Saturday, January 23, 2016

Transgender athletes can compete in Olympics without having gender reassignment surgery: Report

The International Olympic Committee has reportedly adopted a new policy which will open the field of competition to transgender athletes who will be able to participate in events — even without having gender reassignment surgery.

According to OutSports, the IOC upgraded its guidelines in November from its "Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism," which allow for broader policies already adopted by other regulatory sports organizations including the NCAA. 

The new transgender guidelines have not been confirmed by Olympic officials, but are available on the organization's website and expected to be adopted in time for the 2016 Summer Olympic games. 

The updated language specifically says:
“To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights. It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.”
Simply explained, the previous requirement of surgery was probably intended to prevent transgender female athletes with testicles, and thus higher testosterone levels, from competing in women’s Olympic games.

Prior to the updated guidelines, the Stockholm Consensus adopted in 2004 required transgender athletes to change their gender both physically and legally in order to compete in the Olympic games. In addition, transgender female athletes had to undergo two years of post-surgery hormone replacement therapy prior to competing. 

Joanna Harper, chief medical physicist, radiation oncology at Providence Portland Medical Center, was one of the people at the Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism. She is also transgender, and said her opinion was important in determining the new guidelines.

"The new IOC transgender guidelines fix almost all of the deficiencies with the old rules," Harper said wrote in an email to OutSports. Hopefully, organizations such as the ITA will quickly adapt to the new IOC guidelines and all of the outdated trans policies will get replaced soon.

"The waiting period for trans women goes from two years after surgery to one year after the start of HRT," Harper added. "This matches up with the NCAA rules and is as good as anything. The waiting period was perhaps the most contentious item among our group and one year is a reasonable compromise."

This decision will allow female athletes with naturally elevated levels of testosterone to also compete. 

While the proposal won't disrupt the playing field right away, it might open doors for transgender athletes like Chris Mosier, who last year qualified for the US Sprint Duathlon team, to compete against men in the Olympics.

Mosier has not undergone gender reassignment surgery but now fulfills the hormone replacement guidelines.
Caitlyn Jenner won a gold medal at the Montreal Summer Olympics in the Men's Decathlon event forty years ago when she was then known as Bruce Jenner.

If she were to compete today — if she had undergone one year of hormone replacement therapy — she could compete in the women's event.

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