I was chatting up a coworker today at the cafeteria and noticed his paper open to the sports page. Since I’d fallen asleep before the end of the Indians/White Sox game, I bogarted the paper and read the scores. As I handed it back, my eye was caught by the statement IOC to allow transsexual athletes in Olympics.
It’s not that I’m shocked, I rather expected something like this for a while now, but it’s the technical details of the decision that I’m curious about.
My first thought was ‘We don’t have men and women compete against each other in sports. Why not?’ As you faithful reader(s) know, this always leads me to research mode! The answer is simple. Men have higher levels of testosterone and greater muscle-to-fat ratio and heart and lung capacity. That means they can perform athletic feats at a greater capacity than women (aka Men are actually more physically suited for certain sports). In the efforts of fairness, we don’t compete cross-genders.
Would this remain fair if a male-to-female athlete completed as a woman? Yes, under specific criteria. Now, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) hasn’t out and out said what all that is, but we can guess. First, you have to be post op, complete gender reassignment, living as your new gender, 100%. Not too much to ask, right? See, with that post op, you’re on hormone therapy, and the hormones actually can revert the athletic bonuses brought upon by testosterone. Levels the playing field.
Sure, it’s not going to be totally level, but really it comes down to ability. “Recently, Canada’s Michelle Dumaresq made news competing as a mountain bike racer. Formerly Michael, Dumaresq had sex reassignment surgery in 1996 and competed for Canada at last year’s World Championships in Austria. She finished 24th in the downhill discipline.” She didn’t come in first, you’ll note, which means that born women (genetically speaking) beat her. I think it’s pretty fair.
Once I looked that up, I wondered when the IOC started testing chromosomes (to determine gender) and why. 1968, it started to prevent men from competing in women’s events. I’d like to point out you don’t get any money winning an Olympic event, so basically you’re doing this to get fame. If you’re pretending to be a woman, you can never really accept the fame, because people will learn you’re a man, and then you’re well fucked and you get your medal stripped and banned from the Olympics forever. Have a nice day, asshole.
What came out of that chromosome test was we learned that not all men are XY and not all women are XX. There’s XXY, XXYY, and XXXY (and probably all the other variations there in, do your own math), and we classify those people as ‘inter-sexed.’ The Inter-sex Society of North America (ISNA) states that around 1 out of 1,000 babies are born with non-standard sex chromosomes. I work with about 50,000 people, and 50 of them are ‘non-standard’ (okay, more than 50, but again, I’m talking genetic-wise).
That’s pretty fucking impressive, but it’s about to get weirder. Pardon me while I delve into politics. President Bush wants to define marriage as a ‘union between a man and a woman.’ With those statistics above, how do we determine who is a man and who is a woman if we can’t rely on chromosomes? And even then, being inter-sex will also include babies that were born sexually ambiguously, and were ‘assigned’ a sex as infants. There’s been a lot of problems with that which I won’t address here, but Discovery had a bitching program on it that I found enlightening.
Basically it boils down to this: We can’t tell by genetics. We can’t tell by checking someone out naked.
Is this a problem? I don’t see it as such. It’s time to give up the ghost about what makes a person one gender or another (or one sexual orientation or another) anyway, and if the Olympics start the trend, I’m for it. If a female-to-male transsexual goes through all the hassle to become a man and then kicks ass in figure skating, go him! He should be allowed to do that.
I’m looking forward to the changing face of sports.