Will SEA Games Federation and Malaysia be open to transgender athletes?
The world swimming body has taken a bold decision to restrict transgender athletes in elite women's swimming.
The decision was made after Fina revealed it had sufficient evidence to back its decision, adding male swimmers as young as 14 were posting times that would win the Olympic gold medal in the women's events.
Fina will instead create an 'open category' for transgender swimmers to compete in. The president of the world body, Husain Al-Musallam was quoted as saying in his address at the Budapest congress:
"I do not want any athlete to be told they cannot compete at the highest level. I understand why transgender athletes want to compete in the gender of their choice ... but we should not favour one athlete over another."
“We will be the first international federation to start this work.”
Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender who was once known as Olympic gold medallist Bruce Jenner, supported the move.
"I think it's very good. I have been on this issue from the beginning, I've been very consistent. I have said from day one I don't want biological boys to be competing against women, especially in school.
"It's just not fair and we need to protect women sports. I've stuck with that all the way through."
The Olympic Council of Malaysia is monitoring the situation closely, as reported by the New Straits Times.
If more world bodies start calling for the introduction of an open category to allow transgenders to compete, will the SEA Games Federation do the same?
Conversations about transgenders remain a taboo in most parts of this region. While Thailand seems to have embraced its transgender community, the same cannot be said in neighbouring countries, including Malaysia.
The Malaysian authorities have made their stand clear over various issues involving transgenders
A 2019 study by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia found that 57 percent of trans women interviewed in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor had experienced discrimination, including being denied employment, education, housing, or health care because their appearance did not match the gender on their identity card.
Malaysia has been awarded the rights to host the 2027 SEA Games. If more world bodies agree to follow Fina's move, will this push the SEA Games Federation to also create an 'open category'? Will this mean different changing rooms and accomodation for transgender athletes?
Also, will the host nation accept the "open category" rule and will the victories achieved by the transgender athletes be celebrated by the locals, just like the successes of the men and women athletes?
What if a regional or world championship is held in Kuala Lumpur and the open category is mandatory? Will the Malaysian government deny the hosting of such a championship?
Many are still reminded of the government's tough stance in denying Israeli para-swimmers visas for entering the country to compete in the 9th World Para Swimming Championships swimming competition.
This resulted in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripping Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 championship. IPC president Andrew Parsons had then said:
“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination.”
And what if a transgender from Malaysia is eager to compete in the open event held abroad? Will the respective sports body endorse/allow the athlete to go or deny the athlete's right for fear of possible backlash?
Sports officials and policy makers in Malaysia must have serious conversations about Fina's latest move.