Swim England, the governing body for swimming, diving and para-swimming in England, has announced an updated transgender policy for competitive swimming. The policy introduces an ‘open’ category for transgender athletes to compete against born males, and preserves the ‘female’ category exclusively for athletes who were born female. Those who self-identify as female, will not be able to compete in women’s recreational water polo at senior level due to safety concerns.
The policy emphasizes the need to prioritize fairness in competition while also providing ‘inclusive opportunities’ for transgender athletes. Swim England’s statement continued to say that even though testosterone reduction can reduce the advantage for trans athletes competing against women, there is still a likely advantage. As a result, the restriction of certain competitions to birth-sex females is viewed as justifiable.
UK Athletics likewise introduced a policy which bans transgender athletes from participating in women’s competition if they have gone through male puberty; however FINA (the international governing body for swimming) has excluded transgender athletes from women’s competition if they have gone through male puberty.
Swim England conducted a consultation of more than 2,000 members and stakeholders which resulted in the updated policy. This policy will be implemented in September and will apply to swimming, artistic swimming, diving and water polo events where timings and competition are considered important.
The policy has been welcomed by Olympic swimming medallist, Sharron Davies. She expressed her thanks for protecting the rights of female athletes for fair sport, and praised the policy for providing the opportunity for clubs to have ‘unlicensed events’.
Mike Hawkes, Swim England’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion recognised that the topic of transgender athletes is contentious, and there will be questions and blowback. Nonetheless, he believes that the policy provides ‘grass-roots inclusion up to the highest level possible’.