Wyo State Sen. Schuler Says International Transgender Swimming Ban Good For Her Bill

Wyoming state Sen. Wendy Schuler applauded the decision by the international swimming federation to ban transgender athletes from women's swimming competitions. She said it will help her "Fairness In Women's Sports" bill when it is introduced next year.

Jimmy Orr

June 20, 20224 min read

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An international swimming association’s decision to bar transgender women from competing in women’s swimming competition should help with proposed Wyoming legislation that would accomplish the same thing at the state level, the bill’s sponsor said.

Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, welcomed news that the International Swimming Federation (FINA) voted Sunday to adopt the ban and create a new “open” division which would allow transgender athletes to compete against each other.

“They are finally acknowledging the physical differences between the sexes and listening to the science,” Schuler said. “I still believe my bill makes it more cut and dried but this decision is a move in the right direction.”

The FINA policy, which was adopted by 71.5% of its members, does not apply to Wyoming. It took effect Monday.

Schuler, during the Legislature’s 2022 budget session, introduced legislation to ban ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports in Wyoming schools. FINA’s approval of its policy should help with the bill’s chances when she offers it again during the Legislature’s 2023 session, she said.

Schuler said many of her colleagues in the House have signaled support for her bill, giving her reason for optimism at next year’s session.

She said she was pleased with FINA’s decision.

“I am happy to see that FINA has stepped up to the plate and taken on the issue of fairness in women’s sports,” Schuler told Cowboy State Daily.

“The most important fact of their decision and vote is that the organization reiterated the importance of protecting competitive fairness,” Schuler said, acknowledging that the creation of an open division “leaves the door open” for trans athletes who still want to compete at “an elite level.”

Schuler, a member of the 1976 women’s Olympics basketball team, has always explained that her legislation was intended to promote fairness to women, not to restrict the actions of other athletes.

“When your biological daughter, granddaughter, niece, or female cousins get left behind while others who ‘identify as females’ take their places on the court or in the pool, are you going to be OK with that? I think not,” Schuler wrote in a column for Cowboy State Daily last March.

Schuler has said that even though the Wyoming High School Activities Association has a policy in place regarding transgendered athletes, it has a loophole. Individual schools can still allow transgendered females, or those who just identify as females, to compete on women’s teams.

FINA said the new policy was about fairness as well.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competition,” said Husain al-Musallam, the president of FINA.

Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality, said she doesn’t agree with the ruling but it doesn’t really impact things in the Cowboy State.

“Where we will eventually land on this will be different than where we are right now,” Burlingame said. “But my focus is on Wyoming and this really doesn’t impact Wyoming.”

Saying that, she did acknowledge that this ruling could bolster Schuler’s legislation next year.

“Insofar as it muddies the water in the overall conversation, yes,” she said. “One party has decided that there’s a lot of money in getting people riled up to attack children in sports. Children are not adults.”

To that end, Burlingame said the set of rules for children should be different than for adults.

“Childhood is a unique time and the ability to feel a sense of belonging to join a sports team and to learn good sportsmanship and how to be a good teammate are all valuable parts of growing up in Wyoming,” she said.

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Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.