Sex testing in sports
Did you know that sex testing in sports has changed significantly over time? The way that has been decided who gets to compete as a female in professional sports competitions has been determined by physical appearance, other times by chromosomes, and more recently by hormones (particularly testosterone).
This is problematic for many reasons. First of all, attempting to identify human variety in one of two categories – male or female – excludes the many other gender identities that are part of the human experience. For instance, non-binary, transgender, genderqueer, or genderfluid folks often face challenges or are prohibited from participating in sports.
Second, it has been scientifically proven that sex is not a strict binary in which humans can be categorized. Differences in Sexual Development (previously known as intersexuality), for example, is a broad term used to describe a diversity of conditions in which an individual is born with a variation of sexual anatomy that does not fall into the typical definitions of male and female. In other words, human sex is not a clear black or white category as many professional sports competitions assume, but is rather a spectrum.
Third, many of these sex tests are racialized and often target women from the Global South who do not fit into normative femininity. Such is the case of athlete Caster Semenya, Olympic middle-distance runner medalist, who was recently ordered by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to reduce her naturally occurring levels of testosterone if she wants to continue competing as a woman in international sports competitions.
Admittedly, there are many layers to this issue that should be considered if we are to create more inclusive spaces in sporting events. However, the complexity of the issue should not be an excuse to maintain the status quo. Including non-binary folks in the conversation and acknowledging the need to rethink the way we currently categorize sports is not only fair but a moral obligation.
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