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Swim England updates transgender and non-binary competition policy

Swim England has published its updated transgender and non-binary competition policy which aims to make all its sports fair and accessible to everyone.

It is the first time the policy has been revised since 2015 and has been introduced in a bid to create a ‘fully-inclusive, non-discriminatory competitive environment’.

All of Swim England’s disciplines – swimming, artistic swimming, diving and water polo – will see a new ‘open’ category introduced, which will be for athletes with a birth sex of male, trans or non-binary competitors.

Only athletes who have declared a birth sex of female will compete in the ‘female’ category.

This will apply for all licensed events, where times are submitted to official rankings or talent pathway competitions.

Swim England commissioned an independent consultant to gather the views of more than 2,000 of its members, stakeholders and advocacy groups before drawing up the updated policy.

Opportunities and enjoyment

It will come into effect on 1 September 2023.

Mike Hawkes, Swim England head of diversity and inclusion, said the changes had been introduced in a bid to ensure the competitive integrity of talent pathways is maintained, whilst also providing a competitive offer for transgender members.

He said: “Transgender competition within sport is an emotive subject.

“However, we believe we have created an inclusive competitive environment that will provide opportunities and enjoyment for everyone entering Swim England events.

“As a result of the strength of feeling displayed via our independent consultation, we recognise that fair competition is considered the backbone of our aquatic sports and therefore must be prioritised.

“This is a policy that will allow for inclusion up to the highest level possible, at which point competitive integrity across our events and talent pathways takes priority.

Considering each sport

“We think that we’ve been creative and we’re confident we’ve really taken into account the considerations of each individual sport.

“Those that participate in aquatics recreationally should be able to do so, in a fully-inclusive environment, free from discrimination.

“In order to achieve this, we will continue to support operators to provide a varied pool programme, catering for the many demographics found in our communities across England.”

The updated policy applies to Swim England competitions only, including those organised by its member regions, counties, clubs and affiliated organisations.

It will integrate with policies published by British Swimming, LEN and World Aquatics but, after taking into account feedback that it should not be applied in a blanket fashion from grassroots to elite level, it is not identical.

To view the transgender and non-binary competition policy for each discipline, download a range of resources and view a list of frequently asked questions, please click here.