Trans rower qualified for a women’s grand final at the Masters National Championships, bumping a biological woman

Willow Arts, a 31-year-old transgender athlete, secured a spot in the women’s grand final at the prestigious Masters National Championships, hosted by US rowing.

This achievement came after a dominating performance in the Women’s Open A Singles championship race, where Arts claimed the sixth position, outperforming female rower Kristen Wilson, who narrowly missed the top final in Indianapolis.

Arts’ success at the Masters Nationals is not a one-time occurrence. In 2021, they claimed the women’s silver medal  in the same event held in Oakridge, TN.

The decision to pursue rowing came from Arts’ preference for non-contact sports, as they mentioned, “I was not good at ball sports and I don’t like contact sports.” Embracing rowing, Arts found a passion that brought them athletic achievements and accolades.

A transgender athlete, Arts particularly enjoys sculling over sweep rowing, and their favorite boat to row in is a 1x. While erging, Arts finds relaxation in watching Netflix, and motivation on the water comes from the coxswain’s encouraging words, especially when they are gaining on another boat.

US rowing previously caused controversy earlier this year when they came out in support of trans inclusion.

A  group of prominent oarswomen opposed US Rowing’s new gender-identity policy, considering it unfair to females and undermining gender equity in rowing.

The new policy allows rowers to declare confidentially that they are women without medical treatment and compete in women’s categories in specific regattas.

US Rowing’s CEO defended the policy, stating it aims to be inclusive and trust rowers’ self-identification as men or women.

“At USRowing, we seek to make rowing a highly competitive, safe, and inclusive place where all athletes, including transgender athletes, can participate fully and feel a sense of belonging.” Kraus wrote. By accepting gender as a self-identified attribute, “we are saying we TRUST [sic] our rowers and believe in them when they say they are a man or a woman.”

The opposition argues that male physiological advantages in competitive sports cannot be erased, even with testosterone suppression.

“It’s not fair to let males, even though they identify as women, compete against females,” Dr. O’Connor said. “It’s blatantly discriminatory to females.

“The better policy would be to say, ‘Here’s the female category where females compete and here’s the open/male category where men and individuals who are male but are suppressing testosterone can compete.’ The female category has to be protected.”

“We will regularly revisit this policy as and when appropriate,” Kraus promised, “to ensure that it does not become an issue for rowing.”