Ethically, Caster Semenya Points Us Directly To Gender-Free Sports Competition, And There Is No Ethical Way To Avoid It


Ethics Alarms first mentioned female runner Caster Semenya in this essay , when the international sports community was debating the South African track champion’s fitness for competition. Caster, depending on who you believe, is either a woman, intersex, a woman with freakishly high levels of testosterone in her body, or a man who identifies as a woman. What is undeniable is that she is faster than most women, and maybe all of them, and her unique physical make-up, whatever you want to call it, gives her an advantage. Since the last Olympics, Caster has been forced to take drugs that inhibited her body’s production of testosterone.Then, in July 2015 , the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the 2011 IAAF regulations that restricted testosterone levels in female athletes. They also suspended hyperandrogenism regulations for two years. Now Semenya will be able to compete as she is naturally, and because she will, she is widely expected to smoke the competition.

Is it fair to let her run? Is it fair not to let her run? After this year of controversy and confusion over gender, with boys and men “identifying as women” and transgender discrimination laws roiling the culture wars, this is a perfect time for an intersex champion. Then, presumably, all hell will break loose. A sports scientist tells The Guardian,

“I’m actually dreading the Olympics. People only want to hear a good story so when Semenya wins gold the South African media will go crazy. If she breaks the world record, which I think she will, it’ll be even crazier. You can lie and say: ‘Happy days. Let’s celebrate our golden girl’ – which the politicians and media want. Or you can be honest and principled and say: ‘Actually, there are many things we need to address.’ That’s very unpopular”

Society and sports have reached the point  the ethical solution is obvious and unavoidable, and, unfortunately, brutal. If society is accepting the fact that a binary gender distribution is a myth, and there may be seven, ten, or dozens of gender variations along a spectrum, then integrity and consistency—and fairness—demands that gender distinctions in sport be eliminated as arbitrary.

Let all genders compete equally in all sports, individual and team both. It is too bad that many women athletes will not be able to compete at a high level with men, who have natural advantages in strength and size, but  nonathletic, short, weak boys and men have had to face that same disadvantage for eons. Women can try to close the gap in biology through training, dedication, practice and innovation, just as lesser athletes have bested more naturally gifted one since sports began. Some of them will. Is separate inherently unequal, or isn’t it? It is. The Supreme Court has never made a wiser or more profound statement. Gender-isolated sports were always an implicit societal statement that women could not compete with men, that they were the fair sex, the weaker sex. Women have fought to eliminate that assumption. Gender-segregated sports are an archaic remnant of the attitude feminism has successfully persuaded us was unethical. They have to go.

It will be ironic if the end result of women’s rights will be to eliminate many of their opportunities to excel at sports, and tragic, in a Greek sort of way. But when a woman’s natural hormone levels are ordered to be artificially reduced to eliminate her “advantage,” everyone needs to stop, take stock, and be honest. Wilt Chamberlain was a freak: a basketball player who was both taller than almost everyone but also stronger. Of course he set the all-time single game scoring record (100 points!) that still stands. Should he have been given some kind of handicap? Forced to play on his knees, perhaps? Similarly, Babe Ruth was obviously some kind of mutant. In 1920 when he hit  54 homers, it was more home runs than any other team in the American League hit that year. Did he have extra hormones? Martian DNA? Nobody’s ever fully explained Babe Ruth, just as nobody’s ever explained Shakespeare.

We can’t have special leagues and categories for however many gender categories science identifies and activists fight to have recognized, and there is no justification for creating artificial standards to eliminate outlier performers. The “solution” imposed on Caster Semenya—force her to take drugs that eliminate her natural advantage—is horrifying. How is this different from banging brilliant kids on the head until they have brain damage and no longer dominate their less gifted fellow students in school? What right do the sports czars have to declare an unprecedented, unique competitor unfit to compete because her, or his, unique qualities are advantageous? Why are so many woman condemning Caster as a cheat, when they should be defending her as a human being with as much right to compete as she is as anyone? Because she’ll win? Because it’s unfair that God, or random chance, or her own dedication rendered her better at her sport than anyone else?

