Earlier this week, FINA, the world’s governing body for swimming, voted with 71 percent approval that transgender women must have transitioned before the age of 12 in order to compete in women’s swimming events, essentially putting up significant barriers for trans women to compete in swimming competitions. The move has yielded plenty of discussion in the days since, and Laura Jane Grace, vocalist for Against Me!, has offered her opinion on transgender athletes in sports via social media.
The subject of transgender women in swimming came to the forefront earlier this year when University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won the NCAA women’s 500-meter freestyle title, becoming the first transgender female to win an NCAA women’s swimming championship.
According to the policy ruling, as shared by NPR, “Transgender women must show that ‘they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later,’ a move that effectively eliminates their eligibility to compete in the women’s category. Tanner Stages describe the physical changes people undergo during puberty.”
Citing a “performance gap,” FINA went on to state, “Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, we are very unlikely to see biological females in finals, on podiums, or in championship positions; and in sports and events involving collisions and projectiles, biological female athletes would be at greater risk of injury” as part of their updated policy.
Grace publicly came out as transgender in 2012 and addressed some of what she went through within the 2014 Against Me! album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Speaking on the topic of transgender athletes in sports, she commented, “As a person who is transgender and also a parent I say that if sports can’t figure out a way to let everyone be included and play and have a good time then no one gets to play, give me the ball and everyone go home.”
The statement raised plenty of discussion commenting on certain specifics concerning hormonal requirements of the athletes and the physical nature of the competition.
Later, Grace commented on the backlash she has faced on social media, explaining, “The list of people I have blocked or on ‘mute’ is a holy grail level manifest of transphobes.”
She would then elaborate on her initial statement in a more tongue in cheek manner, commenting, “I don’t think anyone should be allowed to play sports. Every team should be disbanded and their stadiums razed.”
After news of the FINA policy ruling was made public, there was outcry from multiple organizations on the standard that this sets.
Anne Lieberman, the director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally who seek equality in sports, called the new policy, “discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” and something that runs contrary to the International Olympic Committee’s guidance concerning trans athletes.
“The eligibility criteria for the women’s category as it is laid out in the policy police the bodies of all women, and will not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category,” Lieberman said.
The Human Rights Campaign also called the decision a “blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate for years without issue.”
The new FINA policy went into effect as of Monday (June 20).
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