In a stunning reversal, the Professional Disc Golf Association dropped their rule barring transgender women from competing in FPO at Elite Series events and Majors unless they had undergone their gender transition prior to going through puberty, the organization announced on Friday afternoon.
The rule change, which goes into effect on January 1, 2024, and will be in place through at least the end of the 2025 season, immediately makes Natalie Ryan and other transgender women who have gone through at least two years of hormone therapy eligible to compete in FPO at all PDGA events.
The PDGA’s decision to drop the controversial clause in the gender eligibility rules comes as part of a settlement with Ryan, who agreed to drop all pending lawsuits against the organization in California and Minnesota. Other terms of the settlement have not been made public.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent Natalie in this matter, which has now been resolved to her satisfaction,” said Ryan’s lawyer Brian Sciacca. “I look forward to watching her play this year without carrying the weight of this litigation in her heart and mind.”
Ryan has already signed up for a 2024 Tour Card and intends to play at most DGPT and Major events. “I’m excited to announce that the PDGA, DGPT, and I have reached an agreement,” Ryan wrote on Instagram. “All trans women will be equals at the elite level again. This is my victory. I had to be ruthless to get them to listen. I’m glad I can put that side of myself away. Now, I am hopeful that our sport can start fresh and grow to be a place that truly welcomes and celebrates everyone.”
The PDGA and DGPT incurred significant legal expenses fighting Ryan’s lawsuits, and they took losses in Minnesota state court and California district court, though the latter decision was overruled on appeal. After The Preserve, the DGPT said they would be canceling FPO competition at multiple upcoming tournaments due to potential legal liability, but later reinstated FPO and allowed Ryan to play at those tournaments under a “United Series” designation.
“The PDGA is not financially or logistically in a position to take the lead in multi-state litigation on this topic,” wrote the PDGA in a statement. “For the first time in recent memory, the PDGA will end the year with a net operating loss, and it is not in the best interest of our members to continue to allocate resources to further litigation.”
The PDGA said that they stood by their decision to implement the pre-puberty rule prior to the 2023 season but that “it has become apparent that the law is not settled on this issue.”
The PDGA still maintains restrictions on transgender women who want to compete in female-only divisions, including a testosterone limit and a two-year hormone replacement requirement. The DGPT is further restricting transgender women at their events to have undergone male-to-female gender affirming surgery, the organization said in a statement.
“While the DGPT did not wish to see adjustments to the policy at this time, the Tour recognizes the PDGA as the regulatory authority and governing body of the sport empowered to set these policies,” said the DGPT press release. “It’s become clear that the sport of disc golf cannot bear the weight of adjudicating this issue on a national or international level at this time.”
Both the PDGA and DGPT said they would continue to evaluate local, state and federal laws, as well as International Olympic Committee guidance, on the issue as they plan for competition rules in 2026 and beyond.