Oh, I can answer that question. It’s always a shock when the natural progression of an ideological crusade takes a movement in a circle. Title IX, and the rise of women’s sports, was the result of concern over women having no avenue to pursue sports in college. There were men’s teams, but few and badly funded women’s teams. This was gender discrimination, a lack of equal opportunity. Since that law caused women’s sports, and female athletes, to proliferate—a good thing!—the far-sighted advocates of equality, many of them the same warriors who fought for Title IX—have apparently successfully lobbied for an elimination of hard gender distinctions or any separation of the sexes on the basis of modesty or, I have to say, common sense, in locker rooms, in bathrooms, everywhere but sports.  If a boy tells his parents he is a girl, the Brownies have to let him in.  A former make with Y chromosomes can compete in a female beauty competition.

At this point, efforts to qualify athletic competitors on the basis of gender are archaic and hypocritical, as well as impossible. There is only one way to be consistent and fair, at this point, and that is to open all sports competition and teams up to all genders, just as they are open to all races and physical types. Let the best athletes prevail.

Is that unfair to women? Why? Why is it any more unfair to them than to small, muscle-deficient men? If, in the interest of providing opportunities to play, various sports create divisions limited by height, weight or skill, that’s fine; just don’t be surprised if there aren’t a lot of endorsement contracts being offered, and the stands aren’t too full. This is what equality looks like, and what it should look like. Some people, scholars, students, workers, managers, job applicants, baseball players, tennis players and Olympic runners have more ability than others, and they will tend to succeed. Everyone should have an opportunity to compete, but fairness does not require that everyone have the same likelihood of winning.

Indeed, it requires the opposite.

Semenya forces feminists and gender equality advocates to face the ultimate contradiction in their quest. Does gender matter, or not? Is gender equality something they really seek, or are they going to be trapped in the same hypocrisy that racial equality advocates have become mired in: equality is desirable when it works to a group’s advantage, but intolerable when it does not?

Let the fastest runner win. That’s ethical. It does, however, make some long-standing myths untenable.


Pointer: Fred

66 thoughts on “Ethically, Caster Semenya Points Us Directly To Gender-Free Sports Competition, And There Is No Ethical Way To Avoid It

  1. Eh. All of it is arbitrary anyway. Have people who have XX genes compete in one competition. People with XY genes in another. People with XYY in one, XXY in another, and people with XXX in yet another still. Though truth be told, the last two would probably be competing in the Special Olympics rather than the regular one. This would probably mean that some people who identify as men would be competing against some people who identify as women, but since that is going to happen at some point, what does it matter? By and large, it would still shake out to be the same as it is now. Before, we didn’t have the technology, so we relied mostly on the eyeball method. We have the technology. We can do it. Let the Chromosome Olympics begin!

    • “Eh. All of it is arbitrary anyway. Have people who have XX genes compete in one competition. People with XY genes in another. People with XYY in one, XXY in another, and people with XXX in yet another still.”

      How is that fair to this runner? So she gets to run a solo race? How exhilerating. You really endorse segregation by chromosomes?

      • This runner (Caster) is XY chromosome. She would run in that division. We are basically segregating by sex chromosomes now, just sloppily. My method would be more precise, and thus less confusing and prone to cheating and appeals, that’s all.

          • They already blood test now, for a variety of things. This merely tests for the presence of one chromosome versus the other. We already are implicitly dividing people up by that particular chromosome. This just makes it explicit and unambiguous.

            • Right, we ARE making that distinction, but SHOULD we be?

              A person is a person right? Equality! Except this person has XX chromosomes instead of a XY, leading to the development of more body fat and less muscle mass. Well, that’s obviously an unfair handicap, so let’s split humanity into two groups so the genetically handicapped group (by the standards of the sport) can compete and not get completely creamed.

              So uh… How are women’s sports different from the Special Olympics again? And should we be making special dispensations, divisions, and events for other genetic conditions which lead people to be less fit than people with other genetic conditions?

              • Then why have a Special Olympics? Why have weight classes, and who decides the cutoffs for them? Why divide people by height? Why have 100 meter dash? Why not a 103 meter dash? Or why have long running versus short distance running running? How do we decide what constitutes each?

