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Transgender disc golfer wins court order allowing her to compete in California women’s event

A transgender disc golf athlete who sued the Professional Disc Golf Association after she says she was barred from competing in a Northern California event won a court order allowing her to take part in the event’s female competition in Stockton this weekend.

U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley granted a temporary restraining order Thursday barring the disc golf association from using its policy to prevent Natalie Ryan from participating in the Stockton event, which is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, court papers say.

“Plaintiff is a professional woman disc golfer,” Nunley wrote in his 15-page order, which followed a court hearing earlier this week. “It is her job, her means of income, and an expression of her gender identity.

“Her reputation, professional ranking, income, and ability to grow within the league are all tied to her membership in the (Female Professional Open) division. For Plaintiff, however, membership in the FPO appears to transcend these metrics. She contends FPO membership affirms her gender identity, secures her emotional well-being, and prevents her from being ‘othered’ simply because she is a transgender woman.”

Ryan filed suit in Sacramento federal court in February, claiming the disc golf association notified her in an email Feb. 7 that she was ineligible to compete because of a policy requiring any transgender woman “to have undergone gender-affirming treatment before the age of 12 years old in order to compete in the female professional open divisions of its elite events.”

Ryan has competed as a woman since 2019 and is “recognized under California law as a woman,” her lawsuit states.

The disc golf association argued in court filings that Ryan waited until the last moment to seek a court order.

The group also contends that Ryan will not suffer irreparable harm if she cannot compete in the female division this weekend because she already is eligible to compete in the association’s mixed professional open division, which is open to all male and female professional players.

“It is undisputed, however, that plaintiff maintains the opportunity to participate in the MPO division, which includes some of the top players in disc golf and is open to men and women alike,” court filings say.

Nunley noted that Ryan argued “she will face significant emotional and psychological harm resulting in part from the denial of her gender identity.”

“Plaintiff cited increased depression, anxiety and emotional turmoil as evidence of such psychological harm at the hearing,” Nunley wrote. “The court finds this showing of irreparable harm to be compelling.”

Less than an hour after Nunley’s order was filed, a lawyer for the disc golf association filed notice that an appeal would be filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.