Trans Women Have Effectively Been Banned From Pro Swimming In Horrible New Policy

Athletes who did not fully transition before age 12 are now banned from competing in women's events.

trans swimming

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Transgender athletes will no longer be allowed to compete in women’s swimming events after the world governing swimming body voted on the matter on Sunday.

FINA — the governing body overseeing swimming — held a membership vote on whether or not to introduce a new policy that would require transgender swimmers to have completed their transition by the age of 12 to be eligible to compete in women’s competitions. This requirement would exclude a majority of the trans community, who generally do not transition until they are much older.

Ultimately, 71.5 percent of FINA members voted in favour of the policy, which means trans athletes will be excluded from events from Monday. While it’s worth noting that an “open competition” category is being discussed and there is a team dedicated to establishing one, this is not currently an option and largely overlooks the inherent transphobia in the policy.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” said FINA president Husain Al-Musallam in a statement. “FINA will always welcome every athlete. 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.”

The vote was taken in Budapest on Sunday after members heard presentations from three groups representing athletes, science and medicine, and legal and human rights issues.

According to a new 34-page policy, trans athletes will only be able to compete in the women’s category if they can prove “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”.

The new policy will have immediate and detrimental impacts on US university student Lia Thomas, who recently became the first transgender NCAA champion in division one history. Thomas, who met all of the requirements to compete in women’s swimming before she competed for the first time in 2021-22 and had her eyes set on the 2024 Olympics, will now be effectively banned from competing in women’s swimming.

Thomas has repeatedly spoken out about trans-exclusionary policies and been forced to reiterate the obvious point that she did not transition purely to win women’s swimming competitions.

“Trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole,” Thomas told ESPN previously. “Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. The NCAA rules regarding trans women competing in women’s sports have been around for 10-plus years. And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.”

The new policy comes after a number of Australian swimmers including Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon spoke out on the topic, with McKeon explicitly stating she would not want to race against a trans woman.

Junkee has reached out to Swimming Australia for comment.