On Sunday, FINA, the international governing body for swimming, released a new transgender participation policy for athletes, which is more restrictive and extreme than any existing policies and is sure to have ripple effects in the world of swimming. sport.
It prohibits any trans-female athlete who transitioned after the age of 12 from competing in the women’s division of elite swimming competitions, as well as requiring chromosomal verification of all athletes. It also offers a third “open” division for transgender people who have gone through any part of a testosterone-induced puberty. Such an extremely restrictive policy is not supported by the available science on the impact of testosterone on athletic performance, and it is also out of step with the International Olympic Committee’s new framework for transgender inclusion.
Trans people in sports are usually ignored until they start winning; then they become threats to the status quo.
A restrictive policy like this dehumanizes transgender athletes, reducing them to their bodies and their biology. It erases their humanity, placing the perceived fairness of a sporting competition (and one has to ask, fair to whom?) above the rights of an entire class of people. Ultimately, he considers only those who can exercise their transness in some way worthy of being allowed to compete in an athletic arena.
But there is more than that too. These types of policies filter transsexuality through a cisgender lens, distorting it into something that cissexist society can understand. It is prescriptive of how people should be trans; not all trans people transition from one seemingly binary gender to another. There are as many ways to be trans as there are people in the world, and not everyone wants hormones or surgery as part of their transition. These policies also equate transiting with medical intervention, invalidating the trans identity of people who cannot or choose not to seek medical transitioning.
And, perhaps most damaging of all, a framework that requires trans people to have begun medical transition before puberty seeks to establish a hierarchy in which people who have awareness and access to transition in the childhood are deemed more acceptable or less threatening and therefore “better.”
Why can cisgender people make policies that govern the bodies of transgender people? The trans community is constantly blocked from accessing the gender-affirming care that cis people are allowed: hormone blockers or hormone therapy such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, spironolactone and finasteride are regularly prescribed to cis people. Not to mention hair removal procedures, hair transplants, and a variety of plastic surgery procedures, including breast augmentations, facial and lip fillers, vaginoplasties, liposuction, muscle implants, and more. which are provided to cisgender people for reasons that include increased self-confidence and making them feel more comfortable in their bodies.
Such a policy also shows the impossible situation in which the cisnormative establishment places transgender people when they only want to exist.
Given that the trans community has become the greatest enemy of the political right, presented as a threat to the safety and well-being of people (cisgender, heterosexual) in the United States, this new policy is simply dangerous.
According to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, nearly 670 bills have been introduced since 2018 that seek to regulate or roll back the rights of LGBTQ people. in the United States or to deny access to full participation in public life. And this year, 65% of anti-LGBTQ legislation that has been introduced has specifically targeted transgender people.
The FINA policy is a logical extension of the transgender panic stoked by right-wing political actors (and reinforced by mainstream media coverage that presents “both sides” of what is essentially a human rights issue). It’s also a direct result of the occasional athletic success that transgender athletes are beginning to have — especially trans women like swimmer Lia Thomas, who recently became the first openly trans woman to win an NCAA swimming title, and the New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who last summer became the first openly trans woman to compete in the Olympics (where she did not win a medal). Trans people in sports are usually ignored until they start winning; then they become threats to the status quo.
Such a policy also shows in what impossible situation the cisnormative establishment puts transgender people when they only want to exist and have access to the same rights as everyone else. According to the Movement Advancement Project, an independent think tank that has tracked anti-LGBTQ bills, at least 22 states are trying to ban teens from accessing gender-affirming care, making it impossible to transition before the age of 12.
Also, a lot of things have to go right for kids to start blocking puberty and transitioning when they’re young: they need to know they’re trans at that age, which a lot of kids don’t know; they must have supportive parents (large numbers of LGBTQ youth report being kicked out of their homes because of their identity, with the highest number of transgender youth); and they must be able to access or pay for gender-affirming care (relevant to socio-economic status).
In the end, a policy like FINA’s only proves one thing: the perspective and comfort of cisgender people was centered above all else. It is ironic that a policy designed to dictate the participation of a community of people can be so far removed from the lived reality and needs of that community. FINA has proven that the goal is not to find a way for transgender athletes to enter the sport; it’s about finding new and more twisted ways to deny them access to public life, whether it’s sports, medical care or the chance to fully exist in the world.