                It’s all arbitrary nonsense at the end of the day. Some of which we are comfortable with, and some which we are not. We like knowing the answer to the question to who is the fastest man (XY) and who is the fastest woman (XX). So we have the Olympics to answer it, and other bizarre questions. Collapsing categories really doesn’t help, though the categories we are interested in does shift over time. Perhaps the man v. woman question will genuinely not interest people at some point and the basic separation will no longer be needed. But I rather doubt it.

        • “This runner (Caster) is XY chromosome.”

          Citation please. I don’t have access to her medical records. None of the rumours from anonymous sources repeated in the popular press have claimed this that I know of, either. Perhaps you could elucidate, assuming you aren’t repeating ideologically inspired conjecture as fact?

          I sometimes teach the science of sex and gender to 3rd year med students and postgrad psych students, at their professors’ request, in my capacity as a member of Sex and Gender Education (Australia).

          From what has been reported, I would be unable to reliably guess what a karyotype of Ms Semanya would say. Cheek swabs and blood tests might give different results, for example.

          1 in 300 men aren’t 46,XY. 1 in 600 women aren’t 46,XX. Defining sex on the basis of chromosomes alone makes no more sense than defining it based on weight alone, or height alone.

          • I read an article about it some years back, at the height of the controversy. I haven’t been able to find it yet, but essentially said that Caster was XY, and looked externally like a female, but had testes inside instead of ovaries. CAIS Syndrome?

            My proposal would remove the label “Men’s Event” or “Women’s Event” from the Olympics. Instead there would only be “XX Event” and ” XY Event”. So yes, some people who identify as men would perhaps compete in events in the XX category, as well as the reverse, but it would essentially still shake out to be the same as it is now, but without someone, intentionally or unintentionally, gliding by and deciding to change their category.

            • If you insist on 100% XX, you’ll exclude women who have ever been pregnant with an XY foetus. If you insist on 100% XY, you’ll rule out all men with even 1% of their genome XXY.

              Personal question, so please excuse me for asking it, and feel free not to answer my impertinent inquiry: have you yourself had a karyotype? If so, did it include blood, skin biopsy, cheek swab etc?

              • From what I am to understand, they can normally filter out fetal DNA from the mother’s DNA, which is how they do tests for Downs and other trisomy defects at very early stages now. XXY can go in the XY division (or more probably, the Special Olympics.)

                I have never been karyotyped myself, though honestly, there’s probably nothing in there that could surprise me at this point in time.

      • That is the status quo (mostly, for 2-lettered individuals), and it has worked well in 99.999% or so of the cases so far. It is fair for most involved and the odd outlier (e.g. XYY, XXY, etc. can be added to the rules in a fairly straightforward way).
        Fairish competition is good for the culture, healthy discrimination for semi-relevant sports competitions is not going to crash the culture. And anyone who really wants to go the full “we don’t care about your gender” way can try to get into the NFL.

        • “That is the status quo (mostly, for 2-lettered individuals), and it has worked well in 99.999% or so of the cases so far.”

          Not when it comes to Olympic athletes! While in the general population, it would “work well” in 99.8% (not 99.999,%) of cases the last time chromosome tests were used by the IOC they got a 3% false positive rate.

          • Not really “false positive” though, correct? There is just a very high rate of XY individuals competing in events that are in truth, meant for XX individuals. Not surprising, considering the benefits associated with the Y chromosome, including greater muscle mass, height, speed, ect.

            • The Modern Olympics started in 1896.

              The Y chromosome was discovered in 1905.

              I think it’s a stretch to say that events are/were “intended for XY” chromosomed people. There’s an anachronism there.

              It also doesn’t work for other reasons. Female competitions would include all 46,XX men. Many women would be excluded from female competitions.

              “A 2004 study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, investigated the origin of male chromosomes found in the peripheral blood of women who had not had male progeny. A total of 120 subjects (women who had never had sons) were investigated, and it was found that 21% of them had male DNA”
              The American Journal of Medicine. 118 (8): 899–906.

  2. Pierre de Coubertin: “The important thing at the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; for the essential thing in life is not to conquer but to struggle well.”

