Kipp Kolar the president of the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) made news on October 30th by formally updating the policy regarding transgender athletes. NAGA’s policy now states: “Male to female transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty are excluded from competing in the female division from NAGA events.”
The decision comes on the heels of a NAGA tournament that took place on October 21st, in the state of Georgia. When female athletes were notified that two of the competitors in the bracket were transgender, everyone dropped out except the two transgender competitors.
Many female athletes took to social media to talk about their experiences. One post from a female competitor named Jayden Alexander (@jayden.scrappy) talks about the fear she had of competing against a transgender individual. Jayden talks about how she didn’t feel safe during the match, and her fear of being labeled a transphobe.
Ansleigh Wilk a brown bet female competitor who also dropped out talked about feeling “blindsided” by showing up at a competition to learn that there were two female competitors in the bracket.
Following the public outcry, other Jiu Jitsu tournaments have followed NAGA and also updated the policy. Mo Jassim issued a statement on ADCC’s new policy that states all athletes must compete with the sex they are assigned at birth.
Also, some Gi and Jiu Jitsu apparel companies have issued statements that they are largely supportive of the female athletes who boycotted the competition. The company Datsusara (@dsgear) famous for making Jiu Jitsu Gis, and bags out of hemp reposted Jayden’s video.
Transgender Controversy in Jiu Jitsu
As you may know, this is a debate that has recently dominated almost all the sports. Trans athletes like Lia Thomas and Fallon Fox have had their respective organizations rushing to make rules and regulations regarding when translate athletes can and cannot compete. Jiu Jitsu is only the latest sport to come into the news with this controversy.
It’s no surprise that both sides of this debate are also emotionally charged. The ADCC and NAGA both disabled comments for their post. Instead of allowing a public social media debate, NAGA promised to review its policy in the future as science progresses.
NAGA has also stated that they reached out to “Smoothcomp” an app through which most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors register, to add a “transgender” option on their profile—stating that currently the app only offers a “Male/Female” option. This means many competitions did not know if a competitor was transgender when registering.
NAGA’s former policy on transgender athletes was different. It stated that women were supposed to be informed if someone in their bracket was transgender. It also said that women had the option to only compete against women if they so desired. Both Jayden and Ansleigh have claimed they were never informed by NAGA, and instead told by their teammates.
This is also not the first time this debate has come to the world of combat sports. In 2014 transgender fighter Fallon Fox broke female opponent Tamikka Brents skull in the first round. Fallon Fox went on to retire later largely because of public outcry.
After these viral videos and the walkout at NAGA, many other Brazilian Jiu Jitsu companies and gyms are starting to craft policies for transgender athletes. Until now, many gyms and companies have been frightened to take either side in the debate. Thankfully both Jayden and Ansleigh have said that they have received an overwhelming amount of support from the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community.