So I showed my Aljazeera interview to the lovely woman I’m dating this morning, and it left me with some thoughts to share. The interview was about the IOC & IAAF’s regulations for women athletes with naturally high testosterone levels, which ban them from competing as women unless they undergo medically unnecessary procedures to lower their T to “normal” female levels. (Watch here.)
First off, hurray to the producers for putting this on, and to host Malika Bilal for doing such an amazing job orchestrating all the guests with such grace as the debate heated up. And heat up it did?! Fortunately, everyone was cordial — even me when intersex women were being discussed in opposition to “normal, healthy women” (twice), & called “individuals with inborn errors”. Egads! I know doctors are used to dissecting everyone and labeling things as disorders, but really, what other group of people is referred to that way in the media? I do give kudos though to Dr. Ritzen for later apologizing for framing us as abnormal. That was good. Yes, we are not the “norm”, but as I’ve pointed out many times (I think the first time, publicly, on film, was during my testimony at the SF Human Rights Commission’s hearing on intersex people, in 2004), people who fall outside the “norm” in ways that are culturally valued are never called “abnormal”. For example, how many times have you heard someone called “abnormally intelligent” or “abnormally beautiful”.
Second, I want to clarify for the record that I did make a mistake about men with XYY, or Diplo: they do not have high testosterone levels. I read that when I originally learned about this variation, but upon more research I have found that was incorrect. That said, Dr Ritzen and the other medical experts that consult or work for the IOC &/or IAAF (the two sporting bodies that have regulations for women with naturally high testosterone levels) have stated that there’s no proof that high T levels give men OR women a competitive advantage, and so it’s biased to test women for this and not men.
Third, kudos to four time Olympian turned attorney Cameron Myler for stating, about the policy, “one issue that I have with it… is that it gives the opportunity to a National Olympic committee to, quote, ‘actively investigate any perceived deviation in sex characteristics’. That seems to me like its incredibly subjective, and I’m not certain how that is interpreted.” She also went on to say that, “if there’s going to be a rule I would like that everyone be subject(ed) to it equally.” Thank you! I believe she’s the first female athlete to publicly comment about the unfair way in which the current regulations target athletes on a case-by-case, “upon suspicion” basis.
Lastly — because it’s Saturday and time to resume my social life again 🙂 — I’ll have an essay coming out soon that breaks this issue down in detail, but I want to make clear, since some folks have asked, that the reason I’ve been referring to these athletes as “women” instead of “intersex women” is because that’s how they identify themselves. Are the traits that these women are being banned for intersex traits? Yes, and I’m very clear about that in my articles on this topic. But I’m also not into disrespecting someone’s way of identifying, & we know that in regular speech most people use the non-biological gender labels “man” or “woman”, rather than “male” or “female”, so it makes sense to me to call people with intersex biology/anatomy/traits “men” or women”, if that’s how they see themselves and what they use. Some intersex peeps, including myself, use “herm” (short for hermaphrodite) rather than “man” or “woman”, for obvious reasons. However, that’s less common, and it’s also currently kind of in that “we can use it but others can’t” place, FYI.
So that’s it for this for now. Happy Saturday to all you lovely men, women and herms out there, and if you feel like watching something engaging, educational and short (about a half hour), please check out the Aljazeera interview. It also features fabulous intersex allies Katrina Karkazis (author of the excellent resource Fixing Sex), and Dr. Payoshni Mitra, who is advising the latest victim of these regulations, Indian runner Dutee Chand. They both made so many excellent points that it’s too hard to list them all here.
Better yet, if you want to support Dutee — who is currently fighting to overthrow the ruling to ban her from competing — please sign an share the petition started by Karkazis, Mitra, & Bruce Kidd. https://www.change.org/p/let-dutee-run-don-t-ban-women-athletes-for-high-natural-testosterone
Dutee is bravely standing up against the regulations, refusing to alter her natural gifts in order to compete, and I cannot say how impressed I am with her and everyone that has come to her side. Remember, these types of regulations have existed for decades and been overthrown in the past. We can do it again. TX!
Great link: http://www.letduteerun.org