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Diana Nyad Reverses Her Stance on Trans Sports Participation, Calls For Inclusion

Diana Nyad Reverses Her Stance on Trans Sports Participation, Calls For Inclusion

Diana Nyad
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After "a lot of deep diving," the 2023 Out100 honoree's views on transgender athletes have evolved.

After “a lot of deep diving,” Diana Nyad’s views on transgender athletes have evolved.

Back in 2022, the legendary long-distance swimmer, famous for being the first person to report swimming from Cuba to Florida, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post in which she said that trans athletes should be celebrated — but should not compete against cis women.

Nyad, who identifies as a lesbian, argued that trans women who have gone through male puberty had “legacy advantages” like wider shoulders, narrower hips, longer arms and legs, and bigger hands and feet than cis women, and therefore it wasn’t an even playing ground. She said the science supported this.

Now nearly two years later, Nyad has spoken out again — this time on the side of knowledge, change, growth, compassion, and sportsmanship.

In her new statement, published in this year’s Out100 issue, Nyad admits that since writing the piece, she has “come to understand that the science is far more complex than I thought, and there are clearly more educated experts than I who are creating policy to ensure that elite sports are both fair and inclusive of all women. I regret weighing in on that conversation and any harm I may have caused.”

She continued, saying she now sees “all women are negatively affected by the ways transgender women are targeted by discrimination and abuse in sports and elsewhere,” and she is now “firmly on the side of inclusion.”

It’s a beautiful message from one of sports’ greatest legends — and it’s a message other female athletes should pay attention to.

There’s a popular belief that it’s hard to change someone’s mind once they’ve set it against trans rights or inclusion. This is especially common when talking about people from older generations.

Many of my trans friends have sighed about their grandparents and said things like, “at their age they are not going to change, they’re doing the best they can.” And often, it seems like all that we can hope is that they will respect our identities and support us “in their own way” no matter how much that way hurts or excludes us.

While other notable figures who have written op-eds and spoken out against trans athlete inclusion, like Martina Navratilova and J.K. Rowling, continue to double down on their beliefs, no matter how much new information they are shown, Nyad proves that growth is possible.

Nyad has long been known as someone who will do whatever she wants, despite what anyone else says and despite what limits others put on her.

Her upcoming biopic, Nyad, starring Annette Benning and Jodi Foster, shows this perfectly when the then-64-year-old began her fifth attempt at swimming from Cuba to Florida and finally succeeded, despite everyone saying she couldn’t. When doctors, coaches, experts, and even her best friend told her she had limits, Nyad refused to be limited. The film comes out in theaters on October 20 and on Netflix on November 3, and is an inspirational story of one queer woman triumphing over societal expectations.

Now, Nyad shows once again that she is not limited by anything other than her own power. And that her power for change is a mighty one.

Nyad’s new statement gives trans people hope. Not just because we have one of the greatest female athletes ever on our side, but because this is proof that with compassion, information, and time, minds can and will be changed.

Diana Nyad has always shown that the human spirit can accomplish anything it wants to. Now, with her help, a future of equality, access, and celebration for trans athletes is within sight.

The Out100 issue, featuring cover star Brandi Carlile, is out October 31 on newsstands. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue today through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.