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Trans category at Swimming World Cup got cancelled because no one signed up for it

A swimming pool
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A planned category just for trans people at the Swimming World Cup in Berlin has been cancelled due to lack of interest. World Aquatics, the governing body for international water sports, announced Tuesday that it had received no entries for the “open category.”

“Following the close of registration for the open category competitions at the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup – the Berlin 2023 meet scheduled for October 6-8th – World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the open category events,” the organization said in a statement.

World Aquatics announced the establishment of the trans-inclusive category in July after it banned transgender women from competing in women’s categories last year. The federation, formerly known as FINA and recognized by the International Olympic Committee for administering international competitions in water sports, is one of several sports organizations that have banned transgender women from competition in recent years. The bans followed a string of high-profile wins by trans women that earned international attention, including University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas’s March 2022 win in the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships in Atlanta.

The open category was set to debut in Berlin this weekend with 50m and 100m races across all strokes. As the Irish Times notes, World Aquatics had said that the “pioneering pilot project” was meant to further its “unwavering commitment to inclusivity, welcoming swimmers of all sex and gender identities.”

“It was very important that we protected fair competition for our female athletes,” World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam said in July. “But you have heard me say many times there should be no discrimination. Nobody should be excluded from our competitions.”

While the open category will not take place at this year’s Swimming World Cup, it has not been scrapped completely. “The World Aquatics open category working group will continue its work and engagement with the aquatics community on open category events,” the organization’s statement continued. “Even if there is no current demand at the elite level, the working group is planning to look at the possibility of including open category races at masters events in the future.”

Some critics of transgender women competing in elite women’s sports have suggested that trans athletes should compete in separate categories from cisgender men and women. But as sports journalist and Fair Play author Katie Barnes recently told LGBTQ Nation, the number of out transgender athletes competing at the elite level makes that unrealistic.

“The reality is, there are so few. So, who are they competing against?” Barnes said. “From a functional standpoint, it doesn’t really make very much sense to me.”

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