FINA trans swimming policy shows ‘equal but separate’ is actually an exclusion


This is a column by Shireen Ahmed, who writes opinions for CBC Sports. For more information on CBC Opinion Sectionplease consult the FAQs.

On Sunday night, the international water sports governing body (FINA) effectively banned transgender women from competing. FINA has called it a “gender inclusion policy,” but what it actually does is exclude trans women. It entered into force on Monday.

The new policy requires transgender athletes to have completed their gender reassignment (transition) before the age of 12 in order to compete in traditional female categories. If trans women went through puberty as men, FINA decided these athletes might have an advantage.

In an attempt not to appear blatantly exclusive, FINA has formed a working group to create an “open” category for trans women to participate in certain events. No one is quite sure what ‘open’ means – including FINA, which will spend the next six months trying to analyze it. It appears to be an “equal but separate” random plot.

The reality is that all of these barriers make it highly unlikely that trans women will have the opportunity to participate in FINA events, which also include diving, water polo, artistic swimming, high performance diving and swimming. in open water. Trans activist and triathlete Chris Mosier tweeted, “This is the biggest ban on trans women in sport we’ve seen to date.”

Trans activists have been very vocal about how harmful and unfair these policies are. Invalidating someone’s identity because the propaganda against trans communities is particularly vicious and relentless is not an acceptable reason for banning athletes from a sport they love.

Iszak Henig, left, who switches to men’s and swims for the Yale women’s team, applauds Lia Thomas’ victory in the women’s 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships in February. (Mary Schwalm/Associated Press)

Women’s bodies monitored

I am a hijab-wearing woman and women like me have been banned from playing football and basketball at a professional level due to policies created largely by powerful men in boardrooms. They were generally badly advised by women who claimed that veiled women were all oppressed. They decided that the hijab was dangerous and had no place on the pitch or on the court. We know that is not true. They never consulted my community or people like me. And for years women’s bodies have been watched and they have been excluded from sport. It will take generations to engage them in elite sports at these levels.

Fast forward to now. How many trans advocates and athletes were included in the creation of this policy? Who sits at the table of this working group? We know a specific American”work groupwho is viciously anti-trans and whose agenda is to completely exclude young trans people from sport. Selective inclusion is not inclusion at all.

Trans women who play sports do not jeopardize women’s sports. The frantic and erratic way in which this issue is being addressed would seem like a crisis or a war against women in sport. This is incorrect and laughable.

James Pearce, spokesman for FINA President Husain Al-Musallam, said The Associated Press that there are currently no trans women competing at the elite levels of swimming. None. This moral panic is unnecessary and harms the sport.

The worst is, other federations is likely to follow suit.

Earlier this year, USA Swimming enforced a new policy on transgender inclusions that ended the career of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. Thomas has been at the center of much debate due to her winning times and has been seen as a threat to women’s sport. This is unequivocally false.

Thomas’ swimming career is now almost over. In an interview with CNN in May, Thomas explained an important fact about being a trans athlete. “Trans people don’t transition to athletics. We transition to being happy and authentic and ourselves.”

Trans people don’t make the transition to athletics. We transition to being happy and authentic and ourselves.– Swimmer Lia Thomas

Megan Rapinoe, star of the USA women’s soccer team believes inclusion is paramount. “Show me the proof that trans women are taking everyone’s purses, dominating in every sport, winning every title. I’m sorry, that’s just not happening.”

This FINA policy violates principle six of the Olympic Charter which states: “Any form of discrimination against any country or person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or any other is incompatible with membership of the Olympic Movement.” Nor does the policy align with Principles of the International Olympic Committee 2021 on human rights. IOC guidelines have moved away from basing eligibility on testosterone levels and letting individual sports decide.

I asked Dr. Katrina Karkazisbioethicist, authorand professor at Amherst College to explain why FINA’s policy is flawed.

“This policy goes against the recent IOC framework which is grounded in human rights principles and says that policies like these can violate physical integrity and privacy,” he said. she writes. “The new policy deploys an outdated interventionist clinical framework that many UN agencies and governments say violates human rights and uses an open category as punishment for those who resist the medicalization of their bodies.”

Dr Karkazis said the evidence used to support transphobic policies is also flawed.

“The IOC framework also urges that policies avoid the presumption of benefit and be based on strong evidence. FINA did not disclose what evidence they reviewed or who reviewed it, but many oft-cited studies conclude that there is not yet enough scientific evidence to support specific policies regarding transgender or intersex athletes. This is not surprising as this is a very nascent area of ​​research.”

If FINA is not transparent about the science it uses to propel these policies, if there are no trans swimmers at this level, then the unfair implementation of a policy like this is alarming and dangerous. FINA’s equal but separate approach to banning people from playing sports fuels transphobic behavior in society. Trans kids are watching and we know they’re at risk of mental health problems and barriers. Especially when politicians target them and restrict or deny their access to health care.

We know that sports federations can be on the wrong side of history. This is another one of those moments.