    Welcome to the struggle girls. And have fun. Just like the rest of us.

  3. Please stop treating sex and gender as interchangeable words. The male sex has a Y chromosome, the female does not.

    Gender is just the set of oppressive sex-role stereotypes and we’d do well to eliminate it.

    • In this case, that distinction is irrelevant. Is Bruce Jenner’s SEX male? All activists deny it. I’m sick of the technical but now useless distinction: distinction:”male and female” are used to describe both gender and sex, and if they can’t get their act together and be consistent, don’t lecture me. Transsexuals have been approved as women for many sports, so “sex” doesn’t matter in this discussion. How about making an actual point, rather than cavilling about terminology?

      • Yes Caitlyn Jenner is male. Yes transsexuals have been approved in sports–over my own objections.

        My point should be obvious. Sex segregating sports is good fine and dandy. Gender segregating them is the cluster you’re describing. It is absurd to divide things by people who like to wear pretty dresses and those who don’t. It makes sense to divide the powerlifting even by XY or XX. Just as much as it’s absurd to divide combat roles by those who like pretty dresses and those who don’t but it is perfectly reasonable to divide by who can run a seven and a half minute mile* and those who can’t.**

        *exact time may be out of date, it was something I was told when I was a teenager by an older friend who’d joined the marines after graduation.

        **so long as the requirements aren’t designed specifically to eliminate women, if the number of pull-ups suddenly became higher the day women started showing up, I’d consider that a problem.

        • I think your brand of feminism is on the decline… And it’s unfortunate. I mean that… I find you so much more reasonable than the average 20-something harpy spouting off gobbledegook words and nonsense theories.

          You have to realise that the reason we’re talking about these things the way we are is because there are a lot of people on “your side” who believe Caitlyn Jenner is a woman. They believe there should be just as many male and female firefighters. They believe this runner is stunning and brave and absolutely a woman and probably think you’re a bigot transpose for pointing out her chromosomes. You know this, right?

          • I didn’t say Caitlyn Jenner isn’t a woman and you won’t hear me say it, nor will you hear me say that a male can’t be a woman. Woman is a social role.

            Female firefighters? There’s some lifting required for rescuing people and you’re suggesting that fewer females than males can do that? True strictly speaking though the whole reason there’s such a thing as the fireman’s carry is that people learned how to carry people bigger than them. My five foot nothing thin as a rial cousin couldn’t do it, my five foot five stocky best friend probably could if she were so inclined. So while fewer females than males could do it, I’m inclined to believe that the majority of physically fit people male and female could train up and be firefighters.

            And yes I’ve been called a bigot transphobe for such things as saying if a person intended to use the women’s showers at the YMCA, be housed in a woman’s jail, share a room with a woman in an emergency shelter or hospital, that person should not have a penis. As I’ve been perfectly clear that persons who’ve had sex reassignment surgery should be allowed those things and that what’s between a person’s legs doesn’t prevent them from inhabiting a particular social role.*

            *Even if I’d like to eliminate said social roles in the long run or at least unpack them into an a la cart situation so that they never indicate anything about a person’s biology.

            • For a significant fraction of the population, your neat binary model not just doesn’t work, it’s inhumanly cruel.

              I have no choice but to illustrate with medical photos. I’ll break up the URL so it’s not viewable accidentally by those of delicate sensibilities


    • Ah I think if you give an average group
      of 5 year old boys the choice to play with Barbies or trucks the boys most likely will choose to play with the trucks. A couple might like to play with the Barbies and that’s ok. However, gender preferences are not just based on socialization. There are scientifically documented brain differences in males and females. Males tend to be more developed in the visual-spatial areas of the brain and females in the language areas of the brain. This is heresy to the hard core feminists but unfortunately the scientific studies have been replicated repeatedly.

      • in the US five year old boys have spent five years being taught that they’re supposed to like trucks, socialization starts at birth when they say that little girl’s going to be pretty and that little boy’s gonna be a football player.

        What would happen if the choice was Rey or Finn rather than Barbie or Truck? What if it was Xena or Truck? What if it were Truck or Space shuttle?

