December 18, 2006

S(he) failed: Test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday said Soudarajan "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman," The Times of India reported.

posted by garfield to other at 11:21 AM - 73 comments

The only word I can think of is: YUCK!

posted by yay-yo at 12:00 PM on December 18

Everything old is new again.

posted by grum@work at 12:06 PM on December 18

No one would choose to be a woman in India, would they? Sex-selective abortions and all that continues today. Gender testing needs to be dropped for all international sports. I seriously doubt she is a fake, more like she is being punished for a different genetic make up.

posted by bperk at 12:22 PM on December 18

Test reports sent to the Indian Olympic Association on Sunday said Soudarajan "does not possess the sexual characteristics of a woman," Boy, if I had a nickel for everytime I found that out the hard way... I have got to stop drinking at that bar.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:58 PM on December 18

But cleared a gender test last year...

posted by Fence at 02:16 PM on December 18

Perhaps they just thought it was an especially large clitoris. It is India, after all.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 03:51 PM on December 18

With curves like hers, how could they say that?

posted by BamaClass at 04:41 PM on December 18

Large clitoris or small penis? That is the question. The 5 o'clock shadow gives them away every time. Ya-yo said it best....YUCK

posted by Atheist at 05:03 PM on December 18

The medical evaluation panel usually includes a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, and an internal medicine specialist. There seems to be a large amount of people involved in issuing the gender test.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:20 PM on December 18

Boy, if I had a nickel for everytime I found that out the hard way... I have got to stop drinking at that bar.Weedy....Woody's?

posted by tommytrump at 06:15 PM on December 18

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting That's a man, baby!

posted by wfrazerjr at 06:33 PM on December 18

Huh. Is anyone "surprised" that gaptoothedcretin and Pasadena Phil are userids 15797 and 15798 respectively, both created today and both posting within 5 minutes of each other? Seriously, that's pretty weak to create two userids just to make one joke...

posted by grum@work at 10:47 PM on December 18

The great part is that the first post is actually pretty amusing until it's excessively explained and discussed. That's a lot of effort to go to just to ruin a joke.

posted by BullpenPro at 11:05 PM on December 18

The reason that there are so many people required for the gender test is that it's actually kind of a grey area. A good history of gender verification in sport. Something old from my blog about a controversial Canadian case and IOC rules.

posted by Amateur at 11:17 PM on December 18

All that for a silver medal, huh? Lame.

posted by psmealey at 07:00 AM on December 19

I fail to see how a woman with three legs could ever be lame.

posted by yerfatma at 07:34 AM on December 19

psmealey I am not sure what you mean by "all that" but this is almost certainly not a black-and-white case of a man pretending to be a woman to win a sporting event. Soudarajan simply falls somewhere in between. As uncomfortable as that idea is for some people, it is not something we should be outraged or disgusted about (not that you expressed those sentiments, I know). I don't know all the facts in this case, but it appears that she was identified as a girl when she was born. Since puberty obviously things have become rather less clearly defined. It is not something we encounter every day, to be sure, but it does happen . That doesn't make her a cheater.

posted by Amateur at 07:54 AM on December 19

Amateur, I was just attempting to inject some humor into the proceedings is all. Though this story probably has no deeper analogy, I was just reminded of the Renee Richards controversy from when I was a kid. Richards, a transsexual, was disqualified from women's professional tennis competition (and reinstated after she won a court battle) after her personal history was divulged. At the time, I thought it was amusing, be she wasn't a terribly profficient player (good, but no better than top 100). All that hubbub, controversy and humiliation only to be a mediocre pro. If you're going to bend the rules, then why not go for it (be like Floyd or Barry Bonds).

posted by psmealey at 09:18 AM on December 19

anyone else have a problem with the title of this post? I should think it would be: (s)he failed ?

posted by coryphaeus at 02:03 PM on December 19

All that hubbub, controversy and humiliation only to be a mediocre pro. If you're going to bend the rules, then why not go for it (be like Floyd or Barry Bonds). Amateur explained this pretty well: because the purpose of "bending the rules", in both Richards' case and in this one, isn't to gain a competitive edge; it's to express your gender the way you think it oughta be. As Amateur also pointed out, much as it disturbs some people, there isn't a bright line separating all of humanity into male and female: some human beings end up somewhere in the gray area. These human beings have the same needs and desires as the rest of us; the difference is that because they don't fall fully into one camp or the other, other people have a problem with their pursuit of these needs and desires, from the most mundane (yeah, they need to use a bathroom too) to the most elevated (yeah, they dream of going to the Olympics too). So you've got these people who want to run or skate or play tennis or whatever, just like the rest of us. They're not gendered like the rest of us. Given the way that they have to put up with ignorant yobs who shriek, "YUCKO!" every damn day of their lives, they're clearly not pursuing their gender of choice for fun, and certainly not for a perceived competitive advantage.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:02 PM on December 19

