The International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday New framework for transgender athletes, as well as those born with intersex conditions that eschew a “one-size-fits-all” approach in favor of encouraging each sport’s governing body to come up with appropriate policies.
why it matters: The first openly transgender athletes competed in the Tokyo Olympics, 17 years after the IOC rules allowed them to participate for the first time, while many female athletes excluded themselves from the Olympic Games based on their natural testosterone levels .
description: The new policy sets guidelines for each sport’s international governing body to consider when setting policies on eligibility for trans athletes as well as those born with intersex status.
- The guidelines encourage – but do not require – such governing bodies to avoid using unnecessary medical tests or procedures as part of determining eligibility.
- The framework also notes that there is no medical consensus that testosterone levels alone confer an unfair advantage to transgender or intersex athletes.
- The IOC encourages decisions based on evidence of an individual’s benefit, rather than on the basis of an athlete’s appearance or identity.
between the lines: Importantly, the Framework notes that sex testing, genital inspection and other medical procedures put all athletes at risk of harm and abuse, not just trans, intersex and non-binary athletes.
yes butThe new IOC framework is not legally binding on individual sports governing bodies, which remain free to set their own rules for eligibility.
big pictureMost object to trans participation in sports centers on transgender women, and some believe that trans women retain an unfair advantage even after taking hormones to lower testosterone.
- The science on that is inconclusive, not to mention the fact that non-transgender women have a wide range of naturally occurring testosterone levels.
remembrance: The IOC initially allowed transgender women to compete back in 2003, but this required gender reassignment surgery. It later eliminated that requirement, but set a maximum testosterone level for transgender women to compete in.
- Openly transgender New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competed in Tokyo, but did not complete the qualifying lift. Her presence is still an important milestone for transgender women in sport.
- Canadian soccer player Quinn, who identifies as both transgender and nonbinary, won a gold medal in Tokyo. (Quinn previously competed for Team Canada, winning a bronze medal in Rio in 2016, but only sharing her transgender and non-binary identity in 2020.)
- Meanwhile, US skateboarder Alana Smith had misidentified her gender on television, even though she literally wrote “they/they” on her skateboard, a slight that prompted an apology from NBC.
- Openly transgender BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe was a substitute for Team USA in Tokyo, but did not compete at the Games.
- Intersex athletes continue to be excluded from competition due to regulations by their sport’s governing bodies, including South African sprinter Castor Semenya, a former Olympic medalist.
what are they saying: “I think we can clearly say that we did not find” NS The solution to this big question, “IOC Corporate Communications Director Christian Clough said during an online roundtable with reporters, requires more research. “It is a topic that will be with us for a long time.”
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