Nova Scotia

Volleyball Nova Scotia shows 'resounding support' for transgender athletes

Paul Worden, president of Volleyball Nova Scotia, says transgender athletes received "resounding support" when he polled the community about allowing them to play on teams of the sex they identify with.

Competitive concerns don't overwhelm 'the human factor,' group's president says

The president of Volleyball Nova Scotia is working to have a long-standing policy in place about transgender athletes being able to compete on teams made up of the gender they identify with. (CBC)

Volleyball Nova Scotia is temporarily changing the way the sport is played in the province by allowing a young transgender athlete to play with the members of the sex that person identifies with.

Paul Worden, the president of the group, said he was contacted earlier this month by a coach asking for the change. Worden sent an email to members of the Nova Scotia volleyball community, asking for their thoughts.

"I wouldn't say there was any debate. I put the temporary ruling out through email to our constituency," he told CBC Radio's Mainstreet. "We received nothing but resounding support."

Of more than two dozen people who responded to Worden's email, only one was concerned about that person having a possible competitive advantage, he said.

'The human factor'

"I'm not convinced that that overwhelms the humanitarian side of this discussion," said Worden.

"Yes, it's volleyball and yes, part of our mandate is to develop elite players — it's a sport in that regard, and sport is made up of humans, and if we lose sight of the human factor then I'm not sure it's worth even being a part of anymore."

Worden said the transgender athlete will be allowed to play with members of the sex they identify with.

His position is supported by Jamie Ferguson, the CEO of Sport Nova Scotia.

"I think the idea of putting these policies in place is a very positive step. Inclusion is really important in the sports sector," he said. 

Ferguson called it an "emerging issue," but one that is important to sport in the province. 

"It's great that it's on the radar here now in Canada and it's great to see people are working to see if they can make sport even more inclusive."

Thinking about what's important

Worden is working to have a long-standing policy in place about transgender athletes being able to compete on teams made up of the sex they identify with. He plans to meet with board members and thinks developing a special committee will help put the right policy in place.

"I can't imagine what it would be like to be a young person struggling with this, gaining the confidence to identify and project themselves through this kind of life change," said Worden. 

"The last thing I'd want is for an organization I'm a part of to stand in the way of their ability to grow as a person before their ability to grow as an athlete." 

Worden, who is also a pastor at a Baptist church in Truro, said the issue has given him a lot to think about in general.

"It gave me an opportunity to think through what's important, and what's important considering my faith, as well as my responsibility towards a larger organization, of Volleyball Nova Scotia," he said. 

"Volleyball Nova Scotia supports athletes competing in the gender category they identify with, regardless of the sex or gender that was assigned to them at birth."

Last year, just over 2,300 young players and 400 other participants were involved with Volleyball Nova Scotia, including coaches and referees. 


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