After several recent gender identity and sexuality issues have caught national headlines, members of the Georgia LSC Athletes Committee have been discussing what they view as a needed change to bring greater equality for all into the sport of swimming. Specifically, the group of athletes that represent the membership of the USA Swimming clubs in the state are proposing a change in the gender-defined racing groups within Georgia Swimming. Specifically, eleven members of the Georgia Athlete Committee sent us statements offering their opinions about adding transgender/mixed events to swim meets.
“I feel like you should treat them equally! Don’t make them feel like they stand out. If they feel led to come out, then that is their decisions, they shouldn’t be treated any better or any worse than they were before. I have a couple of friends who have come out and it takes a lot of guts for them to do that. If someone is transgender, then I feel like they should be allowed to swim in the gender category that they feel called to! They did not choose the way they were born. It’s like me, I was born with many birth defects, but I wouldn’t want my friends to treat me any differently. I feel like equality is important!”
The National Committee for Diversity and Inclusion reached out to the Georgia Athlete committee to gather their opionions on the subject. Today the Committee has a conference call scheduled with the Georgia Swimming LSC to talk about the inclusion of the LGBT swimmers. The Georgia athlete representatives have been discussing the matter leading up today’s conference call. It is a relatively new topic to USA swimming, and therefore the Georgia Athlete Representatives hope to discuss the issue at the Aquatic Sports convention, a USA Swimming event, in Kansas City at the end of September. Talking about the topic at the convention will then lead to discussions at the LSC meeting with the Georgia Swimming LSC staff.
Recently, the Harvard Men’s Swim Team accepted one of the NCAA’s first openly transgender swimmer.
Schuyler Bailar swims for Nation’s Capital Swim Club and was recruited to swim for the Harvard women’s team. With best times of 1:03.35 in the 100 breaststroke, 2:17.60 in the 200 breaststroke, and 55.94 in the 100 butterfly, Bailar was lined up to be a consistent scorer for the women’s team at the Ivy League Championships.
Eventually, Harvard coaches talked and the university offered Bailar a spot on either the men’s or women’s team.
Bailar decided to undergo a sex change, and now self-identifies as a male. He will be an active member of the Harvard men’s swim team starting this fall, and is taking testosterone treatments as well.
The NCAA already has a policy regarding transgender athletes. They support all transgender athletes and often allow transgender athletes to compete on teams of either sex, depending on their hormone use. The full publication from the NCAA can be found by clicking here.
USA swimming also has a rule regarding the issue of gender expression, both in the form of a general rule of inclusion, and more specifically.
USA Swimming, whose recommended practices on inclusion of minor transgendered athletes, can be read in full here, says that minor athletes should be allowed to compete with whichever gender they identify, regardless of what their birth certificate says.
Susan Woessner, the organization’s Director of Safe Sport, says that there’s a key difference in the development of USA Swimming and NCAA policies.
“It’s important to understand that the NCAA’s guidelines require medical intervention and are focused on adult aged athletes who are in position to make that decision for themselves. USA Swimming’s guidelines are specific to inclusion of minors who are transgender. We felt strongly that USA Swimming should not advocate or require that children undergo medical intervention, either medicinally or surgically, in order to participate in USA Swimming.”
The Georgia Swimming athlete representatives told us they want to make sure nobody is being discriminated against. Some representatives were worried not allowing transgender swimmers to compete within the gender they identify as is discriminating against them, while a few believed allowing swimmers to compete with a gender other than the one they were born with could lend a competitive advantage to that swimmer and would be unfair to the non-transgender athletes.
USA Swimming Rule 304.3.3:
“Discrimination in violation of the Amateur Sports Act which requires that USA Swimming must provide an equal opportunity to athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators, and officials to participate in the sport of swimming. Athletes must be allowed to participate and compete to the fullest extent allowed by the Rules and Regulations. Discrimination against any member or participant on the basis of age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, reli- gion, sexual orientation, gender expression, genetics, mental or physical disability, or any other status protected by federal, state or local law, where applicable, is prohibited.
Members of the Georgia Athlete Committee had several opinions on the issue. A few were very supportive of the idea and felt that transgender swimmers should always be included. The issue of whether the proposal should have transgender athletes included in their new gender’s events or have a separate transgender event is still being debated within the group, but the overall tone of their comments was supportive.
“I mean of course there should always be a couple of private family changing locker rooms just in case you don’t feel comfortable changing in front of other people, but that shouldn’t be forced upon anyone, it should just be an option to make people more comfortable”
“I’m so happy that this is being discussed. Lately I had a friend come out as a transgender woman, and she had to quit swim years prior to coming out due to the hormone change and the swim suit problem. We’ve been hypothesizing about different types of suits that the transgender population whom haven’t gone through the full transition could wear and be comfortable in.”
“Although males are naturally inclined to be faster the females, those who are transgender are already going through the a process that changes a body’s normal makeup. For example, a former male that wishes to change to a female will take testosterone blockers and hormone enhancers, therefore they would actually not have a large advantage over other females. Same for vice versa. I believe transgender should be able to swim with the gender they are affiliated with.”
“The LGBT community deserves to have equal rights to participate in swimming and all other sports just like everyone else. As far as whether or not they compete as male/female, should be decided by what he/she identifies themselves as.”
“Considering all the change transgender go through: hormone pills, testosterone, shots, etc., they would want to be fully affiliated with the gender they changed to. By making a mixed heat, you completely isolate them from their “true gender”. A similar issue has already happened in collegiate swimming. There was a female to male transition, and he began swimming with males after her transition.”
There was one member who didn’t appear to be for or against the idea, as long as it did not give anyone a competitive advantage, but wanted further clarification about the science behind changing genders.
“They don’t have a “large” advantage, but the people I talked to from my team still think there will be a considerable advantage, and because of this advantage they believe it be unfair. So, I think a resource needs to be created which explains to people the science behind becoming a transgender in terms of how it does not put them at a large advantage.”
Although the majority of the members were supportive of adding transgender/mixed events, not everyone was 100% supportive of the new idea.
“My team mates have brought to my attention that boys are naturally faster than girls are, and if anyone of the boys on my team were to compete with girls, they would win. I agree with the mixed gender races. However, our team feels like choosing gender wouldn’t be fair cause you’d have people who would lie about be associated with a certain gender and take advantage of that. The one always ruins it for the many.”
“I have asked several teammates their thoughts on transgender competing in which events, and what locker rooms should be used. In a very heated debate, everyone came to an agreement that they think it is an advantage for transgender women to compete in girls events. They believe that the swimmer should compete in the gender they were born. It is a very hard topic because they all believe no one should be left out or stand out nor is it a subject that has crossed their minds. As far as locker rooms go, the majority said to go to the locker room that matches their current sex.”
“We can agree that men and women are not the same and that is why we have them compete in gender differentiated events. If you are born as a male, no matter what treatment you go through, you will still have a slight advantage over any female because you were once a male and no matter what treatment a female goes through, there will be a slight disadvantage competing against naturally born men as highlighted in several articles online. Yes, we should fully back up any person’s tough decision to come out as gay or become transgender but we must also remember the rest of the athletes and their equality as well.”