Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gender Testing in Sport: A Case for Treatment?

I don't know about you, but I'm a huge fan of the Olympics. I've been watching the Vancouver Olympics as often as possible this past week.

With that said, I've just read an article about gender testing in professional sports, including the Olympics. This article is a response to the plight of Caster Semenya, the South African 2009 World Champion in women's Track & Field who was accused of being a man and subsequently forced into extensive gender testing to determine if she would be allowed to remain the world champion. Since this incident, gender testing of women (and only women!) in sports has become a hot button issue.

Here's the article:

And here's a few facts I'd like to pull from the article:
1. Only women have ever been required to have gender testing.
2. In 1966, gender testing became a requirement for women to qualify for international sporting events. For the first couple of years, this was done by extensive physical examination of each female athlete by a panel of doctors.
3. In 1968, they switched to a chromosome test, that eventually proved to have a 20% false positivity rate.
4. Mandatory genetic testing was practiced until the year 2000. That's 46 years of forced genetic testing of female athletes.
5. "The medical profession and international sporting bodies term most gender ambiguities as disorders of sex development."
6. Today, the International Associations of Athletic Fields (IAAF) is seriously considering reinstating mandatory gender testing of female athletes.
7. The IAAF is also considering making any gender ambiguous female athletes who want to compete required to have surgery to correct the ambiguities.

My Response
This is pure discrimination against Intersex people and Women. I'm so outraged by this.

They justify targeting women for these tests by saying that "there is no advantage to a man with less testosterone, only a woman with more testosterone." Scientifically, that may be correct, but socially this is a direct reflection of the inferiority of women in the eyes of the world.

My friend and fellow artist, Rachel Bruce, remarks "
One way or the other, strong women can't be strong without getting tested to compete in sports...Testosterone or not."

They talk about "correcting" and "fixing" and "changing" these "gender ambiguous" athletes as a way of "fixing" the "problem"? The belief that Intersex people need to be "fixed" is unbelievable narrow-minded and downright prejudiced. The fact that the International Olympic Committee is even considering making it mandatory for women to not only have gender verification testing, but also surgically change their bodies in order to qualify for competition (in the case that any gender ambiguity is discovered) is absolutely appalling.

If you have any thoughts on the issue, please leave a comment.

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