Cory, I've been thinking about that since I posted it. It should be (s)he.

posted by garfield at 03:04 PM on December 19

Is anyone "surprised" that gaptoothedcretin and Pasadena Phil are userids 15797 and 15798 respectively, both created today and both posting within 5 minutes of each other? I think the most suspicious thing is that there is two new users that can spell and use punctuation.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 03:13 PM on December 19

Maybe they've been going to mitchell's English class in Korea? That would be suspicious.

posted by owlhouse at 03:35 PM on December 19

some human beings end up in the gray area. It appears that genetics were not The Good Dr.'s reason.

posted by mjkredliner at 04:17 PM on December 19

It appears that genetics were not The Good Dr.'s reason. Speaking of non sequiturs. What's your point, mjk?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:56 PM on December 19

The point being that intersexualism has a biological/genetic cause, whereas transsexualism does not. Nor does having "sex reassignment surgery" actually change a persons gender. One's "bending the rules" is the other just trying to find which sexual category they may legally compete in.

posted by mjkredliner at 08:42 PM on December 19

The Richards case (and the more current Dumaresq case I linked to earlier) leave open at least the possibility that somebody might someday "choose" to be a transsexual just to gain an "advantage" as an athlete. The case we started out discussing is really not about that in any way, though. But once you acknowledge -- and you have, mjk -- that there are more than two categories for gender, then what? "Transsexual, born male, testes surgically removed, receiving female replacement hormones" is certainly not identical to "man." Nor is it identical to "woman," but those are the only two possibilities we have when it comes to sport.

posted by Amateur at 09:23 PM on December 19

Lets just speak in terms we can all relate to- a Hermaphrodite. While the female gender may be chosen, it is still an advantage gentic wise than a female that they are competing against. Lets not make it a "handicapped" issue. Although (s)he may be "gender challenged", to be politically correct, it is very unfair to compete against women that have not just "chosen" to compete as females.

posted by urall cloolis at 11:36 PM on December 19

Lets just speak in terms we can all relate to- a Hermaphrodite. How about we speak in terms that are accurate, instead? I suggest you take a read of the "intersexualism" link that mjk provided above. it is very unfair to compete against women that have not just "chosen" to compete as females Says you. If you are referring again to sex reassigned transsexuals -- not Soudarajan -- the doctors on the ad hoc committee of the IOC medical commission disagree. As for Soudarajan, why is it so difficult to accept that there is a grey area instead of a "bright line," as lbb put it? And if there isn't a clean division into two categories, then somebody has to make a judgement call. Maybe Soudarajan falls just to the "male" side of that judgement call, but to call that "extremely unfair" is to ignore reality. Would it surprise you to find out that 8 female competitors at the 1996 Olympic games (out of 3387 tested) "failed" the gender test that was in place at the time? They tested positive for Y chromosomal material. After further investigation of their cases, all eight of them were allowed to compete as women. Mandatory gender testing is now no longer required at the Olympics.

posted by Amateur at 07:56 AM on December 20

How about we speak in terms that are accurate, instead? From your lips to God's ears. Never happen.

posted by yerfatma at 09:01 AM on December 20

Would it surprise you to find out that 8 female competitors at the 1996 Olympic games (out of 3387 tested) "failed" the gender test No shit? I didn't realize that gender bending, or whatever it is gender testing is trying to prevent, was so prevalent. What could be responsible for the presence of Y chromosomal material in a woman? (I'm working from the base model of male = X Y, female = X X)

posted by garfield at 10:05 AM on December 20

The point being that intersexualism has a biological/genetic cause, whereas transsexualism does not. But what does that have to do with there being a big gray area where gender is concerned? That's the point that I'm trying to make: the rules create two distinct and non-overlapping categories, but nature doesn't. And if you want to make the argument that transsexualism isn't "natural"...don't. Even if one accepts the premise that transsexualism is 100% optional, why should opting for one's gender of choice have to also mean that one opts to be excluded from sports?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:12 AM on December 20

No shit? I didn't realize that gender bending, or whatever it is gender testing is trying to prevent, was so prevalent. What could be responsible for the presence of Y chromosomal material in a woman? (I'm working from the base model of male = X Y, female = X X) Sometimes it just happens, garfield. Your assumption that these individuals are the result of "gender bending" may be off base.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:13 AM on December 20

lbb, I was just pointing out that Dr. Richards case and that of Soudarajan were completely different. it's to express your gender the way you think it oughta be. What if a journeyman PGA Tour pro had "sex reassignment surgery" and completely dominated the LPGA Tour? (Which I am sure they could, 6200 yard courses are pushovers for most male collegiate golfers.) On and on I could go, womens ice hockey, fast pitch softball, basketball etc. etc. Dr. Richards was 40 years old, a career amateur, and still was competitive to a certain extent against women pro's half her age, quite a feat in tennis. why should opting for one's gender of choice have to also mean that one opts to be excluded from sports?. Not that a competitive edge, or money, was Dr. Richards' motivation, but perhaps those who wish to change their gender should compete with those born with the same "equipment" in order to maintain the level playing fields that were divided for obvious reasons. I feel confident that you will never see a female turned male compete at any high level of male sport, and that is why you will never have a controversy in this regard.

