Olympics Media Guidelines: ‘Harmful’ to Call Transgender Athletes ‘Biological Males’

The Olympic rings are seen on the Eiffel Tower on June 7, 2024, ahead the upcoming Paris 2
LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) “Portrayal Guidelines” has declared it “harmful” to reference transgender athletes as “biological male” or “biological female.”

The recently updated guidelines serve to direct Olympic-affiliated media and other outlets covering the upcoming games on how they should address certain identities. The guidelines also included a list of “problematic” terms, with “biological male” and “biological female” being chief among them.

“A person’s sex category is not assigned based on genetics alone, and aspects of a person’s biology can be altered when they pursue gender-affirming medical care,” the IOC guide said.

In a press release, the IOC said the guidelines were to “raise awareness about the differences in how sportswomen and women’s sport are portrayed in comparison to their male counterparts.” The guidelines also provided tips on breaking “gender-based preconceptions” and “stereotypes.”

“The guidelines provide practical checklists and advice to help ensure gender-equal and fair representation of all athletes across all forms of media and communication,” it said.

According to Fox News, the guidelines also featured “brief entries about ‘key barriers’ to equal portrayal in sports, like female athletes having a ‘lack of recognition’ as compared to male athletes when covered by outlets, and it provided guidance on how to write about women competing in a way that’s not sexist.”

In one example, it instructed that rather than write, “She’s the next Michael Phelps,” journalists should write, “She’s an extraordinary athlete.”

The guide also mentioned the reality of gender pay gaps, how female athletes’ appearances are more commented on than men’s, and even featured quotes from IOC honchos decrying gender discrimination.

IOC Advisory Committee on Human Rights Chair Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was quoted in the guide, stating, “Stereotypes, discriminatory social norms and a lack of representation remain some of the most pervasive barriers to gender equality around the world.”

Terms to avoid in the “Problematic Language” were as follows: born male, born female, biologically male, biologically female, genetically male, genetically female, male-to-female (MtF), and female-to-male (FtM).

“Use of phrases like those above can be dehumanising and inaccurate when used to describe transgender sportspeople and athletes with sex variations,” the document said. “It is always preferable to emphasize a person’s actual gender rather than potentially calling their identity into question by referring to the sex category that was registered on their original birth certificate.”

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