Biological male sues disk golf association for 'discriminatory' policy barring trans women from competing in female divisions

In December of 2022, the PDGA adopted new rules stating that transgender women competing in the FPO division in 2023 must have undergone sex change treatments by the age of 12.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A biological male who identifies as a woman has sued the world governing body for professional disk gold among others for blocking the player from competing against female players, stating that the governing body violated California discrimination laws.

Natalie Ryan filed a complaint on Wednesday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, with Ryan’s attorney, Brian Sciacca, arguing that the Professional Disk Gold Association (PDGA), Disk Golf Pro Tour, and 1000 Rated Professions who hosts the OTB Open, stating that a policy adopted in December of 2022 barring transgender individuals from competing against women if they had a sex change after the age of 12 is "discriminatory." 

According to the lawsuit, obtained by Ultiworld Disc Golf, Ryan "has felt like a female since birth" and underwent a sex change in January of 2018. Ryan has been a member of the PDGA since 2018, competing for the entire time as a woman.

The lawsuit noted that in the 2021 season, Ryan competed in five DGPT National Tour events as a female, averaging a 16th place finish and earning $1652 in prize money, and finished in second place in a DGPT Silver Series event, earning $750.

In the 2022 season, Ryan "competed in the FPO division of 13 DGPT Elite Series events. She won two events, had four top-ten finishes, and earned $19,360.00 in prize money, while finishing the tour as the ninth-rated player in the FPO division."

It was during this season that Ryan earned a "tour card" for the 2023 season, "entitling her to early and automatic registration into all DGPT events in 2023 and other associated benefits for which she paid $5077.00."

In December of 2022, "as a direct response to Plaintiff’s success on the DGPT" the lawsuit stated, the PDGA adopted new rules stating that transgender women competing in the FPO division in 2023 must have undergone sex change treatments by the age of 12.

"At the time of its decision, the PDGA knew that Plaintiff would be ineligible to compete under such guidelines. At the same time, the PDGA adopted an alternate policy for non-elite female-protected divisions based upon a minimum length of gender-affirming treatment and maximum blood levels of testosterone," the lawsuit states.

The DGPT, the "Official Pro Tour of the PDGA," immediately announced that they would adopt the PDGA’s policy regarding transgender female athletes.

On January 24, 2023, the PDGA sent Ryan an email notifying that Ryan would not be able to participate in DGPT events, "and directing Plaintiff to complete a 'gender eligibility verification’ form."

"On February 7, 2023, the DGPT sent an email to Plaintiff notifying her that the PDGA had informed it that Plaintiff was ineligible for the FPO division at DGPT events for the 2023 season, even though she had qualified for a tour card by her performance in 2023," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states that by adopting these rules, Ryan’s professional disc golf career has been limited.

"PDGA’s policy of requiring its transgender women members to undergo gender-affirming treatment prior to the age of 12 in order to compete in the FPO division of its professional major and DGPT events has denied Plaintiff and other transgender women, who in the eyes of California law are women, full and equal access to the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, and/or services of Defendant’s organizations," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that the PDGA and DGPT "acted intentionally to discriminate as a business establishment in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act," with Ryan alleging that the PDGA sought to "preclude" Ryan and other transgender women from competition.

"Plaintiff suffered damages that include economic losses, mental suffering, emotional distress, grief, anxiety, humiliation, shock, indignity, and embarrassment," the lawsuit states.

In regards to the DGPT, the lawsuit states that in 2021 and 2022, there were no rules stating that transgender athletes must ungergo a sex change before the age of 12 to compete in its FPO division.

"Thus, Plaintiff was eligible to compete and did compete in the FPO division of DGPT events in 2021 and 2022, and qualified to compete in 2023 before DGPT adopted the policy at issue," the lawsuit states, adding that DGPT has "established discriminatory guidelines for the participation of transgender women.

The lawsuit states that the PDGA and DGPT violated California’s Unruh Civil Right Act, which "provides protection from discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations, because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation," according to the California Department of Rehabilitation.

The lawsuit claims that Ryan "was targeted for discrimination on the basis of gender because she is a woman who did not receive gender-affirming treatment before the age of 12."

"This policy has denied Plaintiff and other transgender women from equal access to the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, and/or services of Defendant’s business.

The lawsuit also alleges that the DGPT disrupted Ryan’s "economic relationship with her sponsors and prospective sponsors."


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