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Child, decide (daily newspaper Junge Welt)

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports/REUTERS

Let ’em play along: Iszac Henig of the Yale Bulldogs has a clear opinion (5/17/2022)

Lia Thomas collected a string of medals in college, but the US swimmer will never win Olympic gold. Because she’s not allowed to. Because Thomas went through male puberty, and that creates discussions that now go far beyond swimming. In football, rugby, rowing and many other sports, too, the question of how best to deal with the issue of transgender people is becoming increasingly urgent.

Thomas has experienced how tough this discussion can be. In March, she made history when she became a college champion — Florida’s arch-reactionary governor Ronald DeSantis, a possible Republican nominee for the next presidential election, later declared that second-place finisher Emma Wyant was the real winner. The world association FINA then announced a new regulation on the sidelines of the World Championships in Budapest. According to this, trans women are only allowed to compete in women’s competitions if they have completed the gender reassignment measures by the age of twelve.

The topic is also discussed a lot in football. A spokesman for the world association FIFA confirmed to the “Sportschau” that a new guideline was being considered. “FIFA is currently reviewing its gender-specific eligibility requirements in consultation with expert stakeholders,” it said.

On Tuesday, the International Rugby League decided to ban trans athletes from international women’s competitions until further notice. This is possible because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) leaves it up to each sport and its governing body to “determine to what extent an athlete has a disproportionate advantage compared to their competitors”.

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Caitlyn Jenner, who won Olympic gold in the 1976 decathlon as Bruce Jenner and announced she was trans in 2015, welcomed the swimmers’ decision. “What’s fair is fair. Going through male puberty shouldn’t give you the opportunity to take medals away from women,” Jenner tweeted.

But is it really that simple? After all, in every sport there are physical differences that mean an advantage or disadvantage. Where is the line to unfairness crossed? Is it correct – as in athletics, for example – to regard the testosterone level as the ultimate decisive factor? And what does the current uncertainty mean for those affected?

The last point also worries the Federal Association »Trans* (BVT*)«. The new regulation puts a lot of pressure on young trans girls, said Kalle Hümpfner, responsible for socio-political work in the BVT*, the daily mirror: »They have to make decisions early on if they want to get into professional competitive sport.« Who could do that at the age of ten or eleven?

US soccer player Megan Rapinoe is also particularly concerned about the psyche of young people. ‘It’s about human life. Children’s lives are at risk amid rates of suicide, depression and poor mental health,” she tweeted. It takes time for a solution, but one thing is certain: »We have to start with inclusion, not with the opposite. It’s cruel and, frankly, repulsive.”

This intercession does not help Lia Thomas, and yet she could become a kind of pioneer. Because swimming could be the first sport in which there will be an “open category” in international competitions in the future. Whether this is the right solution is likely to continue to be hotly debated.

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