Swimming, FINA announces ‘open category’ for transgender athletes

Swimming, FINA announces 'open category' for transgender athletes
Lia Thomas

The International Swimming Federation will be the first to accept and let transgender swimmers compete under its new gender inclusion policy

The creation of the ‘open category’ was approved during the Extraordinary Congress–held during the World Championships in Budapest–by more than 70 per cent of FINA member federations.

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This is a victory for all transgender athletes, but at the same time FINA has decided to put some rules in place, in fact, it has decided to ban athletes who have gone through male puberty from taking part in female competitions. In addition, a working group will be set up to decide on an open competition category for all athletes regardless of their sex, legal gender or gender identity.

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Husain Al-Musallam, president of FINA on the historic decision said: ”We must protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we must also protect competitive equity in our events, particularly the women’s category at FINA competitions”.

The new FINA document specifies that male-to-female transgender athletes will still be allowed to compete in the women’s categories “as long as they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2–which marks the beginning of physical development–or before the age of 12, whichever is later”.

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So with this rule, athlete Lia Thomas–the first transgender swimmer to win a US College national title–will have to wait to compete in the women’s category.

While female-to-male transgender athletes will be able to safely continue competing in the men’s categories, however, for the high diving and water polo categories they will be required to submit an ‘assumption of risk’ form.

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”FINA will always welcome every athlete. The creation of an open category will mean that everyone will have the opportunity to compete at the elite level. This has not been done before, so FINA will have to pave the way. We want all athletes to feel that they can develop ideas during this process”.

A decision by FINA that–for sure–will cause much discussion and trigger sterile and violent controversy from extreme right-wing and religious associations and parties that are openly transphobic and anti-LGBTQ.

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