        Barbie’s an interesting choice. You might assume that a boy child won’t want a toy that looks like a girl and a girl child will, and that’s fair, those new Baribies that certain reactionaries were complaining about being politically correct or whatever are selling well. But Barbie is a fashion doll, and boys are taught not to be into dress-up… (If it were less taboos we’d probably have fewer transvestites *sigh* they’re my problem, not yours.) So let’s reverse it, Barbie’s pink corvette or one of those old GI Joe dolls that were barbie sized and had the cloth uniforms? The boy should, in your estimation, rather play with the car right?

        However, gender preferences are not just based on socialization. There are scientifically documented brain differences in males and females.

        Never took you for a Zoe Brain or Caitlyn Jenner partisan.

        This is heresy to the hard core feminists but unfortunately the scientific studies have been replicated repeatedly.

        So if I find the concept of brain-sex to be a deeply offensive attempt to justify men claiming that whatever behavioral traits they’d prefer women to have are hardwired it’s because my silly girl-brain can’t understand science?

        • Aha, playing the deeply offended card! Sorry, but these differences in brain structure do exist and wishing that it ain’t so just isn’t a credible argument. This is not to say that if a woman can do the work, she shouldn’t do it. I do remember Madam Curie!!

        • “So if I find the concept of brain-sex to be a deeply offensive attempt to justify men claiming that whatever behavioral traits they’d prefer women to have are hardwired it’s because my silly girl-brain can’t understand science?”

          While an element of socialisation is absolutely in play and the nature v. nurture answer is probably “both”. You can’t explain how disparate cultures who didn’t interact for hundreds, thousands of years in disparate environments came up with similar divisions of labour.

          You’ve said that you accept that men and women have different physical tendencies…. Is it really a bridge too far to assume that there’s some amount of chemical or genetic influence in behaviour patterns? Not something insurmountable, not something that predetermines you at birth to a set path, but enough to say…. predispose women towards the humanities and men towards STEM?

          • While an element of socialisation is absolutely in play and the nature v. nurture answer is probably “both”. You can’t explain how disparate cultures who didn’t interact for hundreds, thousands of years in disparate environments came up with similar divisions of labour.


            A long, long time ago, human civilization was founded on the belief that women are toilets for male incontinence. Dudes thought being in charge was awesome, so over the centuries, they invented a system of behaviors called “femininity” to make it easier for them to rap —

            Human history has been one long string of people who want to be in charge beating everyone else down. That being said, you’ll note that different sociaties have completely different ideas of feminine and masculine behavior as our own has in just the past few hundred years. There’s thousands of examples of changes over just the past few hundred years but one of the easiest ones is to compare the Shakespearean woman to the Victorian woman since all the literature is written in modern English and readily accessible.

            The actual division of labor makes sense based on technology. You give the tasks that can be done by a person with a baby on their hip to the person with a baby on their hip. That doesn’t make staying at home the natural domain of married women, naturally there is no home, we evolved on a savanna. Someone invented home. Someone also invented the microwave oven, the TV dinner, the birth control pill and the day care. Of course by the times those things came along there was a certain cultural inertia and people seem to think that if their grandparents did something then that’s the way things have always been.*

            *Then again, two of my great grandparents were born subjects of Czar Nicolas II and died US citizens so the way my mere grandparents lived certainly isn’t the way things have always been.

            • I wrote novels. Literally… But they’re so far away from the topic, and such tired arguments, I just can’t. The one thing I can’t let go is your source material. Get better references. A bitter lesbianic spinster who quotes Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas has no place on Earth pretending to be an expert on sex, sexuality or gender.

        • Speaking simply from my experience as a mother having raised three children: my children’s toys were blocks, puzzles, crayons, books, my Tupperware drawer and the box the washing machine came in – neutral. There were very few trucks and no Barbies and lots of outside play time. By the time they were each six years old, my daughter was planning social gatherings with other girls in the neighborhood, my middle son was building bike jumps with whatever materials he could find in the garage, and my youngest son – who is gay – was playing in his sister’s closet. As well intentioned as I was not to “condition” my children to play a certain way or another, they each made choices that were natural to them.

