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  • Marguerite

The Controversy around Trans Athletes

Updated: Mar 25

The inclusion of transgender athletes is a very controversial topic in sport, especially in swimming. Transgender women weren’t born as biologically female, rather they were born as the male sex but now identify as a woman. To an extent, they are able to compete in the women's category in competitions around the world. The world swimming governing body, FINA, has voted to ban transgender women from elite female competitions in a seismic decision that sets it apart from most Olympic sports. The decision was supported by 71% of the 152 national federations at the world championships in Budapest, following a report from a FINA scientific panel which found that trans women have a significant advantage over female swimmers, even after reducing their testosterone levels through medication. In a later policy document, FINA said that male-to-female transgender athletes could now compete in the women's category only “provided they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 (which marks the start of physical development) or before age 12, whichever is later”. In July 2023, it was announced that an ‘open’ category will be established for swimming events, allowing competitors whose gender differs from their birth sex to participate.

To conclude, the inclusion of transgender women in competitive swimming has stirred a robust debate, with divergent perspectives highlighting complex intersections of identity, fairness, and inclusivity. Advocates argue for the importance of allowing transgender women to participate according to their gender identity, emphasising principles of equality and dignity. On the other hand, opponents express concerns regarding potential advantages due to physiological differences, particularly in strength and muscle mass, leading to questions about fairness and the integrity of competition. Governing bodies are struggling to create fair rules for gender identity in competitive swimming because people have such varied opinions.

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