Another major international sporting organization has made the decision to bar transgender women — biological males at birth who transition to women — from competing against biological females, at least for the time being.
According to reports, the International Rugby League made the decision to give the organization time to study the issue and look at the science so that a proper policy can be developed and implemented.
“Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” an announcement from the league said.
“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing,” the statement continued.
“The IRL will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants,” the statement noted. “To help achieve this, the IRL will seek to work with the eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to obtain data to inform a future transwomen inclusion policy in 2023, which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league.”
The IRL’s decision comes as debate continues as to the fairness of allowing athletes born as men to compete against women after transitioning.
Also this week, the world’s swimming governing body, FINA, adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” that only allows biologically male swimmers at birth who transitioned prior to the age of 12 to compete in women’s events, while also proposing an “open competition category.”
The decision means that University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, born a biological male, will no longer be able to compete in all-female competitions.
“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,” James Pearce, the spokesperson for FINA president Husain Al-Musallam, told The Associated Press.
“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,” Pearce added.
He also confirmed there are currently no transgender women competing in elite levels of swimming, according to the New York Post.
The outlet continues:
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health just lowered its recommended minimum age for starting gender transition hormone treatment to 14 and some surgeries to 15 or 17.
FINA’s new 24-page policy also proposed a new “open competition” category. The organization said it was setting up “a new working group that will spend the next six months looking at the most effective ways to set up this new category.”
Pearce told the AP that the open competition would most likely mean more events, but those details still need to be worked out.
“No one quite knows how this is going to work. And we need to include a lot of different people, including transgender athletes, to work out how it would work,” he said. “So there are no details of how that would work. The open category is something that will start being discussed tomorrow.”