A decision to, in effect, ban transgender women from elite level international competition is based on opinion not science, say Australian researchers who argue that the jury is out on whether they have a biological advantage over cisgender women.
World swimming body, FINA, adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday
that only permits swimmers who transitioned before age 12 to compete in women’s events. The organisation also proposed to create a working group to establish an “open category” for transgender women in some events as part of its new policy.
FINA’s decision – which is the strictest ruling from an Olympic sports body – states that male-to-female transgender athletes are eligible to compete, only if “they can establish to FINA’s comfortable satisfaction that they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 [which marks the start of physical development in puberty] or before age 12, whichever is later”.
Associate Professor Ada Cheung, a leading endocrinologist at Austin Health, said medical transitions have a range of complicated effects on the body, and cast doubt on whether this translates to a biological advantage for trans women in sport.
“We actually don’t know if there’s a biological advantage for trans women over cisgender women because the science is not clear,” Cheung, who leads the Trans Health Research program, in partnership with the University of Melbourne said.
“FINA’s report is really based on a group of people’s opinion, it’s not a gold standard. No research has really been done into trans female swimmers or any elite athletes that are transgender. The jury is out.”
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