Transgender LPGA Members – Play, or Not Play?
Lana Lawless won the Ladies’ Long Drive Association competition a while back, and they were so thrilled that they barred her from competing again. She drives about 270, but won the contest by hitting a 250 plus yard drive into a stiff head wind.
After that, she was barred from entering LPGA events, and initiated a lawsuit against the LPGA in the state of California, which makes such discrimination unlawful. So, what was the big problem?
Lana Lawless is a retired, formerly male, police officer, who has a passion for golf, plays very well, and wants to compete on the LPGA tour, which she could do by dint of her +1 handicap, if she goes through the necessary qualifying procedures.
The difficulty with that was in the LPGA rules, which stated that all participants on the tour had to be “female by birth.” Following the lawsuit, the LPGA removed the “female by birth” stipulation, and Lawless is free to go ahead – but should she?
Appaarently, Lawless’ surgical transformation, which followed a period of deep depression, was completed in 2005, and she is certifiably female in every legal and physical sense, according to Lawless and all other accounts that are available. She goes so far as to say that her testosterone levels fit well in the female range, and that she has a lower number than some others on the women’s tour.
Lawless is fifty-seven years of age, a time at which most professional golfers play on senior tours, but while it is a fact that skills deteriorate as we age, many people do play golf extremely well at sixty or seventy. Maintaining such a low handicap is a sure sign of this, and that fits within LPGA guidelines as well.
I suspect that perception is a large part of the problem. Lawless has a strong torso belonging to a two hundred pound person with a history of living within a community run by a male mentality. Some will immediately envision a big, particularly strong man who shaved the chin stubble, slapped on a wig, and went out to put one over on the ladies. I’m pretty sure that’s not happening, and I don’t sense any insincerity in the pursuit. Lawless loves golf, and wants to compete.
Observations have been made about what it must be like to play with a group of women who hate you. That is an assumption I am not willing to make, as women are not of one mind equally across the board. There will be skeptics, and there will be acceptance, and in the end, the tour members will play according to the dictates of the tour’s rules.
Lawless suggests that the clause including “female by birth” was instituted to prevent her from continuing. I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m willing to cut everyone some slack, since this is so new. Such ‘gender reassignment’ was likely not in the minds of the women who founded the tour, and not even a thinkable medical procedure until recent times, so we all get at least a partial pass for treading on new ground.
Now that the legal hurdles have been cleared, the suspense lingers – will Lawless attempt to qualify, will she be successful, and if she appears on the tour, how will she do? My next question would be, “how is her short game?” There are other long hitters on the women’s tour, and they don’t automatically win due to their distance. The same is true of the PGA, although distance is great if you can keep it in the green part of the landscape.
So long as Lawless’ new life is a legal and physical reality, and her wish to compete is sincere, not opportunistic in some underhanded way, let this be the land of opportunity and let’s see how it all unfolds – she doesn’t figure to be a long-term fixture on the tour. These are the stories that only the twenty-first century could provides for us. The sky isn’t falling – it’s just that these are interesting times