The world governing body for swimming effectively barred transgender women from the highest levels of women’s international competition on Sunday, intensifying a debate over gender and sports that has roiled state legislatures and increasingly divided parents, athletes and coaches at all levels.
The vote by FINA, which administers international competitions in water sports, prohibits transgender women from competing unless they began medical treatments to suppress production of testosterone before going through one of the early stages of puberty, or by age 12, whichever occurred later. It establishes one of the strictest rules against transgender participation in international sports. Scientists believe the onset of male puberty gives transgender women a lasting, irreversible physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth.
World swimming would also establish a new, “open” category for athletes who identify as women but do not meet the requirement to compete against people who were female at birth.