Young Swedish gymnasts will be allowed to compete in whatever class they choose, following a decision by the Swedish Gymnastics Federation.
The decision was made following a “deep-dive into the issue around gender identity and gender expression from an LGBTQI, and particularly trans-inclusive, perspective”, the federation said.
This ruling means that a gymnast whose gender was recorded as female at birth will now be able to compete as a junior in national competitions for Men’s Artistic Gymnastics – and vice versa for someone registered male at birth.
“Specifically, for our training and competition activities the decision means that you are welcome to train in whatever group you yourself choose no matter your legal gender, gender identity or expression,” the gymnastics federation said in a statement.
Transgender teenagers will also be free to compete in the class of their own choosing, up to the junior national level, which falls between 13 and 18 years old depending on the discipline.
However, the new rules would not apply to senior athletes, the federation added.
“This means that up until you’re 18 years old in most disciplines you can choose whatever category you want: women’s or men’s,” Åsa Ekdahl, who developed the new guidelines for the federation, said.
The gymnastics federation is the first sports governing body in Sweden to respond to a report from the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL), which warned that transgender youths were being excluded.
The gymnastics federation said the issue had been on the agenda for a while but also added that there hadn’t been many enquiries from individuals or groups, which was “one of the reasons the issue had been in focus”.
Ms Ekdahl is not worried that gymnasts would use the ruling to gain an unfair advantage.
“To be able to speak up in a gymnastic club and say ‘I want to compete as the other gender’ takes a lot of courage – so if someone wants to come out and really express themselves and try to compete as the other gender, I don’t think it will be because they want to win a competition,” she said.