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The plight of the Transgender Athlete; FINA ruling ignites debate on transitioned stars in sports

It all began with Lia Thomas.

The Olympic swimmer who won 2022’s 500-yard freestyle event en route to an NCAA Division I National Championship.

One who by the end of her collegiate career, the star finished top 5 in her 200-yard freestyle, but in a different division than where she started.

It is a problem that has opened the door to a debate that society has yet to come to a consensus on:

Transgender athletes in sports as it’s presently constructed. Yes or no?

Telling by this week, the consensus may be all but decided, in ways that aspiring athletes may not want to hear.

On Sunday, FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) announced the passing of a law to stop transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite races if they have gone through any part of the process of male puberty.

The policy was decided on with a 71% vote, by over 150 members of the organization.

The governing body follows the footsteps of the International Cycling Union, which ruled a ban back in April. Since the news has been released, the International Rugby League has also restricted male-to-female transgender athletes from competing in women’s divisions.

News of these bans swept across all sports, and since Thomas’ National Championship win, the conversation on the topic has only escalated, with athletes past and present divided on their opinion.

In an interview with TIME magazine, USMNT star Megan Rapinoe, a member of the LGBTQ Community, advocated for inclusion, calling the bans “monstrous”, and explaining the lasting effects that may become fatal:

 “We’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about the entire state government coming down on one child in some states and three children in some states. They are committing suicide because they are being told that they’re gross and different and evil and sinful and they can’t play sports with their friends that they grew up with.”

Fellow Gold Medalist Caitlyn Jenner, who infamously transitioned back in 2015, also offered her two cents on the matter, openly advocating for the ban before the ruling.

In wake of the news, Jenner expressed her happiness with the decision:

Via Twitter

Other athletes such as Michael Phelps tried their hand at tackling the issue; stressing the need for inclusion, but being hesitant on integrating them into sports divisions that cater to Trans athletes, physically.

Despite following all of the steps, the 3-year process for Thomas to become what her calling is to be, and to still be marginalized, justified or not, is a continual tug-of-war for not only the transgender community but all of the LGBTQ.

It remains to be seen that a resolution will come. One would hope for such, however. For equality. And for pride.



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