          • And of course you also kept the whole house in a bubble with no access to media or other children and parents to teach society’s ideas about male and female roles and interests.

            • I didn’t say that, valkygrrl. But I’d be interested to hear what your experience and observations have been in raising children. As for me and most of my mom friends, it was never quite what we expected!

        • Valkygrrl brings up a good point regarding the experiments regarding child play patterns.

          GI Joe with accessories (flamethrower, machete, rocket launcher) vs Malibu Barbie with accessories (surfboard, radio, makeup kit) – both are homuncular toys.

          GI Joe’s Jeep with missile racks, Malibu Barbie’s pink corvette with detachable roof – both are kinetic toys, with things on that move.

          From a child behaviour viewpoint, the gender difference in early play patterns, with as much socialisation removed as we can, shows that girls tend to prefer homuncular toys, boys tend to prefer kinetic ones.

          So how to explain later, everyday observation that most boys socialised as male wouldn’t be caught dead playing with Malibu Barbie’s pink corvette, despite it’s attractive wheels, removable roof, ability to move etc?

          Socialisation is important. It tends to overwhelm natural tendencies, to a great extent. Where Socialisation Fanatics get it wrong is to insist that inherent tendencies don’t exist, and certainly can’t play a major role in some, even if a minor role in most. Where the historically more numerous Biological Determinists get it wrong is to say that these inherent tendencies are universal , overwhelming, and that socialisation plays no role whatsoever, without exception.

          Both these views are ideological/religious beliefs, unsupported by the evidence. It doesn’t help that the evidence is not as extensive as we’d like, and easily misinterpreted or cherry-picked to shore up religious beliefs.

          • Oh yes – these are tendencies, statistical things. Humans vary, so any universal statement such as “all girls do X” or even “girls do X” rather than “statistically, most girls tend to do X” is not just inaccurate, but significantly so, the difference is not trivial.

          • Denying inherent tendencies and gendering or even sexing those tendencies are not the same thing. I don’t think a boy choosing the GI Joe over the jeep or vice versa tells us anything useful about what is inherently male. It might tell us something about socialization except that I don’t think most people would raise an eyebrow over either choice. We do know they’d raise an eyebrow over the Barbie car though despite the only “feminine” feature being the color despite it being only, what 80 or 90 years since pink was considered the masculine color?

            The historical changes in the norms of English speaking societies are enough all by themselves to show the socially constructed nature of gender without even getting into the world-wide variances.

            If anything is a religious belief it’s that saying you’re something, makes you that thing.

  4. How is this different from banging brilliant kids on the head until they have brain damage and no longer dominate their less gifted fellow students in school?

    It is different because the gifted kid isn’t trying to win an award in a special education class.

    Caster has a biological advantage that no XY woman could possibly possess – the base physiology of a man. While there are indeed outliers in all fields, if you take the outliers on the far right side of the bell curve they will all be generally the same, with the greatest factor at that level being the amount and type of training the person engages in.

    Look at it like this – Micheal Phelps probably has a biological edge over me when it comes to swimming (and, lets be honest here, virtually all forms of athletic activity), but if you put him up against ’84/’88 Matt Biondi (what do you know, I spelled that right the first time without Googling), the thing that will make the biggest difference in their performance is their training regime.

    Compare this with the top marks for the US Men’s and Women’s 800m results… Ajee’ Wilson (female 800m) ran it in 2:00.09 (so close to 2 minutes you’d never be able to tell the difference) while Boris Berian ran it in 1:45.83. Since both results are from this year (Feb 20 and March 19, respectively) it is not entirely illogical to suspect that the two had something approaching equivalent training (I accept that training would differ between a runner from, say, the 80’s and last year in key ways). That leaves biology are the difference, and the difference is almost 15 second. Almost an 1/8 of Wilson’s time. Put them side by side and Wilson would lose by a margin so large it would be comical. It would be embarrassing.

    And you think these two should race against each other? Women might as well never compete – learn to use the uneven bars, ladies, because track and field is dead to you.

    • Son of a biscuit.

      That should be “Caster has a biological advantage that no XX woman could possibly possess”

      I blame a lack of coffee…

      • J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9

        A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis.

