Health

Until 2016, trans Olympics athletes had to have bottom surgery. Now advocates are calling to scrap hormone requirements too.

Summary List PlacementLaurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, will be the first out transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics this summer.  Past requirements from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have made it difficult for transgender athletes to compete, mandating what transitionary care a person must undergo before participating in the games.  In 2003, the IOC passed regulations requiring trans athletes who want to compete to have bottom surgery to play in addition to being on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The committee partially reversed their rules in 2015 after pushback from trans activists, who emphasized that surgery is not mandatory...

Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics

Summary List Placement

Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, will be the first out transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics this summer. 

Past requirements from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have made it difficult for transgender athletes to compete, mandating what transitionary care a person must undergo before participating in the games. 

In 2003, the IOC passed regulations requiring trans athletes who want to compete to have bottom surgery to play in addition to being on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The committee partially reversed their rules in 2015 after pushback from trans activists, who emphasized that surgery is not mandatory to transition and can be extremely expensive or unattainable for many people.

However, the hormone requirement remains, and advocates are challenging it as more scientists push back against the idea that someone’s assigned sex has anything to do with strength and physical endurance. 

To compete, transwomen must have a certain testosterone range

Under the new guidelines, transmasculine athletes can compete “without restriction.”

Transwomen and transfeminine people who wish to compete must have been on feminizing HRT for at least two years, and must have a testosterone level that falls below 10nmol/L.

Similar testosterone requirements barred South African sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya from competing in international competitions by the Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) due to her natural levels of testosterone.

Semenya, who is intersex and naturally produces a higher level of testosterone, has taken her appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to order to get a chance at running the 800-meter event at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Insider previously reported Hubbard’s testosterone levels are below the 10nmol/L requirements, making her eligible. 

Advocates are calling to lift Olympic hormone restrictions 

In 2021, state legislators across the US have attempted to pass over 100 anti-trans bills, many of which target young transgender athletes looking to play school sports. 

The flashpoint in what experts are dubbing the country’s latest “culture war” has highlighted the global conversation on whether hormone requirements for trans athletes are ethical or human. 

Advocates say it’s a matter of recognizing the humanity of trans athletes, while scientists question to what extent testosterone levels really matter in sport. 

“We need to let people be who they are and affirm who they are,” Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar told CBS Los Angeles.

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