Transgender swim ban: Cate Campbell backs Fina restrictions

Australian Olympic champion Cate Campbell has backed Fina’s vote to ban transgender women from participating in elite women’s swimming competitions. †

Fina’s historic decision has also drawn criticism; the policy change has been opposed by transgender advocacy groups and swimmer Maddie Groves described it as “discriminatory and unscientific”.

On Monday, at the World Championships in Budapest, 71% of the 152 national federations of the global governing body voted in favor of proposed new rules which stipulated that male-to-female transgender athletes were now only allowed to compete in the female category, provided they had not experienced any physical parts of male puberty.

It also promised to create a working group to establish an “open” category for trans women who do not meet the new criteria to race as women.

Before the vote, Fina heard evidence from scientists, lawyers and top female athletes, including Campbell.

Campbell said in her speech that she believes in inclusion, and reflected on her move to Australia from Malawi as a nine-year-old. The four-time Olympic gold medalist said she wants transgender and gender diverse people to be “part of the wider swimming community”.

Ultimately, she said, however, that women’s struggles to “be included and seen as equals in sport” would have been possible only because of their gender segregation, and that removing it “would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.” .

“We see you, appreciate you and accept you,” Campbell told Congress. “However, my role is also to stand up for this, having asked our global government, Fina, to examine, deliberate and uphold the cornerstone of fairness in elite women’s competition.

“And it pains me that this part of my role can hurt, infuriate and potentially alienate people from an already marginalized trans community.

“Believe me, I struggled long and hard with myself, with what to say and do. I am aware that my actions and words, whatever I say, will anger some people – whether they are from the trans community or the cisgender women’s community.

“However, I ask everyone to take a breath, absorb before responding. Listen to the science and experts. Listen to the people standing up here and telling you how difficult it has been to reconcile inclusion and fairness.”

“There is no question that men and women are physiologically different. We are only now beginning to explore and understand the origins of these physiological differences and the lasting effects of exposure to different hormones.

“Women, who have fought long and hard to be included in the sport and seen as equals, can only do this because of the distinction between men and women. Removing that distinction would be to the detriment of female athletes everywhere.”

Madeline Groves with her silver medal at the 2016 Olympics
Madeline Groves, a double silver medalist in the 2016 Olympics, called the Fina ban “discriminatory and unscientific.” Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Groves tweeted her opinion on Monday, partially quoting the end of Campbell’s speech, which read: “I also hope that a young child of different genders can walk into a swimming club and feel the same level of acceptance as a nine-year-old immigrant boy from Africa who already has. who did years ago.”

Groves replied, “So you forbid them to compete with their peers? Are you okay with excluding an already marginalized group? Really accept it.

“There are already people of different genders in swimming and I suspect they don’t feel very accepted [right now]† Shame on anyone who supports this discriminatory and unscientific decision.”

Just.Equal, an LGBTIQ lobbying, advocacy and campaigning group, called on Fina to “reexamine the decision.”

“The decision to isolate trans women in their own poolside jobs means that they basically cannot compete at the elite level because they will be competing against themselves,” said Just.Equal advisor, Sally Goldner.

“We question a process that was undertaken in secret, and ask whether transgender people have been consulted about their lives or whether this decision was imposed on us without consultation.”

Other way around, Swimming Australia praised Fina for its “comprehensive process” in shaping the policy, the clarity it provides regarding all Fina-recognized competitions and world records, and its commitment to creating an open competition category.

“Swimming Australia endorses a competitive environment that is fair and equitable for all athletes at the highest level of performance, and we believe this new policy reflects that position,” it said in a statement.

“We also strongly believe in inclusiveness and the opportunity for all athletes to experience the sport of swimming in a way that is consistent with their gender identity and expression. It is both our responsibility and our commitment to continue to learn and educate ourselves about the right balance in this space.”

Seebohm, meanwhile, was “just thankful that we finally have a decision”. “We have a direction,” she told the Nine Network. “We’re not saying no to transgender athletes, we’re saying yes, we’re going to create a category for you.”

Seebohm said swimmers had found it difficult to speak in public about “such a difficult topic”. “Because you’re afraid of cancellation culture, right? That’s something like that. If you say the wrong thing, you’re done,” she said.

“I think it was a matter of an Australian athlete once saying ‘let’s get up’. We all feel the same, only we were all too scared to be the first to speak.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese offered tacit approval and criticized the coalition’s handling of the debate over trans women in sport in the last election.

“This is one of the reasons why … no attempt should have been made during the last federal election campaign to make this a political issue,” Albanian said. “Guidelines are very clear that it is up to sports organizations. They will make their decisions based on their assessments and it is appropriate. We should not use vulnerable people, put them in a situation where some side of politics is trying to take a political advantage of that.”

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