Lesbian swimmer Diana Nyad changes stance on trans athletes: ‘I regret any harm I caused’

Lesbian swimmer Diana Nyad wears a cream suit while speaking on stage

Lesbian swimmer Diana Nyad has explained that she has changed her attitude towards trans athletes, and is now “firmly on the side of inclusion”. 

Nyad, who made history in 2013 by becoming the first person to report swimming from Cuba to Florida without the use of a protective shark cage, has changed her stance after previously publicly opposing trans women taking part in women’s sports. 

The 74-year-old author and long-distance swimmer – the subject of recently-released Netflix biopic Nyad, starring Jodie Foster – wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2022 arguing against trans women’s inclusion in elite sports on women’s teams.

Since then, however, Nyad explained that she has done “a lot of deep dive thinking”, and her views have evolved. 

“I have come to understand that the science is far more complex than I thought, and there are clearly more educated experts than I who are creating policy to ensure that elite sports are both fair and inclusive of all women,” she said in an interview with Out.

“I regret weighing in on that conversation and any harm I may have caused.”

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Diana Nyad added in the interview that the climate for the trans community “has turned dire and dangerous”, and that all women are negatively affected by trans women being “targeted by discrimination and abuse in sports and elsewhere”.

“I am today firmly on the side of inclusion,” she explained.

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“Trans women athletes deserve our utmost respect. I stand with them in the world of sports and in the fight for full equality for all trans people.

“We are all sisters and siblings under the blue sky, and we should all have equal opportunities to play the sports we choose, the sports we love.”

In June 2022, elite swimming’s governing body FINA voted to effectively ban trans women from competing in women’s elite races, instead creating a separate “open category” for trans and non-binary competitors.

According to the new policy, which FINA said would “protect competitive fairness at our events”, transgender athletes must not have “not experienced male puberty” after the age of 12, or “beyond Tanner Stage 2 [of puberty]” in order to be able to compete in women’s swimming competitions.

In October this year, however, the “open” category of the Swimming World Cup for trans and non-binary athletes was cancelled after nobody signed up to take part in any of the events.

In a statement, FINA said: “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.”

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