World Aquatics To Include Transgender Swimmers In Trial of “Open” Category

World Aquatics will include transgender swimmers in its trial run of implementing an “open” category in competition, the global governing body said Tuesday.

During World Aquatics’ General Congress in Fukuoka, President Husain Al-Musallam said the first event with an open category would take place in the future but didn’t provide additional details.

“This is a very complex topic,” Al-Musallam said. “But I am delighted to tell you today that we are now making plans for the first trial of an open category, and we hope to be able to confirm all the details soon.

“Our sport must be open to everybody,” he said.

At the 2022 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, the governing body voted to ban transgender women from competing in women’s categories if they had undergone any part of the male puberty process (transitioned after the age of 12). World Aquatics also first announced its intention of creating an “open” category at last year’s General Congress.

The topic has been divisive in the world of sport, and specifically swimming, over the past 20-plus months, following the performance of Lia Thomas in the NCAA during the 2021-22 season.

Thomas, a transgender woman, won the 500 freestyle at the 2022 Women’s NCAA Championships.

Under World Aquatics rules announced last year, Thomas would be ineligible to compete in the women’s category of World Aquatics events since she didn’t begin transitioning until 2019, well into her collegiate career.

“It was very important that we protected fair competition for our female athletes,” Al-Musallam added. “But you have heard me say many times there should be no discrimination. Nobody should be excluded from our competitions.”

World Aquatics also announced that it has moved into the final stages of finalizing the relocation of its headquarters to Budapest and that Al-Musallam was elected to a new eight-year term during the General Congress on Tuesday.

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Susan DeMere
7 months ago

Just look to Women’s Cycling: who wins? Biological women or Trans Women? This is the continuation of the end of women’s sports and the erasure of women.

7 months ago

I’m curious how they’d handle trans swimmers who come from states that are attempting to deny any sort of transitioning before 18 years, who legally had no choice but to transition well after puberty.
Also, will they keep it as just an Open category or will they split it into MtW and WtM? I think it’d be pretty unfair for those transitioning to Women to be forced into a category with those transitioning to Men.

Kurt Dickson
7 months ago

Yay! Corkscrew relays for the 8 people that show up. Probably one would spin clockwise and the other counterclockwise (depending on which hemisphere you’re from). Can’t wait!

Reply to  Kurt Dickson
7 months ago

Imagine trying to adjudicate rules of corkscrew.

7 months ago

Genuine and respectful question – even if it doesn’t look like. I have two teens who swim. Boy and girl. As far as I know, no officials came over to their locker rooms to check their biological status. How will WA make sure that this new category is really trans?

7 months ago

Oh brother🤦‍♂️ There are not going to be nearly enough swimmers to make this work.

Nick the biased Aussie
Reply to  Swimmingrules
7 months ago

I’m sure they know this, then they’ll say we tried and no one showed up and it will never happen again.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Nick the biased Aussie
7 months ago

I’ve never understood the call for a third category, for exactly this reason. Anyone championing it is happily oblivious to the situational reality…there simply won’t be any numbers. And consequently it will look like a farce. You’ll have the same one or two people competing in one event after another, with nobody else. If they recruit more entrants then the ability gap will look like these opening heats of the swimming prelims.

M d e
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
7 months ago

Just make the men’s events the ‘open’ events, and keep biological women a protected class.

7 months ago

I think my original idea on this topic I know is not really a good solution but probably would have moved things forward a lot quicker. And that was to not allow them to compete and then they can sue the sports governing body and take it to the supreme court for some ruling(s) that would give everyone guidance going forward. Problem for the trans people right now is the court is overly stacked with conservatives. How else do your really resolve this just arguing and a bunch back and forth that doesn’t resolve anything. This World Aquatics proposal is really nothing they are afraid to take the lead and trying to let other sports like track and field bear… Read more »

Aussie Crawl
7 months ago

Here we go….🤦‍♂️

7 months ago

With so much equal rights for all campaigns, I can only hope that this concept and extra facilitation is fully supported and attended by the open category community. Without the physical and financial support of that community, this category cannot be sustainable long-term, but I certainly hope it does become sustainable long-term as participation avenues in sport or any physical activity should be available and encouraged for everyone.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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