In a major reversal, the Disc Golf Pro Tour has reinstated the FPO divisions at all upcoming tournaments under a new “United Series” designation that will permit Natalie Ryan and other transgender women to compete in FPO at select events.
10 days ago, the DGPT announced that they would be canceling the FPO division at the Ledgestone Open, Great Lakes Open, MVP Open, American Flying Disc Open, and Discmania Open due to concerns about further legal liability and expenses from additional lawsuits from Ryan, who sued the Tour in California and Minnesota.
All of those events will now run as originally scheduled, both as part of the Disc Golf Pro Tour points series but also as a separate United Series, with its own points structure and bonus payout to the top three finishers following the MVP Open1. The upcoming PDGA World Championships in Vermont will also be under the United Series umbrella, averting a planned lawsuit from Ryan against the PDGA in federal court in the state.
The United Series is only being offered in states where there are strong anti-discrimination laws around gender identity: the previous standard requiring transgender women to have transitioned prior to puberty is still in place for the DGPT’s other events — Mid America Open (Missouri), LWS Open (Kentucky), and DGPT Championship (North Carolina).
At United Series events, transgender women will need to meet one of the three PDGA criteria (which already apply at A, B, and C Tier events) in their Gender Based Division Eligibility policy, which requires at least two years of testosterone suppression.
“We’re happy to deliver a solution that’s supported by the DGPT Tour Card Players on both ends of this issue. Gender eligibility is a topic that transcends the sport of disc golf and is destined to be adjudicated in larger sports and bigger courts,” said DGPT CEO Jeff Spring in a statement. “Last week’s announcement has affirmed my belief that the sport of disc golf must find a middle road. Over the past three seasons, the DGPT has shown that we embrace and celebrate inclusion while acknowledging and working to address the serious issues regarding competitive fairness. The United Series allows us to preserve and offer both. We’ve been in constant discussions with the players on this; listening, learning, and forging this durable long-term solution for professional disc golf that all can support.”
In a memo sent to tour partners obtained by Ultiworld Disc Golf, Spring described the importance of needing to find a compromise solution to continue to operate women’s professional disc golf and avoid legal liability that could result in the loss of viability of the FPO division or even the entire business of the DGPT.
“The DGPT has decided that while all discrimination isn’t affordable, some of it is,” Natalie Ryan told Ultiworld Disc Golf. “I will not stop until they admit their wrongs.”
Ryan’s lawyer, Brian Sciacca, said, “I am happy that Natalie will get to defend her titles at DGLO and MVP and to compete at Worlds. I don’t agree that creating a ‘separate but equal’ tour or division provides a long term solution to the problem created by the PDGA and DGPT with the adoption of their gender eligibility policy. We will continue to use any available mechanism to overturn Section C.3 of that policy.”
The DGPT release quoted three players — Kristin Tattar, Paige Pierce, and Ella Hansen — in support of the Tour’s approach. Tattar said on the Tour Life podcast this month that she believed transgender women shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the FPO Division, but she was not among the FPO players — including Catrina Allen and Sarah Hokom — that held an impromptu press conference before the Preserve speaking out against transgender women being allowed to compete in the division.
Today on Facebook, Hokom wrote, “For us to take on the task of solving this ourselves puts the growth of the sport in jeopardy. While the United Series is not a perfect solution, it does ensure that FPO players can continue to pursue their dreams, travel with their significant others, and play on courses that have historic significance and strong community support, while still maintaining the view that bodies that went through male puberty make competition unfair in FPO. This also ensures that the DGPT is in compliance with state laws in regions that recognize gender identity and sex as identical…While this is still a huge compromise most of the FPO does not want to make , I think it’s the best path forward at this time, so we can all get back to what we love… playing disc golf and creating positive connections with our communities and each other.”
The DGPT said that the United Series could be extended “into 2024 and beyond”
Points allocation will be identical in both series; for example, at Ledgestone, the FPO winner will earn 150 DGPT points and 150 United Series points ↩