea Debussy, a volunteer facilitator, submitted a letter directly to NCAA president Mark Emmert, along with D-III interim vice president Louise McCleary and several DEI officials.

As a facilitator for the NCAA program, called LGBTQ One, Debussy had helped train athletes, coaches, administrators and other facilitators from various colleges across the country in inclusion best practices since the program, the first of its kind for LGBTQ+ athletes in the NCAA, started in spring 2019. Among the program’s 54 facilitators, Debussy was the only one who is openly transfeminine.

“I’m deeply troubled by what appears to be a devolving level of active, effective, committed, and equitable support for gender diverse student-athletes within the NCAA’s leadership,” they wrote in the letter, published publicly by the advocacy organization Athlete Ally. “As a non-binary, trans-feminine person, I can no longer, in good conscience, maintain my affiliation with the NCAA.”

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Last week, the NCAA announced a major change to its trans eligibility policy, which had not been updated since 2010. Whereas before it allowed trans athletes to compete on teams aligned with their gender identity, so long as transfeminine athletes completed one year of testosterone-suppression treatment, it now leaves decisions of which transgender athletes qualify for competition up to individual sport governing bodies. The patchwork system is thought by some advocates to pass the buck instead of ensuring all trans athletes can safely compete alongside their cisgender peers, regardless of testosterone levels. At its convention last week, the NCAA also passed an updated constitution that does not include nondiscrimination language for LGBTQ+ athletes, female athletes, athletes of color and disabled athletes.

“When the updated transgender participation policy came out from the NCAA, that was a moment where I knew I had to make a decision,” Debussy told Sports Illustrated. “And for me, that just moved even further out of line with my values in relation to trans inclusivity. Really, that was the spark that lit the tinder that had already been laid.”

In their letter, Debussy also cited the NCAA’s inaction in 2021 amid nine states (in addition to Idaho’s, passed in ’20) enacting sports bans that prevent trans athletes from competing in publicly funded sports in the gender categories that align with their identities. In fact, the NCAA held several championship events in states that had passed such laws, despite outcry from athletes and advocates. Already in ’22, several states have started moving through similar legislation.

“I hope that [my letter] will send a message that there are plenty of folks affiliated with the NCAA,” Debussy said, “whether as a facilitator for this program or as an athletic administrator on any number of campuses all across the country or at the NCAA headquarters, that plenty of professionals in a variety of different capacities are troubled by the new transgender participation policy and the way it’s been rolled out.”