A Kiwi transgender athlete speaks out against the World Federation of Swimming effectively banning transgender women from competing in women’s events.
Mountain biker Kate Weatherly told Breakfast it’s “pretty scary” some people think trans women are going to ruin women’s sport.
Her comments come after FINA approved a new “Gender Inclusion Policy” on Monday, allowing only swimmers who transition before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events.
“This does not mean that people are encouraged to switch until the age of 12. It’s what the scientists say you have an advantage if you switch after puberty starts, which is unfair,” a spokesman for the FINA President said.
READ MORE: World Swimming bans transgender athletes from women’s events
Weatherly said there are “much bigger problems” with women’s sports than with transgender athletes, such as economic disadvantage and the opportunity to achieve “rights in general”.
“The idea of a bunch of trans women getting into a sport – and often not even winning – and that’s what’s going to ruin women’s sport is pretty terrifying.”
Weatherly said, “We are all women,” and urged other sports to stop trying to separate transgender and cisgender women.
She noted that trans women must compete in a separate, different category — FINA proposes an “open competition category” — designed to help “other” trans people progress.
Weatherly also said such a category would limit competitiveness due to the small number of transgender athletes.
The mountain biker said FINA’s policy is a “very hard and dry line” and its new rules masquerading as comprehensive. Weatherly said that the Directive is essentially prohibited from participating in competitions.
Weatherly said some people ignore the downsides of transition, which means transgender athletes have longer recovery times, lower red blood cell counts, and greater difficulty building and maintaining muscle.
Trans athletes’ testosterone levels are also often lowered “very low” than those of cisgender women, Weatherly said.
A “very dangerous” precedent
A New Zealand professor who works in the field of exercise sociology told Breakfast she finds FINA’s policies “deeply disappointing and very disturbing”.
“FINA calls this a gendered policy, but in reality it is an exclusionary and discriminatory policy. It sets a very dangerous precedent for other sports and creates an exclusionary environment,” said Holly Thorpe.
Like Weatherly, Thorpe said it was “absolutely not true” that transgender women are endangering women’s sport.
“I’ve spent nearly two decades of my life researching and advocating for women in sport and some people say it’s endangering women’s sport. That is absolutely not true. Transgender athletes are not a risk of women’s sports, ”she said.
“I really hope that our sports organizations in Aotearoa New Zealand really come from a place of inclusion because this is a dangerous moment.
“I think other sports organizations are jumping on this bandwagon, which I think is very problematic, and we need to make sure that these processes are transparent, that they are accountable and that they are putting human rights in perspective here.”
Other sports have also checked their rules for transgender athletes.
The cycling federation recently updated its eligibility rules for transgender athletes with stricter limits, forcing riders to wait longer before being able to compete.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) extended the low testosterone transition period to two years and lowered the maximum accepted testosterone level. The previous transition period was 12 months, but the UCI said recent scientific studies show that “expected adjustments in muscle mass and muscle strength/power” in athletes who have made the transition from male to female take at least two years.