Australian Olympic gold medallist Bronte Campbell has called on Fina to consult with the “unbelievably marginalised” transgender community in developing the open category proposed by its new gender inclusion policy.
Fina last month became the first major sporting body to formally restrict the participation of transgender women in elite female competitions.
Transgender women who have completed any part of male puberty are now prohibited from competing at Fina-sanctioned events, including the swimming World Championships and swimming, diving and water polo events at the Olympic Games.
In unveiling its ensuing gender inclusion policy, Fina proposed creating an open category in which an athlete “who meets the eligibility criteria for that event would be able to compete without regard to their sex, their legal gender, or their gender identity.”
The development of such a category is still in its early stages but Campbell said the transgender community needed to be part of the conversation preceding its introduction.
“I think it’s important to look at all options,” Campbell said. “It’s something you have to engage with the transgender community on. You have to figure out what they want to do in this situation.
“It’s not for us to sit back and make up things without talking to the appropriate people.”
Campbell’s older sister and four-time Olympic gold medallist Cate spoke before Fina in support of the gender inclusion policy, saying it preserved the “fairness” vital to elite sport.
But Bronte was reluctant to agree wholeheartedly with her sister. “I always support my sister but just because Cate and I are related, doesn’t mean every single thing we think is the same,” she said.
“You’ve got to balance inclusion and high performance, so the first step is making sure that we’re engaging with the [transgender] community as we move forward.
“It’s a really complicated issue. You’re talking about a community that has been so unbelievably marginalised over the years and still faces that. So it’s important to make sure that we’re doing something to protect those people as well.”
Campbell has elected to sit the upcoming Commonwealth Games out but expects more swimmers to speak publicly about the gender inclusion policy after they finish competing.
“Everyone’s going to get past that next hurdle before they start thinking and engaging with it,” Campbell predicted. “Everybody’s aware that it’s complex and it’s a difficult thing to talk about.”
Campbell’s career has been hampered by injuries and previously suggested the Tokyo Olympics could have been her last.
The 28-year-old said she hoped to decide in the coming months whether she would feature at the 2024 Paris Games. “I’m taking until the end of the year to decide about whether I want to keep pushing for those Olympics,” she said.