World Aquatics will host an “open” category at the Berlin World Cup in October, the first time the world swimming governing body will test its concept of a third gender category.

World Aquatics had previously banned certain trans women — those who have experienced male puberty, which currently accounts for the vast majority — from competing in the female category. At the time the organization also promised to create an opportunity for all trans women to compete at the highest levels.

This fulfills that promise. Now women like Lia Thomas, who famously won a national NCAA championship while swimming for the University of Pennsylvania, have an opportunity to compete.

The announcement will be met with skepticism and applause from people across the spectrum. While on the one hand this builds more opportunity for athletes to compete, some will say that trans women belong in the female category.

One big question will be how many athletes will qualify to compete in this category. It seems World Aquatics may make the barriers to entry low.

“For this inaugural event, the emphasis is on gaining further experience for future development and celebrating diversity,” they said.

The competitions will include all strokes in the 50-meter and 100-meter, indicating they would like to make it as accessible as possible. However, these distances are not Thomas’ strength, so it will be interesting to see if they can entice the trans trailblazer back into the water.

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