UK PM and Sport Minister Back Ban on Trans Swimmers From Women's Events
17:09 GMT 20.06.2022 (Updated: 17:23 GMT 20.06.2022)
© AFP 2022 / JOSEPH PREZIOSOIn this file photo taken on February 19, 2022 transgender swimmer Lia Thomas (2nd L) of Penn University and transgender swimmer Iszac Henig (L) of Yale pose with their medals after placing first and second in the 100-yard freestyle swimming race at the 2022 Ivy League Women's Swimming & Diving Championships at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Swimming federation FINA voted through a new set of gender inclusion rules over the weekend, including forbidding biologically-male athletes from competing in international women's events if they have passed through puberty.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed the International Swimming Federation's decision to ban trans athletes from competing against women in high-level competitions.
Johnson joined Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Nadine Dorries in welcoming the announcement by the body, known by its French acronym FINA, over the weekend.
"The Prime Minister believes decisions are ultimately for sporting bodies but we welcome that FINA have taken a decision at the elite level which has been considered and based upon fairness and inclusion," a Downing Street spokesperson said.
"The culture secretary, as she said yesterday, is looking at how we can support and bring sporting bodies together on what is a very complex issue," the statement added.
A majority of the federation's 152 members (71 percent) voted to back a new set of gender inclusion rules. One of those is that biologically-male athletes will no longer be allowed to compete in the women's category at international contests such as the Olympics if they have passed through puberty.
The rules also create a new "open" category for transsexual swimmers, allowing athletes such as US college champion Lia Thomas to compete internationally despite having transitioned as an adult.
Trans women can still compete against biological women "provided they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2" — the onset of physical development — "or before age 12, whichever is later," the FINA policy states.
However, prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to children as part of a 'transition' process remains controversial, and Johnson has previously said counselling for teens showing signs of gender dysphoria will be excluded from a ban on 'conversion therapy' for LGBT people.
Dorries was more forthright than Johnson when interviewed on the matter by LBC radio on Sunday, saying other sports should follow the lead taken by FINA and British Cycling. The cycling federation recently reversed its decision to allow trans cyclists to compete against women following the outcry over Emily Bridges, who had ranked third in the men's junior competition before transitioning and recorded course times two minutes faster than the reigning women's champion.
"It is just unacceptable that trans women compete in women's sport," the culture secretary said.
"I've been of the opinion FINA came to today for a long time, and have discussed this with my own department and established a policy," Dorries added. "I'm going to encourage other sports [to do the same]... We're about to have a roundtable with all of the sports governing bodies."
Trans rights activists have dubbed the UK "TERF Island" — after the pejorative term for feminists who do not believe trans women are literally female — for for not allowing transsexuals access to the single-sex spaces of their choice on the basis of 'self-identification' alone. But some British feminists have responded by embracing the nickname.