Should transgender women be allowed to compete in female sports categories?

The global body governing the rules of swimming, F.I.N.A., recently ruling that transgender women would not be allowed to compete in the female category has many feeling torn between the wish to be inclusive and the need for sports competitions to be fair

Rise of the Issue

The issue of gender equality and inclusion has dogged international sporting bodies since the LGBTQ movement gained more traction. As the movement became more widespread, many international sporting bodies eased restrictions on the participation of gay and lesbian athletes, and in more recent years have allowed transgender athletes to compete in the gender categories they identify as. However, this decision has faced political, societal, and internal backlash, prompting a series of reversals in policy. The most recent of such reversals were F.I.N.A.’s ban on transgender women from participating in any women’s swimming event. 

F.I.N.A has argued that the impetus for such a move was not based on political factors, but rather on physiological ones. They argue that transgender athletes who have transitioned from men to women still have testosterone in their bodies. This gives them an advantage over their female competitors, which undermines the cornerstone of every sport; Fairness in competition. However, this has sparked a debate about inclusivity and how banning transgender women from competing in female sports is a step backwards.

Issue Timeline


Title IX passes in the U.S.

The title decrees that no person in the U.S. shall be excluded from participation in sports based on their sex and that there should be no discrimination against them in education programs or federal financial assistance.


Transgender Female Tennis Player Sues the U.S. Tennis Association

Renée Richards wins a lawsuit against the U.S. tennis association, which had previously barred her from competing in tournaments as a woman.


Olympics Committee Announces Stockholm Consensus

The consensus sets out regulations and procedures that will allow transgender athletes to compete in the gender categories they identify as for the first time.


N.C.A.A. Adopts Transgender Athletes Inclusion Policy

The N.C.A.A. adopts a policy where transgender athletes can freely compete in any sport as their identified gender, and organizations like the N.B.A, the N.H.L, and the N.F.L soon follow suit.


F.I.N.A. Rules that Transgender Women Cannot Compete in Women's Category

The ruling is specifically targeting those who underwent puberty before transitioning, as they would have testosterone within their bodies which gives them an advantage over other female competitors.

Micro Issues



Some argue that this fairness in sports competitions is overturned when transgender women are allowed to compete with other women, while others argue that transgender women don't have as much of an advantage over other women as commonly believed.



The two sides have diverging views on what an inclusionary solution would be, with some arguing that transgender women be included in women’s sports, and others advocating for the creation of a separate category for transgender people.



Some argue that trans women should not be allowed to enter female competitions if they transitioned after puberty because the testosterone in their system would give them a competitive edge. Others argue that there are too few cases where trans athletes outperform other women for this to be a logical reason to exclude them from participating.

Pro Arguments


It would promote inclusivity and cuts down discrimination.

By including trans women in sports, it becomes easier for society to see them in a more positive light, which would reduce discrimination against them.


Excluding trans people based on their gender is harmful to their mental health.

Many trans or L.G.B.T.Q. athletes who have come out only to face hostility and negativity from the public have been known to suffer breakdowns and mental health issues.


Excluding trans women from female categories perpetuates stereotypes.

By excluding trans women with arguments such as biological unfairness, it perpetuates the stereotype that they are not women, despite them identifying as such.


It allows for members of a marginalized community to make an impact.

Many trans athletes who join such events and win leave a mark on history, and also serve as a rallying point for members of their community.


It would create greater diversity in sports.

By allowing for the participation of transgender athletes, sporting competitions become more representative of real-life diversity and normalizes difference.

Con Arguments


It could put cisgender women at a disadvantage.

Some argue that allowing transgender women to compete in female categories would be detrimental to cisgender women who do not have the same physiological capabilities.


Allowing transgender individuals to choose their category sets a precedent others could use.

Opponents of the measure argue that such a decision must not be taken lightly, as it opens a path for others to use the argument of inclusivity to their advantage in the future.


It is a view of transgender women as a homogeneous group.

Opponents of the new policy say that de facto accepting transgender women in female categories presupposes that all transgender women have similar capabilities, when research has shown that their physical capabilities are impacted by when the transition has taken place (before or after puberty).


Allowing transgender women to integrate female categories is not enough.

Some argue that instead of having transgender women enter women’s sports competition, they should have a category of their own that would both respect the need for inclusivity and fairness.


It would allow people to choose their category based on gender rather than sex.

Letting transgender individuals participate in sports because of their gender identity is a move away from how sports have been divided so far, i.e. on the basis of the biological factor of sex assigned at birth.