Metro Weekly

World Boxing Council to Introduce Separate Transgender Category

Under the new category, competitors may only compete against other individuals who share the same assigned sex at birth.

The finals of the women’s middle weight boxing category at the 2015 Pan Am Games. – Photo: theharv58, via Wikimedia.

The World Boxing Council, one of four major organizations that sanction professional boxing matches, plans to launch a separate category dedicated to transgender fighters over safety concerns.

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman told the British newspaper The Telegraph in an interview published on Dec. 29 that the new category is being proposed to ensure “the dangers of a man fighting a woman will never happen.”

“We will not allow — ever — a transgender born a man to fight a woman, who was born a woman,” he said, referring to concerns over greater physical strength and physiological advantages that transgender women enjoy over cisgender females. 

Under the new category, transgender fighters will be organized by an “at birth” rule, meaning a transgender female fighter assigned male at birth can only box against a fellow transgender female, and transgender males assigned female at birth will only be allowed to box against other transgender males.

“It is the time to do this, and we are doing this because of safety and inclusion,” Sulaiman said. “In boxing, a man fighting a woman must never be accepted regardless of gender change. There should be no grey area around this, and we want to go into it with transparency and the correct decisions.”

Sulaiman said he’s not certain of how many transgender individuals would be interested in boxing, but the WBC will “put out a global call” to prospective transgender fighters in order to gauge interest. 

“We are creating a set of rules and structures so that transgender boxing can take place, as they fully deserve to if they want to box,” he said. “We do not yet know the numbers that there are out there, but we’re opening a universal registration in 2023, so that we can understand the boxers that are out there — and we’ll start from there.”

Once the rules and structures are put in place, WBC would create an all-transgender league and a tournament to determine champions or titleholders.

The new rules follow controversies over transgender athletes competing in sports, with some American states introducing legislation to ban transgender athletes from female sports while international and European sporting bodies seek to create “open” categories that are not designated for either males or females.

NCAA Division I Champion swimmer Lia Thomas created a stir earlier this year when she began breaking long-standing distance records at swim meets, leading some fellow athletes to cry foul over being forced to compete against her. The issue of transgender participation was also questioned in September, when Alana McLaughlin, the second out transgender woman to compete in the sport in mixed martial arts in the United States, choked out her opponent to win her debut match.

In June, FINA, the global governing body for aquatic sports, voted to restrict transgender athletes from competing in elite women’s competitions and created a working group to examine creating an “open” category for transgender athletes and others who don’t wish to compete based on their assigned sex at birth. That policy requires transgender competitors to have completed their transition, or at least been on puberty blockers, since age 12. Given that most transgender athletes will not meet those criteria or begin transitioning that early, the policy effectively serves as a ban on transgender swimmers in women’s events.

The British Boxing Board of Control has responded to the policy, saying they’ve begun discussions over the separate category, but many of those discussions are only “hypothetical.”

“It is what you are born as, as rugby union does,” the organization’s general secretary, Robert Smith, told The Telegraph, referring to the International Rugby League’s decision to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s matches. “When it does [happen] we intend to be fully prepared. Medical and, perhaps more importantly, legal considerations will have to be taken into account.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!