The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has changed its gender policies, which regulate the registration of swimmers in the different categories. The international organization has endorsed, with 71% support, a new policy that restricts transsexual swimmers from participating in female categories if they have not completed their transition by the age of 12.
According to the new regulations, which regulate both participation in FINA competitions and the option to qualify for world records, trans women could compete in the female categories if they can demonstrate “not having experienced any part of male puberty” beyond of stage 2 of the Tanner scale, a scale that assesses sexual maturation through the physical development of children, adolescents and adults, “or before the age of 12, whichever is later”.
The Federation will propose to establish an “open” category for those swimmers or swimmers whose gender identity is different from their birth sex and will establish a working group for six months to carry it out.
The decision comes in the middle of the World Championship in Budapest, after the Congress listened to the speeches of the representatives of a working group made up of different specialists: “a group of athletes, one of science, one of medicine and a legal and human rights”, collects in a statement the body.
The fuse that lit the success of Lia Thomas
At 22 years old, swimmer Lia Thomas competed in the women’s category at the University of Pennsylvania after beginning her gender transition and doing so until 2019 in the men’s category. She was absent during the 2020-2021 season to lower her testosterone level and comply with the established rules, but the records she broke on her return to the pools sparked the debate. In fact, a group of families of other swimmers even wrote a letter to the United States University Sports Association (NCAA) in which they called the situation a “direct threat” to female athletes.
Sports authorities have used different techniques throughout history to “verify the sex” of athletes, some especially humiliating, such as the obligation to pose nude for a visual examination. The latest regulation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), from 2015, established that to participate in women’s categories, women must meet a maximum level of testosterone of 10 nanomoles per liter in blood, but has given the federations freedom to decide. In practice, the inclusion of trans women is regulated based on what they stipulate in their regulations. World Rugby, for example, has outright banned them from competing. However, there are voices that demand that these rules disappear as they consider them discriminatory and others that ask to tighten them even more.