Our discussion in class of the article “Eithor/or” has brought up some interesting points about the issue of gender and equality in sports. What is more important when determining eligibility for an athletic competition, biological sex or identified gender? This issue becomes even more complicated when thinking about intersexed people.
There really is no clear answer to this issue, and there’s a couple of different ways to think about it. On one hand, people should have the right to choose their own gender, and society should not be able to force them into a specific gender based on biology.
One example I brought up in discussion was the contestant Katelynn, a transgender woman from MTV’s The Real World: Challenge. She was originally featured on The Real World: Brooklyn, where she had undergone gender reassignment surgery just weeks prior to filming, becoming the shows first transgender cast member. In her season of The Challenge, competitors were paired in groups of two- one man with one woman. She was considered a woman for the sake of the competition, even though she was biologically born a man. She wasn’t a particularly strong candidate, and even still, some might say she was given an unfair advantage. However, it’s unclear as to whether or not this would have been an issue had she been a superior competitor.
In the case of Caster Semenya, people were upset about “advantage” because she was a superior competitor. Many people are given advantages in sports though, and that’s what makes superior athletes. If this was considered unfair, than shouldn’t it be illegal for someone to have abnormally long legs or be extremely tall. Megan Ditrolio, a Johns Hopkins student brings up a very good point saying that, “These genetic differences may be advantageous, but they are natural parts of their respective bodies and those people would never be denied the right to utilize their advantages.”
One of the main advantages people think is unfair is the higher amount of testosterone Semenya has. Many olympic women athletes have much higher testosterone levels than normal, but hers is even higher. However, like one commenter on a forum said, “Until a testosterone threshold has been determined and is used for screening, that’s all we can do. And god help us if they ever do such an appalling thing.” There really is no exact way to justify what level of testosterone is “too high.”
Thankfully, Semenya was cleared to compete eventually, and I hope this sets a precedent for future issues of gender in sports. Nobody should have to go through the testing and treatments she did.