My Initial Quick Impression of New FINA Rules for Trans Women in Swimming Competition

I’ve stated perviously in my blogs that I think reasonable criteria are essential to guide and set parameters for transgender participation in girls’ and women’s athletics. I oppose all prohibitions barring transgender people entirely from sports competition — the new cause célèbre among rightwing legislators — but I also oppose total inclusion without any guidelines or restrictions whatsoever. Fairness for all requires a level playing field, and admittedly this isn’t easy. There are complicated medical and social issues to sort out.

Unfortunately, new rules decided yesterday by FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), an organization governing international competition in aquatic sports, place transgender women in an impossible Catch-22. FINA’s new policy sets criteria for determining the eligibility of trans women to participate in women’s swimming competition — criteria that I predict will result in de facto exclusion.

For a trans woman to qualify, she must have “had male puberty suppressed beginning at Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.” (For reference — I skipped class that day and had to look it up — “Tanner Stage 2” is the point in male puberty where the testicles and skin around the scrotum begin to get bigger, and early stages of pubic hair form at the base of the penis.)


Here’s problem. The very people who will cheer this policy are also the ones who will oppose any action to medically suppress puberty at or before age 12. States across the country are making gender-affirming care to minors illegal. Alabama has made it a felony, though that portion of the law has been stayed by the U.S. District Court pending a challenge.

Under FINA’s new rules, trans girls and women can’t participate unless they get treatment that is legally forbidden, and which might send their parents and doctors to jail.

This is a new twist on a classic anti-LGBTQ+ ploy. In the days when I first came out, it was said gays were an immoral threat to society because we had dozens to hundreds of sexual partners. Thousands even! We’d have to have several different partners a day, everyday, to meet the numbers sometimes claimed! Fast forward to 2015 and then we were condemned for having committed monogamous relationships and wanting to marry. Once again we were an immoral threat to society that would undermine the entire institution of marriage.

It seems we can’t win for losing.


These articles report the new FINA policy.

FINA Restricts Transgender Women From Competing at Elite Level
New York Times

Transgender swimming ban: Cate Campbell backs Fina restrictions in elite women’s competition
The Guardian

FINA approves ‘gender inclusion policy’ for transgender swimmers
Fox News

Two selected posts from my other blog that address transgender issues.

To Be Transgender is to Be Human
November 30, 2021

Deja Vu All Over Again: The New Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks
May 27, 2022

Subsequently edited for clarity. Title image is by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash.
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