In a bold move, the international governing body of swimming, World Aquatics (formerly FINA) announced a new, “open” category besides men’s and women’s events at this year’s World Cup opening event in Berlin starting today, but it turned out to be a huge flop.
The open category — a euphemism for transgender swimmers — would have been a perfect fit for cosmopolitan Berlin, which, according to the federation, would have been the ideal location for such a pioneering project due to the city’s status as a “bastion of acceptance.”
Last year, World Aquatics changed its regulations and only allows transgender swimmers to compete in their new gender category if their transition happened before the age of 12. At this year’s World Cup, they planned to open the 50- and 100-meter events and were reportedly looking forward to expanding to other categories.
However, there were no entries in the “open” category events by the deadline. In a discreet but decisive move, World Aquatics therefore finally canceled the relevant races from the Berlin competition. They announced that although there was “no demand for this at the elite level at the moment,” the International World Aquatics Open Category Working Group would continue its work and examine the possibility of including this innovative category in the program of future senior swimming competitions.
The German Lesbian and Gay Association, however, pointed out that the push for a separate category is in fact “a step backward in the acceptance and equality of trans people.”
The association criticized that entrants are forced to “come out” by registering for an event that is clearly for transgender people. At the same time, the group points out there are some people within the men’s category who have an advantage over other men, for example, because of their height, arm length or lung capacity, and yet no one thinks they should be excluded from the competition