Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Education groups have called for prudent planning after a local sports federation issued rules allowing transgender and intersex athletes to compete in the 2023 National High School Games for the first time.
The groundbreaking decision was first mentioned in the competition rules for the 2022 National High School Games when they were published in November 2021.
They said that transgender and intersex athletes would be allowed to compete "across gender lines" starting in the 2023 school year.
More detailed eligibility and competition rules have yet to be decided, however, because they have to be drafted by the Sports Administration, according to the Chinese Taipei School Sport Federation (CTSSF), which handles the high school games, on Wednesday.
In reacting to these rules, which flew under the radar until recently, representatives of education groups called for careful planning on how the rules will be implemented, though it was hard for them to be specific because of the lack of details available so far.
Principals Association of R.O.C Chairman Chang Hsin-wu (張信務) told CNA on Thursday that he was supportive of the participation of transgender athletes in sports, which has become an international trend.
But this is the first time such rules are being implemented in Taiwan and careful judgments will be required on several issues, including which sports will allow transgender participants and how to identify and evaluate eligibility, Chang said.
The decision will also have possible implications for students seeking admission into sports-related fields at universities, Chang said, noting that students' results at the National High School Games, for example, can affect which universities accept them.
Chang was hinting at the possibility of the sudden inclusion of top-notch transgender athletes in certain sports derailing the dreams of other student-athletes to get accepted to schools they were targeting.
Matters involving the interests and rights of students in pursuing higher education should be announced at least three years in advance, he argued.
"Scores obtained now should not be able to be used right away to admit a person into somewhere for next year," Chang said.
National Alliance of Presidents of Parents Association Chairman Pan Pin-jui (潘品睿) said the implementation of the rules should be planned out thoroughly, including having a contingency plan, because mistakes could generate a public backlash.
The Sports Administration should write out a complete plan and hold a public hearing on it so that the students and their parents can understand the situation and voice their opinions, Pan said Thursday.
That would enable society to determine whether certain proposals or models are acceptable, and prevent rash decisions by the government, Pan said.
In response, Lin Hsiu-ching (林秀卿), a section chief with the Sports Administration's School Physical Education Division, told CNA that transgender athletes will be allowed to compete in the National High School Games because of a prior case in which a transgender student was unable to compete in a certain gender category.
"Sports is healthy for the mind and body, and we should welcome those outside the gender binary and move toward a global trend in allowing transgender students a chance to participate," Lin said.
The Sports Administration plans to hold seminars on the move in various cities and counties in July, when the rules and regulations are planned out, Lin said.
This will give people time to understand the move before more detailed competition regulations for the 2023 National High School Games are announced in November, Lin said.
The Sports Administration is focused on proceeding with the move, but is open to making adjustments on the rules and regulations when the plan takes effect, if needed, Lin said.