Recent NAGA competition got pretty controversial. The North American Grappling Association has come under scrutiny for allowing trans competitiors to compete in the female divisions. This sparked apprehension among the female athletes, leaving them fearing for their well-being.
Jayden Alexander and Ansleigh Wilk said that they were made to compete against a biological male with no prior warning from NAGA until stepping onto the mat.
“I honestly never thought this would actually happen in a contact sport, especially not MY contact sport,” Alexander, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, told redux. “When I saw him, I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond.”
The controversy first gained widespread attention in September when it was discovered that female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes had been paired against male competitors without prior notification. These matchups have led to significant discrepancies in physicality, raising serious questions about the safety of female competitors.
In response to the outcry, NAGA issued a statement clarifying its policy regarding trans-identified males in the women’s category. They claimed that female competitors were given the choice to compete against transgender females, with an additional division offered for this purpose. However, the reality seems to be different from their stated policy.
Both Alexander and Wilk emphasized that the strength of their trans opponents was notably different from that of female competitors, making the matches particularly challenging.
“I hadn’t been notified. The only thing that brought it to my attention was my teammates. They kept asking me ‘are you fighting a man’ and I was honestly too focused on coaching the rest of the crew to really pay attention to my opponent,” Wilk said.
“I realized very quickly I couldn’t muscle them like most girls,” Wilk, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt and coach, added. “Well obviously, because it wasn’t a girl! Then not long after, I had to do a second match of which Cordelia threw a tantrum saying ‘didn’t tap [out].’ I was sincerely scared [she] was going to punch me when I stuck my hand out to shake [hers].”
Despite NAGA’s claims to have a policy in place, no apparent enforcement or follow-through seems to be taking place, as more female grapplers find themselves unexpectedly competing against trans-identified males. The lack of oversight and accountability has prompted concerns among female athletes.
Watchdogs, like Marshi Smith, co-founder of the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), have called for organizations and teams involved in these tournaments to address the issue seriously.
Women are reportedly self-excluding from competitions, fearing the consequences of speaking out against the gender self-identification policies.