Position paper
Policy brief
Published on
July 5, 2022

IGLYO Statement on New Anti-Trans Rulings in Sports

Celebrating Worldwide Trans Athletes Following New Anti-Trans Rulings in Sports

IGLYO is extremely concerned about the recent rulings against trans athletes in sports. On 20 June 2022, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) officially banned trans women from taking part in women’s elite competitions unless they can prove they have “not experienced male puberty” before the age of 12, and instead opened the first-ever so-called ‘open category’ in which trans athletes are allowed to compete.

The next day, on 21 June 2022, the International Rugby League (IRL) announced in a statement that ‘trans women players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy.’

Earlier in the month, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) had already made cycling the first sport to impose stricter rules on trans women athletes starting from 1 July 2022.

A cruel message to trans, non-binary and gender diverse children and young people

IGLYO strongly condemns these anti-trans rulings, which will have a tremendous impact on the mental health, well-being and happiness of trans and non-binary athletes, and especially younger ones.

As UK IGLYO Member Mermaids puts it in a statement on FINA’s new ruling, ‘Telling trans children and young people that they can’t be themselves and swim, cycle or play has a devastating impact on mental wellbeing and happiness, and will also impact cis female athletes who don’t fit into a narrow view of what it is to be a woman.’ Such rulings send ‘a cruel message to trans, non-binary and gender diverse children and young people who just want to [play their sport] with their friends, telling them that there is something wrong with them, and they don’t belong.’

The current sports landscape is neither safe nor inclusive of trans identity and gender diversity, fuelling a hateful debate that is for a large part articulated around biological differences when it comes to athletic performance. Trans athletes, in particular trans women and non-binary people, keep on facing barriers in their participation in sports and are prejudiced by discriminatory athletic policies that often lead them to be ruled ineligible for competitions.

We are concerned that these recent rulings will become a norm and inspire other sports governing bodies to take similar measures. We therefore call on FINA, IRL and UCI to lift their anti-trans rulings, and urge other international sports governing bodies not to follow suit. We also encourage you to sign our Member Mermaids’ open letter to ask the UK’s four national sporting bodies to take a stand for trans inclusion.

Celebrating trans athletes

Considering the current situation, we would like to seize this opportunity to reshare a post we had prepared for the Transgender Day of Visibility 2022 to celebrate some of the absolutely incredible trans athletes from across the globe who, from a young age, contributed to advance the rights and visibility of trans people in sports.

The list below is not meant to be exhaustive but rather representative of the trans identities existing across all sports disciplines. We are of course also celebrating the many more remarkable trans athletes who keep on excelling in their disciplines and fighting for trans rights within the sports realm. Facing recent developments, we warmly encourage you to support and celebrate your favourite trans athletes.

🌊 Young trans American swimmer Lia Thomas became the first openly trans athlete to win an NCAA Division national championship this March 2022, receiving huge criticism for her victory. Before Lia, young trans American swimmer and LGBTQ advocate Schuyler Bailar, Pinkmantaray became the first openly trans swimmer to ever join the NCAA Division.

🚲 Trans Dutch former professional racing cyclist Natalie van Gogh has considerably been progressing trans inclusion and acceptance in sport, while 21-year-old trans cyclist Emily Bridges was recently banned last minute from participating in her first race, the women’s British National Omnium Championship.

🏒 Former trans Canadian hockey player, actor and LGBTQI advocate Harrisson Brown was the first openly transgender athlete in professional American hockey and has greatly contributed to advance the rights of trans people in sports.

🥊 Trans American professional boxer Patricio “Cacahuate” Manuel became the first transgender boxer in the history of the United States to have a professional fight in 2018. Following in his footsteps Alana McLaughlin (Lady Feral) is currently a professional fighter in mixed martial arts.

⛳ Danish trans professional golfer Mianne Bagger became the first openly trans woman to play in a professional golf tournament in 2004.

👟 Young trans Jamaican-American runner Cece Telfer became the first openly transgender person to win an NCAA title in 2019

🏋 New Zealand weight-lifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly trans woman to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

🏀 LGBTQI advocate, public speaker, artist, and mentor to LGBTQI youth Kye Allums is a former college basketball player who become the first openly transgender college athlete in the NCAA Division in 2021.

🏐 Transgender Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu Vôlei was the first trans woman to play in the Brazilian Women’s Volleyball Superliga.

🥊 Celebrated Thai model and actress Parinya Charoenphol, aka Nong Toom, is a trans Thai boxer, whose story is depicted in the acclaimed movie “Beautiful Boxer”.

🏎️ Trans British racing car driver and trans rights activist Charlie Martin takes advantage of her visibility as an acclaimed driver to raise awareness on LGBTQI and trans rights.

⚽ American Samoan footballer Jaiyah Saelua is the first openly non-binary and trans woman to compete in a FIFA World Cup qualifier, whose life will be depicted in “Next Goal Wins”, a movie by Oscar-winning Taika Waititi in 2022.

🧗In the outdoors, the life of non-binary climber Lor Sabourin has recently been featured in the film “They/Them”.

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