In accordance with a new set of guidelines from the International Olympic Committee, transgender athletes will be able to participate in the event and other, similar international sports competitions without being required to have sexual reassignment surgery.
In the past, trans athletes looking to compete on the Olympic level were required to have undergone a number of elective surgeries as well as having been on hormone replacement therapy for at least two years.
"Since the 2003 Stockholm Consensus on Sex Reassignment in Sports, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of autonomy of gender identity in society, as reflected in the laws of many jurisdictions worldwide," the IOC expressed in its new guidelines. "To require surgical anatomical changes as a pre-condition to participation is not necessary to preserve fair competition and may be inconsistent with developing legislation and notions of human rights."
While the IOC's new guidelines are suggestions rather than hard rules, the body believes that its announcement is the first step toward making the games more modern and accessible to a wider variety of athletes. That being said, there will be caveats.
Going forward, female to male trans athletes will be able to compete in men's events without question. Male to female athletes, however, will still be required to pass a test measuring the amount of naturally occurring testosterone still present in their bodies, so as to minimize any physiological advantage.
"The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L (nanomols per liter) for at least 12 months prior to her first competition," the guidelines explain. "The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category."
The IOC's new stance on transgender athletes comes in the wake of Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete Caitlyn Jenner coming out as transgender as well as a number of instances in which a female athlete's abilities were called into question because of hyperandrogenism, a medical condition in which androgens (like testosterone) are abnormally high.
In 2014, Dutee Chand, an Indian sprinter, was disqualified by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from participating in the Commonwealth Games after it was determined that she had hyperandrogenism. The ban effectively put her career on hold for a year and was widely criticized for vilifying Chand—despite the fact that she had not altered her body or caused her unique hormone levels.
Following Chand's high-profile case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the IAAF's ban on hyperandrogenism, after having tasking the body with providing concrete evidence that the condition gave female athletes a marked advantage over their competition.