The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) “Portrayal Guidelines” now deem it “harmful” to refer to transgender athletes as “biological male” or “biological female.”

The updated guidelines direct Olympic-affiliated media on addressing identities, listing terms like “biological male” and “biological female” as problematic. The IOC explains that sex categories are not solely based on genetics and can change with gender-affirming care.

A press release from the IOC stated that the guidelines aim to “raise awareness about the differences in how sportswomen and women’s sport are portrayed compared to their male counterparts,” providing tips on breaking “gender-based preconceptions” and “stereotypes.”

IOC Guidelines Spark Controversy Over Transgender Athlete Terminology
Lauren Hubbard was the first transgender athlete to compete in the Summer Olympics

The guidelines include practical checklists to ensure gender-equal and fair representation of athletes. According to Fox News, they also address barriers like the lack of recognition for female athletes and advise on non-sexist language, such as using “extraordinary athlete” instead of comparisons like “the next Michael Phelps.”

The guide also highlights issues such as gender pay gaps and the frequent commentary on female athletes’ appearances, with quotes from IOC officials condemning gender discrimination. IOC Human Rights Chair Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted the persistent barriers to gender equality, including stereotypes and a lack of representation.

Terms to avoid include born male, born female, biologically male, biologically female, genetically male, genetically female, male-to-female (MtF), and female-to-male (FtM), as they can dehumanize and inaccurately describe transgender athletes. The document recommends emphasizing a person’s actual gender to avoid questioning their identity based on birth certificate sex categories.