Canada has voted in favor of the world swimming body’s transgender policy

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

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In a policy that took 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 considering the creation of an open competition category.

The Canadian Swimming, Diving, Water Polo and Artistic Swimming Federations are represented at the FINA voting level by the Aquatics Canada Aquatics umbrella.

FINA said 71.5% of votes were cast in favor of the new policy.

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

“The values ​​of inclusion and fairness are fundamental to international sport competition and to us as Canadians. We believe this policy has been carefully crafted and protects competitive fairness, particularly in women’s events at FINA competitions.

“We also support the work that FINA will undertake to create a new category of open competitions, reflecting FINA’s commitment to inclusion.”

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

The International Olympic Committee released a framework in November on “equity, inclusion and non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual variation” and acknowledged that gender verification testing and forcing women to alter their hormone levels was harmful.

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

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FINA was the first major international sports federation to restrict transgender participation after the IOC released this framework, although World Rugby banned transgender women in 2020.

“It’s interesting to see two very different sports like rugby and swimming adopt very similar trans exclusion policies,” said Michele Donnelly, an assistant professor at Brock University who specializes in gender issues and social inequalities. in the sport.

“Between World Rugby and FINA, it feels like we’re stepping back and bowing to what I hope is a minority voice that’s just spreading fear.”

In addition, last week the International Cycling Union tightened the rules on transgender participation by reducing the maximum allowable testosterone level and increasing the transition period for low testosterone levels from one year to two, in order to to compete.

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

She finished fifth and eighth in the other two and did not set an NCAA record.

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“People who don’t care about women’s sport in any way, who have taken the issue as an opportunity to advance their transphobic platforms under the guise of fairness and competitive balance in women’s sport, it’s so frustrating, especially as someone who’s really invested in equality in sport and gender equality,” Donnelly said.

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“These are people who are silent as women’s sport continues to receive between two and five percent of sports media coverage and less in terms of resources at all levels.”

While several US states have recently legislated against the participation of trans women and girls in women’s and women’s sport, Professor Simon Fraser Travers says the climate around transgender participation is worse now than when they wrote the book. from 2018’s “The Trans Generation”. How trans kids (and their parents) are creating a gender revolution”.

“I’ve interviewed a lot of trans kids,” Travers said. “Participating in sports has been a real barrier for them. A lot of them don’t think that’s an option, which is a terrible thing for a child.

“Bans like this on the participation of trans women and girls in sport send a chilling and damaging message to children and young people. It really indicates that you are, we are, real strangers who don’t belong.

“The open division proposed by FINA is deeply problematic because it will stigmatize and isolate transgender women. It is not about inclusion, but about exclusion.

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

FINA says gender-affirming male-to-female transition procedures may ameliorate some, but not all, of the effects of testosterone on body structure and muscle function “but there will be lingering inherited effects that will give male transgender athletes -female (transgender females) a relative performance advantage over biological females.

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“A biological female athlete cannot overcome this advantage through training or nutrition.”

Travers doesn’t believe it.

“What’s considered fair and unfair is a social decision, and the science just doesn’t convincingly establish that trans women have an unfair advantage,” the professor said. “FINA’s decision is not based on solid scientific evidence.”

Donnelly, who is also a roller derby athlete in the Niagara region, served on the board of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association when it reviewed a gender equality policy in place since 2015.

“I would say roller derby was ahead of the curve in terms of recognizing the issues of all sorts of biological and physiological politics,” she said.

“So we’ve ultimately determined a self-declaration policy that says, among other things, that if women’s flat track roller derby is the version and composition of roller derby that you most identify with, it’s the place for you.

“I think it’s extremely important as an athlete to be able to step into the space where you play and know that both among your teammates and among your opponents, your right to be there is recognized by everyone. “

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