With new Olympic guidelines, trans athletes can compete without surgery


Keelin Godsey from US performs in the women's Hammer Throw during the Guadalajara 2011 XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, on October 24, 2011. AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

Keelin Godsey performs in the women’s Hammer Throw during the Guadalajara 2011 XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Oct. 24, 2011. Godsey, a trans man, competed for Olympic qualification in 2012 but without receiving sex reassignment surgery, he had to compete on women’s teams. Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images

Transgender athletes can now compete at the Olympics with other athletes of their gender without sex reassignment surgery, according to a new set of guidelines adopted Monday.

The guidelines came out of the International Olympic Committee’s Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism last November and will apply to the athletes qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this year.

“It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition,” the guidelines say. “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.”

Previously, the Olympics followed a set of 2003 guidelines that forbade transgender athletes from competing with other athletes of their gender unless they received sex reassignment surgery and two years of hormone therapy.

Under those rules, no trans athletes have ever competed as their actual gender, as opposed to the gender they were assigned at birth, although several, including Caitlyn Jenner and Balian Buschbaum, came out as transgender years later.

The new recommendations lay out a different set of rules for transgender men and women. People who transition from female to male can compete in the male sporting categories with “no restrictions.”

But for people who transition from male to female, the guidelines are stricter. Trans female athletes must have a testosterone level below 10 nanomols per liter for at least one year before her first competition, and those levels “may” be subject to testing, the document says.

Buzzfeed noted that these guidelines seem to suggest that biological characteristics often associated with the male sex, such as elevated testosterone, are an advantage for athletes.

The new rules came after triathlete Chris Mosier became the first transgender athlete ever to join a U.S. national team matching their gender in June. Mosier will compete in the World Championships in Avila, Spain, this summer. Mosier tweeted his support for the new guidelines Monday.

Others, including actress Laverne Cox, tweeted their congratulations to Mosier.