Canada votes in favor of FINA’s transgender policy

Canada has voted in favor of a controversial gender policy released this week by swimming’s world governing body.

In a policy that went into effect on Monday, FINA only allows transgender swimmers who transition from male to female before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events.

FINA is contemplating the establishment of an open competition category.

The Canadian swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming federations are represented at the FINA vote level by the Aquatics Canada Aquatiques umbrella.

FINA claimed 71.5% of the votes supported the new policy.

“Canada voted in favor of FINA’s gender inclusion policy,” president Kelly Stark-Anderson told the Canadian Press in an email Tuesday.

“The values ​​of inclusion and fairness are fundamental in international sport and for us as Canadians. We believe this policy has been thoughtfully formulated and protects fair competition, especially in women’s events at FINA competitions.

“We also support the work FINA will do to create a new open competition category that reflects FINA’s commitment to inclusion.”

Canadian athletes currently compete at the biannual World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

The International Olympic Committee released in November a framework for “fairness, inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender variations” and acknowledged that gender verification testing and asking women to regulate their hormone levels is harmful.

The IOC also loads the responsibility of determining the criteria for women’s competition, and whether an athlete has an unfair advantage on the court, to international sports federations.

FINA is the first major international sports federation to restrict transgender participation after the IOC announced that framework, even though World Rugby banned transgender women in 2020.

“It is interesting to see how two very different sports like rugby and swimming have very similar transgender exclusion policies,” said assistant professor Michele Donnelly of Brock University, who specializes in transgender practices. gender issues and social inequality in sport, said.

“Between World Rugby and FINA, it feels like stepping back and really bowing to what I hope is a minority voice just exercising real fear.”

Additionally, the International Cycling Union last week tightened regulations on transgender participation by reducing the maximum allowable testosterone levels and increasing the transition period for low testosterone levels from one year to one year. two years, to compete.

FINA’s announcement on Sunday following the vote came just weeks after the NCAA swimming championships in Atlanta, where transgender woman Lia Thomas won one of three finals.

She finished fifth and eighth of the other two and didn’t set an NCAA record.

“Those who are not interested in women’s sport in any way or form, who see this issue as an opportunity to raise their advocacy base under the guise of fair and balanced competition in Women’s sports are frustrating, especially for people Donnelly says.

“These are the people who say nothing as women’s sport continues to receive between two and five percent of all sports media and less in resources at every level.”

With several US states recently enacted laws against transgender women and girls from participating in women’s and girls’ sports, said Professor Simon Fraser, Travers. The current situation around transgender engagement is worse than it was when they authored the 2018 book “The Transgender Generation. How Trans Kids (And Their Parents) Are Making a Gender Revolution”.

“I interviewed a lot of transgender kids,” says Travers. “Getting into sports is a real barrier for them. Many of them feel it’s not an option, it’s a bad thing for a child.

“Bans like these on the participation of transgender women and girls in sport send a chilling and damaging message to children and young people. It really turns out that you are, we are, real outsiders that don’t belong.

“The public segregation proposed by FINA is a profound problem because it would stigmatize and isolate transgender women. It’s not about inclusion, it’s about exclusion. ”

FINA argues that higher testosterone levels in men from puberty onward give them a competitive edge in water sports.

FINA says male-to-female sex reassignment procedures may reduce some, but not all, of testosterone’s effects on body structure and muscle function “but will have legacy effects” persistence would give male-to-female (trans-female) athletes a relative performance advantage over biological females.

“A biological female athlete cannot overcome that advantage through exercise or nutrition.”

Travers didn’t buy that.

“What is considered fair and unfair is a social decision, and science just doesn’t conclusively confirm that transgender women have an unfair advantage,” the professor said. “The FINA ruling is not based on unequivocal scientific evidence.”

Donnelly, also a Niagara-based roller derby, served on the board of directors of the Women’s Flat Road Derby Association when the organization revised its gender policy since 2015.

“I would say the roller derby was ahead of the curve in terms of recognizing problems with any kind of biological, physiological policy,” she said.

“So we ended up defining a self-declared policy that, among other things, that if the women’s flat-roller derby is the version and composition of the taxi derby that you clearly define best, then this is the place for you.

“I think it is extremely important that an athlete be able to go into the space where you are playing and know that both your teammates, as well as your opponents, that your right to be present is recognized by everyone. take.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on June 21, 2022.

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