It would appear that University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, born a biological male, will no longer be able to compete in all-female competitions.
The world’s swimming governing body, FINA, has 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.”
“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.”
Members voted 71.5 percent in favor of the changes at the organization’s unconventional general congress following a set of hearings and presentations from a trio of specialist organizations: An athlete group, a science and medicine group, and a legal and human rights group, all of which had worked together to inform and draft the policy following recommendations made by the International Olympic Committee in November.
Naturally, not everyone is happy with the changes.
FINA’s “deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” new policy is “not in line with (the IOC’s) framework on fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex variations,” Anne Lieberman of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ athletes, said in a statement, according to The Post.
“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy (will) police the bodies of all women, and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category,” Lieberman added.
FINA noted it recognizes “that 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 Post added, “In March, Lia Thomas made history in the United States as the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship, the 500-yard freestyle.”
But her victory, along with a string of others, drew a great deal of scrutiny and accusations that Thomas, who had been competing as a male as recently as the previous year, had an unfair advantage.
Last month, she told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program trans women aren’t a threat to women’s sports.