Swim England updates transgender policy with 'open' category

by Reuters
Tuesday, 4 April 2023 08:20 GMT

A swimmer competes on the opening day of the Scottish Winter Swimming Championships at Taymouth Marina, Kenmore, Scotland, Britain February 24, 2023. REUTERS/Lee Smith

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Swim England announced a transgender and non-binary policy with a 'female' category for athletes with a declared birth sex of female and a new 'open' category for everyone else

LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - Swim England announced an updated transgender and non-binary policy on Monday with a 'female' category restricted to athletes with a declared birth sex of female and a new 'open' category for everyone else.

The national governing body for swimming in England said the policy, which comes into effect in September, would apply to its swimming, artistic swimming, diving and water polo competitions.

The 'open' category will be for those with a birth sex of male, trans or non-binary competitors.

The policy also allows athletes to self-ID in low-level unlicensed, or recreational, events.

Water polo, which stands apart as a contact sport, will allow self-ID up to the age of 16 after which competition will be divided into 'female' and 'open' categories for safety reasons.

"It is widely recognised that fairness of competition must be protected and Swim England believes the creation of open and female categories is the best way to achieve this," it said in a statement.

"The updated policy ensures there are entry-level competitive opportunities for transgender people to participate in the majority of our disciplines within their gender identity.

"In order to progress further, however, the Female/Open categories are utilised as a means to protect fair competition within the sporting pathway."

Swim England said it saw a general consensus that post-puberty transgender females retained a biological level of performance advantage post-transition.

It said that although hormonal therapy reduced performance advantage, it was unable to negate it completely.

"As a result, Swim England believes that the restriction of certain competition to birth sex females to be justified and proportionate in the pursuit of fair competition."

The transgender youth charity Mermaids called on Swim England to reverse its decision.

"Swim England's trans policy is disappointing. While trans kids can play authentically in non-competitive environments, the policy fundamentally denies trans girls the right to compete as themselves," it said on Twitter.

World Aquatics voted last year to restrict participation of transgender athletes in elite women's competitions and create a working group to establish an open category.

World Athletics last month banned transgender women from competing in elite female competitions and tightened testosterone restrictions for other athletes. read more

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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