Transgender Woman Sues LPGA

A 57-year-old transgender woman has sued the LPGA, claiming the tour's "female at birth" policy violates California's civil rights law.

Lana Lawless, 57, had gender-reassignment surgery in 2005. In 2008, she won the women's long-drive world championship with a 254-yard shot. But because the Long Drivers of America (LDA) changed its rules to match the LPGA's, rendering her ineligible this year, Lawless is suing that group as well.

The suit also seeks an injunction to bar the LGPA and LDA from holding tournaments and qualifying events in California as long as they continue to deny post-operative transgender competitors.

"It was devastating to me," Lawless told the New York Times of the LDA's rules change. "How can they say that rule was not changed specifically directed at me if you have a rule that allows me to play and you come back and you change it?"

She has also filed a lawsuit against Dick's Sporting Goods and Re/Max - the corporate sponsors of Long Drivers of America, as well as CVS, which sponsors the LPGA Challenge, now underway at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville, Calif.

Lawless started playing golf in 2006 after watching the long drive championship on TV. She competed in 2007 and finished third, and won the title in 2008. She has since been sponsored by companies like Bang Golf, but lost that financial support after being prevented from entering the 2010 championship.

Also, because Lawless received prize money and sponsorships, she is considered a professional and not allowed to compete in amateur tournaments, unless she applies to the United States Golf Association for reinstatement. The USGA allows transgender people to compete, but applying for reinstatement is not something she wants to do.

Lawless says she has no edge over the other female golfers she competes against, stating that the gender-reassignment surgery removed her testes, and that the hormones she was given have caused her comparable muscle strength similar to a genetically born female.

"I'm not physically as strong as I used to be," she said. "I'm well under the top end of testosterone levels for genetically-born females."

Her birth certificate states Lawless is female. "It doesn't say 'female-ish,' " she said. "There is no such thing as born female. Either you're female, or you're not."

Other sports organizations allow transgender people to compete. These include the Ladies Golf Union and Ladies European Tour. In 2004, the International Olympic Committee allowed transgender people to compete if they had reassignment surgery and took part in at least two years of post-op hormone-replacement therapy.