        XY women exist, no matter what rational definition you use. You may of course use irrational definitions – “Y chromosome means male”, “Birth certificate defines biological sex” (as does the NC legislature) or “below average height and white means female”, but you’ll appear to be eccentric at the least.

          • You assume I’m post-modernist, coercing facts in order to pursue some nefarious ideological end – erect penises in womens showers, the pollution of precious bodily fluids, the destruction of society by the lizard people or whatever – rather than going where the evidence takes me.

            Of course I could be mistaken in my interpretation of the data, I might be giving too much weight to some facts, not enough to others, and being human, while dispassionate objectivity is a goal, the evidence shows that it’s not fully achievable, and enough junk science exists to strongly suggest there’s far more bias than we care to admit.

            Still, all I can do personally to minimise that is to reduce editorialising, and just let the facts speak for themselves, usually giving citations unless that would be needlessly repetitious.

            • You are, that’s a necessary component of accepting a person’s stated feelings over biological realities. You could easily say, as I have, that whatever your feelings and preferred social role there are some things we divide by genitalia and the world need not go along no matter how much you may wish to be validated.

              You know my positions and you know that I won’t let my personal feelings about individuals like Caitlyn Jenner stand in the way of letting them live their lives so long as the few times when biology matters, it is respected.

              I double dare you to say that an erect penis in the women’s showers is completely unacceptable, that the bepenised individual in that situation is in the wrong and deserves to be ejected or worse.

              I know I can find trans people who’ll whole-heartedly agree with me on that point, for that matter you know it as well since we know some of the same people. But then they aren’t penis rights activists.

              • “I double dare you to say that an erect penis in the women’s showers is completely unacceptable”

                Won’t say that – especially if she’s there with the daughters she’s given birth to. Of course your definition of “penis” might not be the same as mine

        • And there are people born with tails.

          That doesn’t mean “People don’t have tails” is a valid statment. Your position is predicated on what might be a total population of 100 individuals over the span of human existence.

          • XY women giving birth to XY daughters – that’s rare enough to warrant a medical article. XX women giving birth to XY daughters, or XY women giving birth to XX daughters – while nowhere near as common as XX women giving birth to XX daughters – is not.

            1 in 60 people are Intersex. Technically, anyway, as that includes people with any difference from the stereotype whatsoever, even if it takes batteries of subtle lab tests to detect it.

            A more useful definition is “one in a few hundred”, where there are noticable effects. Unusual appearance, infertility etc.

            Only in 1 in 1500 newborns is the anatomy so obviously ambiguous, midway between rather than “looks a bit more f than m” or the reverse that the question of which sex they “really” are is answered by a coin toss.

            In general, pediatricians confronted with obviously intersex infants guess wrong about 1 time in 3.

    • Tough, to be blunt.

      As for gymnastics, the events would be a mix of current men’s and women’s events. Why can’t men do floor exercises, or the balance beam? What’s the theory that says women can’t compete with men in golf, or tennis, or ice skating?

      • Again, the biological differences. Maybe tennis, beam, and some others are outliers (didn’t they used to do mixed doubles?) but for virtually everything else there are definite physical limitations. I doubt the women teams could compete against the men in soccer, or any of the track and field events, rowing, swimming…

              • He had a physical advantage that other players didn’t, no strike zone. So why not field a team where every batter is short enough to have no strike zone?

                I mean aside from the fact that it would destroy baseball.

                Just as allowing males to compete against females pretty much removes them from having any chance in a number of sports. If men can run faster than women–and I’ve seen high school boys run a 2 minute 800–and we all admit this is the case, why not have a female only competition? And why not keep it female only, and forbid Y chromosomes. It doesn’t prevent anyone from living in whatever social role they prefer, or altering their bodies in any way they prefer.

  5. “Everyone should have an opportunity to compete, but fairness does not require that everyone have the same likelihood of winning.”

    Agreed. Change to sex-classless athletic competition would be good. I have been advocating for years to have such a professional basketball league, for persons, say, maximum height of six feet (or, make it an even 180 cm) or less. But the Holy Grail for me, as a spectator, is still to see a WOMAN playing competitively and with success in Major League Baseball. (I don’t yet have enough grandchildren to coach in that direction.)

