From Iceland — No Experts Consulted In Icelandic Swimming Association Decision

No Experts Consulted In Icelandic Swimming Association Decision

Published July 12, 2022

Photo by
Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons

The Icelandic Swimming Association (SSÍ) supported rules banning trans women from competing in the women’s category at the World Championships, without consulting experts, reports Frettablaðið.

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SSÍ is facing criticism for this decision particularly because experts were not consulted prior to the decision and the decision was not based on the best information.

“SSÍ made this decision, which concerns trans people in Iceland, without consulting the organsiation Trans Ísland or other trans people in Iceland. It was a mistake,” says chair of Trans Ísland, Viima Lampinen.

A joint statement from Trans Ísland and other organisations have urged the SSÍ to withdraw its vote. If withdrawing the vote is not possible the joint statement urges SSÍ to issue a statement stating they cannot stand with the vote and apologise to trans people of Iceland. The statement also urges all sports federations to speak out against the exclusion of trans people.

“There are no definitive definitions of what exactly a man or a woman is, the variability is so great that science cannot give a complete answer. But according to Western beliefs, there are only two categories, women and men, and in sports this definition is very crucial,” says Viima. “As a result, there are easily all kinds of debates about gender and gender in sports that are not based on biology, but on the idea of dividing people into two categories. However, this division is not justified when the biology is examined in more detail.”

Viima believes that the International Swimming Federation received support for this decision because they only sought out comments from supporters and did not seek out input from LGBTQ+ organisations.

“I think the International Swimming Federation has gone too far and I don’t think these people really understood what they were doing,” says Viima. “I am also very sorry that those of us who have expertise in the matter were not consulted before this decision was made.”

Viima believes that these decisions are directly connected to movements limiting women’s and minority rights.

“Because it is not possible to set rules for women and limit their rights and powers, all kinds of minorities are often targeted, especially trans women, who become easy targets,” says Viima. “When attitudes are generally opposed to trans people, it does not take much to convince people of such a ban, even though it goes against science. Uninformed and misguided people who are trying to do the right thing can easily make mistakes and that is what I believe has happened here.”

Trans women face the ban from the International Swimming Federation, but trans men face no ban.

All women, including trans women, should be allowed to compete in the women’s category. I would go so far as to say that such a competition disregards sports and that people who create such a competition do not understand what achievement sports are all about.”

“On the one hand it is about this will to control women’s bodies and on the other hand the transphobic thinking that trans women are not women, but men in dresses. This thought seems difficult to eliminate from society,” says Viima. “The result is that trans women are dehumanized, denied rights, and their lives are threatened because they are subjected to a great deal of physical and mental violence, exclusion, and discrimination.”

Viima states that the idea that trans women have an advantage simply because they were born with a male body is inaccurate. They also mention that other physical qualities such as, height, foot size, and leg length, are not used to prohibit athletes form competing, so why should the characteristics of trans women be treated differently.

The International Swimming Federation has floated the idea of creating an open competition for trans competitors. Viima believes this is unnecessary and unfair.

“I think this open party disparages high-achieving athletes. It is unexciting to register in a category where there will never be enough participants to create a real competition, in addition to which there is no respect, tradition, or history attached to the category and they will never get a show time on television,” says Viima. “So I just find it outrageous and unnecessary. All women, including trans women, should be allowed to compete in the women’s category. I would go so far as to say that such a competition disregards sports and that people who create such a competition do not understand what achievement sports are all about.”

Viima states that fearing trans women in sports ultimately reduces sports to physical activity solely based on body statistics. They compare it to awarding the heaviest sumo wrestler the gold or the tallest average basketball team winning.

“I want to see trans people thrive and succeed in sports and if they can only participate through some exceptions, the competition is not equal, but it is the justification that is used for these special rules,” says Viima.

Chairman of SSÍ, Björn Sigurðsson, stated in an interview that the criticism and accusations of prejudice is hurtful.

“The SSÍ is just meeting the consequences of its actions,” says Viima. “There were many organisations that condemned this decision and if there are no prejudices on the way, we need to see it. They can invite us to discuss issues and do not have to make themselves a victim.”

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