USA Boxing reportedly has a “new” policy regarding transgender athletes, and it’s already infuriating people across the spectrum of the issue.
Advocates for trans women’s participation in the female category are pointing to some of the harshest restrictions in sport. People who oppose trans women in the female category are upset there is any path to participation for them.
The World Boxing Council has, on the international stage, barred trans women from the female category, saying they will build a transgender category. Other countries’ governing bodies, like Boxing New Zealand, have followed suit.
The USA Boxing policy, as widely reported, has a number of key elements to it.
First, every athlete under 18 must compete in the category corresponding to their sex assigned at birth. This flies in the face of many of the more-strict trans-inclusion policies in sports, which allow for athletes to compete in their gender category as long as they haven’t experienced puberty. Even some people who generally oppose trans athletes acknowledge that if someone doesn’t experience puberty, they should be eligible to compete.
Yet in boxing, a 15-year-old trans girl who has been on puberty blockers since they were 10 still has to compete in the male category.
Second, adult boxers must have had gender reassignment surgery. For years, sports governing bodies have moved away from this requirement, so the return of this requirement for USA Boxing is putting the push toward broader trans inclusion in reverse.
Third, adult boxers have to show they have have testosterone levels under 5 nmol/L for four years prior to competing. That four years is the longest wait period for any sport that allows trans women to compete in the female category.
Now USA Boxing is facing widespread criticism for the policy — at this point the strictest in sports (other than outright bans).
On one side, many trans advocates will view this as a setback. While there is a path to participation for adult trans women in the female category, the mandated surgery and four years of mandated HRT will be considered overly restrictive as it goes well beyond previous guidelines.
“While we are encouraged to see that USA Boxing has not outright banned transgender athletes, we are deeply concerned by a surgical requirement for participation and no pathway for trans, nonbinary and intersex youth to participate in line with their gender identity,” said Danne Diamond Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally.
On the other hand, people are critical that the ban has any path to participation for trans women in boxing’s female category. Whether the policy mandated four years or 10 years of HRT, these people would not be happy.
“I will never agree to this,” said former world champion Ebanie Bridges. “It’s bad enough having trans women breaking records in other sports like track and field, swimming and power lifting but it’s a bit different to them breaking our skulls in combat sports where the aim is to HURT YOU not just break a record.”
The “skulls” line has been used to target trans athletes in combat sports ever since Fallon Fox, competing in professional mixed martial arts six years after her transition, broke the eye orbital of an opponent. Critics say she broke her “skull” simply because it sounds worse.
“Hormone therapy is banned,” professional boxer Mikaela Mayer said on X. “By default, this should make trans athletes ineligible for competition. Doesn’t matter how you feel about the situation, fact is, it’s illegal and completely disrupts the even playing field that sport works so hard to create.”
Riley Gaines, the former college swimmer who came to prominence arguing publicly against trans women in female sports after competing against Lia Thomas, said a trans woman will end up killing a female boxer.
“Mark my words, it will take a woman getting killed before these misogynistic fools wake up.”
Dozens of boxers have been killed by cisgender boxers during matches, including a number of women. Major injuries are already a consistent aspect of the sport, before any trans woman steps into the female pro-boxing ring.
USA Boxing seems to be trying to thread the needle here, create a way for trans women to compete, but also raise the barrier to entry high enough to stave off some critics.
In the end, their policy will simply piss off everyone involved in this debate.