It was awesome to wake up to the news today that another sporting body has made a decision to protect women’s sports at the elite level. FINA – swimming’s world governing body – alongside World Rugby, has now implemented new transgender participation policies to protect women’s participation. Back in October 2020, World Rugby were the first major sporting body to protect women’s sports, which resulted in much outrage. The usual stuff. But World Rugby have stood strong in their faith in the robust and in-depth research they did comparing women with transwomen (men who identify as women), which showed that transwomen retained too much male strength to make it safe for them to play a physical contact sport with women. Now FINA’s new policies also ensure that when women are competing at swimming’s elite level they are not competing against testosterone-lowered males who have gone through the physical prowess-enhancing process of puberty – i.e. transwomen. No matter how much men’s testosterone is lowered, they never completely negate the considerable physical advantage that going through puberty bestows on them.
Although there are still many who dispute the above point, the fact remains that women athletes who artificially raise their testosterone levels never become equal to their male counterparts, when comparing like for like. If all it took was an adjustment of testosterone, either up or down, to become like the opposite sex, then women athletes who raised theirs would be competitive with men athletes at the same levels as they were with women beforehand, but they’re not. It may suck big time, but we can’t escape the fact that puberty builds men physically in a way which women can never equal.
Of course, all the news headlines are calling it a restriction on transwomen, instead of a protection for women*. No surprises there. The mainstream media has been favouring transpeople for quite some time now, and not given the time of day to women who are not coping well with having transwomen in our spaces and sports. For the record, I believe that transgender people are entitled to rights and safeties like anyone, but in the case of transwomen these are parallel to women’s, not the same. Bodies matter, and whether we like it or not, and irrespective of how much they’re surgically altered, women’s and men’s bodies are different. If they weren’t, women wouldn’t need the special rights and safeties we have. Our sexed bodies are the foundation of all we do and experience in life.
FINA’s rules now state that no male who has gone though puberty may compete in women’s sports. Any male who wishes to do so must have begun the transition to female before twelve years old. At first glance, this seems shocking, and indeed many people, including women, have jumped straight to the matter of how this could go wrong. It’s true there’s a possibility that some boys may get pressured into transitioning to female before puberty, and before they’re really emotionally mature enough to make that decision. There are already examples of this, which so far seem to be associated to the kid not fitting the stereotype for their sex, rather than associated with sports. However, the unconscionable things parents can do in pursuit of moulding their kids into the kids they desire is not a foul that women athletes should be forced to own and be punished for. That is a different fight. Yes, it should be addressed, but defaulting to the easy fix of forcing women to move aside for male-bodied transwomen so that some unscrupulous parents don’t pressure their sons into transitioning at a young age is not an acceptable fix.
To their credit, FINA are committed to finding a way that transgender athletes can still participate in sports. It’s a worthy commitment, as sports are a proven way to help both physical and mental wellbeing. But we women fought tooth and nail for our sports (as we have for everything we’ve achieved) and even though there are some women who declare that they’re happy to compete with transwomen athletes, it’s the group of women athletes as a whole which must be considered. We base rules around groups, not around individuals, and men are bigger and stronger than women as a group, even when testosterone levels have been reduced. This is just how it is, like it or not.
So, thank you FINA for doing the right thing for women. Although it may be hard to see right now, it will be the right thing for transwomen swimmers, too, as I’m sure it will give rise to new categories, participation, and interest – and far less controversy.
*Swimming: Governing body FINA votes to restrict transgender athletes from competing in women’s competitions | Newshub
6 thoughts on “FINA, the world governing body for swimming, protects women’s swimming at last.”
Well written Katrina.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Yes, I saw that. Amazing how far trans activists will go to protest against what’s common sense, and with no real rational case. I think it’s good they’re looking at putting together some kind of third competition stream.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Yes I also saw this and it’s good news indeed. But we’ve still got FIFA and UCI doing the opposite so a long way to go yet.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I know! We’re hoping FINA’s decision might make them pause. Not holding our breath, but fingers crossed. It’s ridiculous to have male bodies in women’s sport and try and pretend there’s no difference just because they’ve lowered their testosterone.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Research didn’t begin in earnest until 2015 (arguably) and is still being pioneered by the brave few. It’s clear that a male’s athletic performance level drops during and after transition and can continue to change as testosterone blockers do their job. But is it not true that male musculature is different to begin with? That base line fluctuates with exercise, diet, etc., and genetics plays a role, but if the starting point is not the same…well, how is equality ever garnered?
My femaleness is reliant on many things – culture, economics, education, sense of self, and now, age, to name but a few. When little, I wanted to be a boy. Boys had so much more freedom, privilege, voice, and aptitude. They could be – well – anything. And like many women, I suffered (still do) from varying degrees of body dysmorphia which were not necessarily related to my childhood desire to be a male but rather by society’s expectations for me as a girl. However, I digress.
I grow increasingly weary of the never ending pushback, or in feminist parlance ‘backlash’, by a patriarchal elite that continues to define the role of women in the world. I now refuse to be held to a standard of ability or skill or intellect that is set by that ‘group’. And yes, I’m not even addressing aspects of safety, accountability, or even respect because to me, they are in the same box.
In time, as scientists continue to explore and test variables for transgender women, the facts will stand. There will be exceptions and rules. Some will like the rules, some will contest them. Such is life. As for me, I’ll always recall that little girl who felt boys had more options, more power, and more voice, and be happy women like you, Katrina, use their voice to speak for them.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thanks, Frances. No matter what we do, how we behave, what surgeries or hormones we take, we can’t alter our fundamental biology – and our biology determines much of how we live and experience life. As a young woman, I certainly tried to deny that out of determination to have what men had and not be thought less of, but as I got older and wiser I realised that we simply can’t deny our biology. Being brutally honest is hard, because we then have to confront what that means about who we thought we were, but ultimately no more pretence does set us free in a different way. We can always be the people we want to be, but we can’t deny our biology. Although it may seem like a paradox, this has actually made me feel much stronger in myself.
LikeLiked by 3 people