  6. I think for some things biology still rules over social constructs (and sports lik triples are case by case. I don’t care if someone presents themselves as Klingon. Presentation is social and more fluid, but a Klingon has physical advantages that doesn’t make for a competition but an exhibition. The competition, the striving, was their offering to the gods.

    I don’t think all sexual differences can be ground out, but we should celebrate our similarities and differences,

  7. Regarding advantage:

    In the late 1940s, an Olympic official, Norman Cox, sarcastically proposed that in the case of black women, “The International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them — the unfairly advantaged ‘hermaphrodites’ who regularly defeated ‘normal women,’ those less skilled ‘child bearing’ types with ‘largish breasts, wide hips and knocked knees.’

    Mr Cox was being sarcastic, thinking no-one with two neurons to fire consecutively could be serious about that. Obviously, times have changed, and not for the better.

  8. Meanwhile, a quote from one of the DOJ’s recent court submissinps

    [30. Individuals are typically assigned a sex on their birth certificate solely on the basis of the appearance of the external genitalia at birth. Additional aspects of sex (for example, chromosomal makeup) typically are not assessed and considered at the time of birth, except in cases of infants born with ambiguous genitalia.]

    [31. An individual’s “sex” consists of multiple factors, which may not always be in alignment. Among those factors are hormones, external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, chromosomes, and gender identity, which is an individual’s internal sense of being male or female.]

    [32. For individuals who have aspects of their sex that are not in alignment, the person’s gender identity is the primary factor in terms of establishing that person’s sex. External genitalia are, therefore, but one component of sex and not always determinative of a person’s sex.]

    [33. Although there is not yet one definitive explanation for what determines gender identity, biological factors, most notably sexual differentiation in the brain, have a role in gender identity development.]

    [34. Transgender individuals are individuals who have a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender man’s sex is male and a transgender woman’s sex is female.]

    Where that definition has issues is when it comes to competitive sport. Someone may be female, but so Intersex that her body, for the purposes of athletic competition, is closer to a male than a female stereotype when it comes to the general population. But she may be closer to a female than male sterotype if we restrict the population to MMA competitors, Olympic athletes, Pro Golfers, or other anomalous groups who are very different from the general population.

    There can be safety as well as fairness issues. One example from the Israeli Defence Force I’m familiar with. A woman with PAIS who was trying to qualify for special forces. At the beginning, she out-ran, out-lifted etc all the other women in her course, her performance closer to that of a teenage man in the general population than a teenage woman.

    However, she washed out. The gruelling physical training regime increased the testosterone levels of her peers, but as she was mostly immune to androgens, she did not bulk up her muscles like they did. She was already at her peak at the start.

    Rather than being advantaged – fairly or unfairly – depending on circumstances, whether Trans or Intersex, exactly what kind of Intersex syndrome etc, the athlete can end up with robust, heavy bones (usually advantageous) but not the corresponding muscle bulk, so at a severe disadvantage, though more resistant to bone breakage.

    Or the reverse. Outstanding performance, but prone to breaking their own bones with the power of their pitch etc.

    Humans differ, and when you look at the ends of the bell curve(s), as you have to when looking at olympians, the usual rules don’t apply.

  9. “So for clarity, your opinion on transitioned women competing in women’s events at the Olympics?”

    I’m no expert in sports medicine, but from what I know about the effects of hormones, I’d go with a 2 year gap between HRT commencement and competition for MtoF, as was the IOC’s policy until recently. They’ve since liberalised that, I hope based on sound medical evidence, which is what they’d used previously. I hope they know something from observing athletes in practice that I do not.

    Really, this should be judged on a case by case basis, taking individual circumstances into account. That doesn’t appear to be practical though, due to prejudice, political pressure, and the difference in performance due to high-tech training regimes outweighing usually minor effects (comparatively) such as this one.

    Bottom line – I have to defer to the experts here. Ten years ago I knew more than they did. Now they have years of data I don’t have access to, plus experience in sports medicine I have never had.

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