Caster Semenya by José Goulão
In two recent cases the gender of athletes has been questioned. Both times, the issues and the women involved had the disputes play out in public with little respect for their humanity. Internationally, Caster Semenya was subjected to a vague and invasive gender testing process, which played out in public. The International Olympic Committee has apologized has set a policy based on testosterone levels. In India, however, gender issues in sport have played out worse.
In India, former athlete Pinki Pramanik has been arrested after her live-in (female) partner charged her with rape. Pramanik, despite identify as and competing as a female, has been kept in a male prison ward and been taken to and from dubious gender tests by male prisoners. Video from one of these medical tests was recorded and has ended up on the Internet. Whatever the charges may be, this is no way to treat a person, a woman, and certainly not an athlete that’s represented her country.
Gender is more of a continuum than people think, since people can have both male or female characteristics. It’s been said that Parliament could do anything except make a woman a man, but that’s actually not true. Gender is actually something that’s socially decided and the physical characteristics and definitions can be changed. People can have internal testes and be women or internal ovaries and be a man. Many people find this out later in life and have to decide. For sport there has to be some sort of line, but gender tests make no sense. I guess testosterone levels kinda do, both in that they’re objective, not inherently invasive and affect performance. In life, however, gender is largely a socially mediated choice. An obvious choice for most of us, but it is important to consider the many people at the blurry edges of gender identity, and not to hurt them for where they fall on a bell curve.