Transgender woman sues LPGA for birth rule

October 14, 2010 1:12:42 AM PDT
The Ladies Professional Golf Association, or the LPGA, is the newest battlefield in the fight for transgender rights. It is centered around the LPGA's female at birth requirement. Now a transgender golfer is suing saying that violates her civil rights. In Danville, the LPGA tournament kicks off on Thursday.

Lana Lawless says she had a 1 handicap as a man, but now as a woman she wants to join the LPGA even though their bylaws state that you have to be "born a female" to be on the tour. Lawless stopped by the ABC7's "7Live" studio to talk about it Wednesday.

"In the state of California, I am a female," said Lawless.

On "7Live" Lawless told host Brian Copeland that after winning the Women's Long Drive Championship with a 254 yard drive, the rules were changed to exclude transgender athletes.

"I don't have an advantage any more. All the testosterone has basically been removed from my body. This is what people don't understand. I am not the person I once was, physically," said Lawless.

Lawless is a 57-year-old former police officer who gender reassignment surgery in 2005. She is now suing Long Drivers of America and the LPGA, which kicks off a tournament in Danville.

"Our current policy says you have to be born a female to go through our Q school and to qualify on the LPGA," said Mike Whan, the LPGA commissioner.

But California law prohibits discrimination against transgender athletes and Lawless wants them to conform.

"...And if they don't, then we will seek a permanent injunction to prohibit them from engaging in any tournaments, qualifying events or other activities in the state of California until they follow California law," said Chris Dolan, Lawless' attorney.

We asked Whan if the policy needed to be changed.

"I don't know. I think to be honest with you, I think through this, I'm going to have to educate myself as well in terms of what qualifies as being female. So you know, maybe this lawsuit will make us look at it as well," said Whan.

"Everybody knows when they become a member of the LPGA tour there are rules they have to follow and it's just one of our bylaws. I don't think it's wrong to have a set of bylaws for your organization to follow," said Angela Standord, an LPGA golfer.

This is an emerging battlefield in the world of civil rights and even though California has laws protecting its transgender citizens, people like Lawless still have to challenge organizations like the LPGA to establish those rights.


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