World swimming body revises transgender rules to protect women competitors

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smiles after winning the 100-yard freestyle during the 2022 Ivy League Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships at Blodgett Pool on February 19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (PHOTO: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/The Christian Post)

UPDATE: World rugby follows swimming example — Transgender players banned from women’s international rugby league

Originally published in The Christian Post

World swimming’s governing body, FINA, has decided to prohibit some men who identify as female from participating in women’s competitions. However, some say the new policy is misguided and further legitimises trans-ing children at an early age. 

According to The Associated Press, although the revised “gender inclusion policy” announced on Sunday bans some men and boys from female-only competitions, it still allows male swimmers who underwent a so-called gender transition before age 12 to compete against female athletes. FINA also put forward the possibility of a co-ed “open competition.”

“This is not saying that people are encouraged to transition by the age of 12. It’s what the scientists are saying, that if you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” said James Pearce, the spokesperson for FINA President Husain Al-Musallam.

“They’re not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully, you wouldn’t be encouraged to. Basically, what they’re saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”

The new policy was adopted following a vote where 71.5% supported the measure after it was proposed to the members of 152 national federations that have voting rights and assembled for the FINA Extraordinary Congress in Budapest, Hungary.

FINA added: “Some individuals and groups may be uncomfortable with the use of medical and scientific terminology related to sex and sex-linked traits (but) some use of sensitive terminology is needed to be precise about the sex characteristics that justify separate competition categories.”

The move comes amid growing consternation among women’s rights activists and campaigners who have argued that males have an unbridgeable competitive edge over females in sports because of the effects of puberty on their bodies.

One example is that of UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas, a man (formerly known as Will) who identifies as trans and broke several women’s records and won the 500-yard freestyle race at the NCAA championship finals at Georgia Tech in March. Under the new FINA policy, Thomas would likely not be permitted to compete against women athletes. 

In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America in May, Thomas maintained that he doesn’t possess an advantage over women athletes, arguing that “trans women are not a threat to women’s sports.”

Praising the move, Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) tweeted Sunday: “It worked! I took a lot of heat — but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period.”

Similarly, Sharron Davies, an Olympic swimmer from England who won a silver medal in the 1980 Games, tweeted that she was proud of her sport “for doing the science, asking the athletes/coaches and standing up for fair sport for females.”

Meanwhile, LGBT advocacy group, Athlete Ally, opposed the new policy, reports CBN News.

“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 IOC principles,” its tweet read. “If we truly want to protect women’s sports, we must include all women.”

FINA plans to create an “open” category for competitions within the next six months. 

“FINA will always welcome every athlete,” president Husain Al-Musallam said. “The creation of an open category will mean that everybody has the opportunity to compete at an elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.”

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