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New Olympics media guidelines say that referring to trans athletes as “biological males” is “harmful”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revised its “Portrayal Guidelines,” noting that the terms “biological male” and “biological female” are “problematic” when referring to trans athletes.

This week, the IOC updated its guidelines for Olympic-affiliated media and outside outlets on how to appropriately cover athletes regarding their diverse identities. The third edition of the guidelines also includes a list of “problematic” terms that should be avoided when covering transgender competitors in the Olympics.

“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,” stated the IOC guide in its section identifying “biologically male” and “biologically female” as “problematic language.”

Image Credit: Canva

According to ‘Fox News’, the language guide was released on Thursday, just weeks before the Summer Olympics in Paris this year. A press release accompanying the document described its aim, stating it seeks to “raise awareness about the differences in how sportswomen and women’s sport are portrayed in comparison to their male counterparts.”

“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 added.

The guide offered tips on breaking “gender-based preconceptions” and “stereotypes.” It included brief entries on “key barriers” to equal portrayal in sports, such as the “lack of recognition” female athletes receive compared to male athletes, and provided guidance on writing about women in a non-sexist manner.

For instance, rather than writing, “She’s the next Michael Phelps,” journalists are advised to write, “She’s an extraordinary athlete.”

The guide also addressed gender pay gaps, the tendency to comment more on female athletes’ appearances than men’s, and included quotes from IOC officials condemning 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.”

The “Language and Terminology” section recommended using words like “humankind” instead of “mankind,” and “partner/spouse” in place of “husband/wife.”

The “Problematic Language” section, towards the end of the guide, classified terms related to the biological classification of trans athletes as “harmful language practices to avoid.”

It stated, “TERMS TO AVOID: ‘born male’, ‘born female’, ‘biologically male’, ‘biologically female’, ‘genetically male’, ‘genetically female’, ‘male-to-female (MtF)’, ‘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 entry explained, adding that “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.”

Other terms to avoid included “identifies as,” “sex change,” and “transsexual.”

The guide credited this section to “GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide and its guides on Covering LGBTQ athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics.”

GLAAD, or the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is a prominent pro-LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

The IOC did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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