Swim England Updates Policy Regarding Transgender And Non-Binary Athletes

Swim England has announced its updated policy regarding transgender and non-binary athletes competing in swimming, artistic swimming, diving and water polo.

Effective September 1st, the following categories will be applied at all Swim England competitions, including those organized by the body’s member regions, counties and clubs:

  • Female – athletes with a birth sex of female
  • Open – athletes with a birth sex of male, trans or non-binary competitors and any competitor not eligible for the female category

The new delineation marks the first time Swim England’s competition policy has been updated since 2015. The organization says the categories were introduced ‘in a bid to create a fully-inclusive, non-discriminatory competitive environment.’

Further, Swim England believes that ‘the restriction of certain competition to birth sex females to be justified and proportionate in the pursuit of fair competition.’

Swim England‘s head of diversity and inclusion Mike Hawke says of the revision that  “Transgender competition within sport is an emotive subject.

“However, we believe we have created an inclusive competitive environment that will provide opportunities and enjoyment for everyone entering Swim England events.

“As a result of the strength of feeling displayed via our independent consultation, we recognise that fair competition is considered the backbone of our aquatic sports and therefore must be prioritised.

“This is a policy that will allow for inclusion up to the highest level possible, at which point competitive integrity across our events and talent pathways takes priority.”

SwimSwam asked Swim England where intersex athletes fall in the revised policy. “Our updated policy refers to the birth sex of transgender and non-binary participants only,” the organization responded.

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5 months ago

I’m not sure if I’m just not understanding, but their answer to the intersex question sounds like a non answer to me? Would they allow an intersex woman with XY chromosomes to compete in the female division or would she be relegated to the open one?

Reply to  jeff
5 months ago

They would not commit to a policy on intersex individuals.

Which, among all the sticks-in-the-spokes about trying to move forward on this discussion, is the biggest stick, in my opinion.

5 months ago

That’s a smart move but I wonder what that implies for the open swimmers’ suit : will they be able to wear full length suits rather than jammers ?

The open/women was the standard at some point, and still is in many sports like chess and the NBA, I wonder what it isn’t more common

Would women (like Katie Ledecky for example) be able to try and compete in the open division if they chose to ?

Last edited 5 months ago by CasualSwimmer
Reply to  CasualSwimmer
5 months ago

The suit question certainly needs to be answered. If someone is female genetically but identifies as non-binary, are they expected to race topless?

5 months ago

No way that dude’s name is seriously Mike Hawke

Reply to  Apiarist
5 months ago

My caulk

Sun Yangs Hammer
Reply to  Apiarist
5 months ago

Mike Hawke 🤝 Dick Pound

Reply to  Apiarist
5 months ago

Hey guys, I’m looking for Mike Hawke. Seriously, has anybody in here seen Mike Hawke?!

Hooked on Chlorine
Reply to  Moe
5 months ago

Yes. He’s over there with Iva Biggin.

5 months ago

The “solution” for trans inclusion that everyone keeps giving is that there’s now an Open division. But has there been an Open division at a single meet thus far? Genuinely curious if any governing body has put the plan into action yet.

Reply to  Apathetic
5 months ago

Already happening in uk track and road running. Will happen in swimming from september

5 months ago

If someone transitions before puberty, are they still forced to compete in the open category?

Will there be support measures in place for athletes who are forcibly outed by this policy if so?

How will they determine if someone is “woman enough” to compete in the female category? (Can someone accuse an athlete of not being born female if they’re “too good”? What measures determine “too good”? T levels? Final results?)

Where do intersex athletes end up?

Reply to  Thirteenthwind
5 months ago

Let’s removed the forced from our vocabulary. Competition is not a human right but a privilege. We are privileged with the opportunity to compete.

The NGB has two purposes grow the sport and choose a national team. Meaning they are giving the best opportunity this has available while protecting a core constituency the women’s national team.

Let’s face the fact that our society will take generations to figure this out. And the most vocal of us don’t have the vision or scope of understanding to determine the fallout of every position. Let the needle move a little and I’ll be grateful it has atleast done that.

Swim England thank you for looking at the subject. Keep giving a small population… Read more »

Mar Vickers
Reply to  Thirteenthwind
5 months ago

To be honest, a one-off basic blood test is likely to show up higher than expected testosterone levels, or possibly traces of testosterone suppresent medication. Get one of those, take a cheek swab and check for a Y chromosome. Get a Y, then the ‘presumption’ must be male.

At this point the athlete and their family are told discretely of the findings – as with dope testing, they can of course seek a second test. If we still have the Y chromosome and it’s neither CAIS nor SRY gene translocation, then the burden of proof has to shift to the athlete – all of which happens confidentially. Either the Athlete will come back, presumably with certified scans, or they… Read more »

Reply to  Thirteenthwind
5 months ago

Based on what has been released so far, it looks like even individuals who transition pre-puberty would still be restricted to the open category.

It doesn’t appear that there is any real policy regarding intersex athletes, which is likely an indication that the decision makers simply couldn’t agree on one and hoping the issue doesn’t come up until they can figure one out.

5 months ago

Can people in the Open category wear kneeskins?

Reply to  Noah
5 months ago

Good question. I don’t see everyone being made to wear a jammer/brief.

5 months ago

This is what everyone should be doing!

Reply to  Poop
5 months ago


5 months ago

Good call

Last edited 5 months ago by WWW

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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