posted by mjkredliner at 11:21 AM on December 20

What could be responsible for the presence of Y chromosomal material in a woman? The most common cause of a "failed" gender test is a condition known as androgen insensitivity syndrome or AIS. These are XY individuals with a genetic defect which makes them completely insensitive to androgen. As a result they develop all the external signs of being girls, and may not have any idea that they are XY until puberty or later: "Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS; testicular feminization; Tfm). Individuals with CAIS have normal female external genitalia. They typically present either before puberty with masses in the inguinal canal that are subsequently identified as testes or at puberty with primary amenorrhea and sparse to absent pubic or axillary hair. Breasts and female adiposity develop normally. Sexual identity and orientation are unaffected." Such individuals have, for the past couple of decades at least, been eligible to compete in women's events at the Olympics. Gender tests conducted under IOC jurisdiction no longer rely on a simple Y-chromosome detection. Reading between the lines, the Indian runner might have Partial AIS, which results in "overmasculinized" female genetalia and various other abnormalities. Or it might be something rarer. If, as Fence pointed out above, she "passed" a gender test a few months ago, it is probably not a case of deliberate deception.

posted by Amateur at 12:14 PM on December 20

What if a journeyman PGA Tour pro had "sex reassignment surgery" and completely dominated the LPGA Tour? If a journeyman PGA tour pro had SRS and followed it up with hormone replacement therapy, then over time he would lose most of the advantage he had over females. Hormones are a big part of the story when it comes to differences between men and women. The opinion of the IOC medical commission (not specifically relevant to golf, but a wide enough range of sports that we're probably covered) was that two years is long enough to "minimize" the advantages. I'm not going to argue that the advantages go away completely. A woman who went through puberty as a man had an opportunity to grow a taller and stronger skeleton, and it doesn't shrink back down. But again, as lbb pointed out, now what you've got is an individual who isn't quite the norm in either category. So which category is more "fair?" It's a judgement call, isn't it? You would draw the line to exclude those who voluntarily undergo SRS, OK. My wife agrees with you. I'll side with the medical experts. I feel confident that you will never see a female turned male compete at any high level of male sport, and that is why you will never have a controversy in this regard. Don't forget that a woman who has SRS will then be on man-doses of hormones afterward -- including testosterone. In a few sports where being small is an advantage I can see a lot of potential for controversy.

posted by Amateur at 12:27 PM on December 20

What if a journeyman PGA Tour pro had "sex reassignment surgery" and completely dominated the LPGA Tour? Well, while we're tossing out hypotheticals, what if a herd of circus ponies breaks into your home tonight and tramples you to death? What are you gonna do then? What's that you say? Where did I get the herd of circus ponies? The same place you got your hypothetical journeyman PGA Tour pro who wants sex reassignment surgery, that's where. As long as we're making it up, we can make up any "what if" we want. Meanwhile, back in the real world, there are people who are neither unambiguously male nor unambiguously female who want to participate in sports, even in sports competition. Why is the kneejerk response to that reality a wish to make rules that draw lines defining who gets excluded, rather than to find ways to include people? Hypothetical "this could happens" that never have happened do not seem to me to be an adequate justification for exclusion, is all I'm saying.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:35 PM on December 20

Thanks, Amateur.

posted by garfield at 12:37 PM on December 20

As long as we're making it up, we can make up any "what if" we want. Well, sure we can. It's just that mjk's hypothetical has bearing on this discussion, while yours doesn't. In fact, it's really not a hypothetical at all, at least not the first part of it. Mianne Bagger has been barred from playing in LPGA events because she is not, in the terms of the tour, a "natural-born woman." The LPGA is, however, apparently researching the issue further. The point of hypotheticals, in my mind, is to raise the possibility of some event and then discuss what steps can or should be taken in advance of that event. I'm not sure how you could plan for anything without using them, and the alternative would see to be allowing everything and facing the possibiilty of sorting out the mess afterward, i.e. MLB not banning steroids outright as soon as it knew about their use. Also -- I won't be putting up fences around my home to ward off advancing hordes of ponies.

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:06 PM on December 20

fraze, you see all kinds of problems if you allow everything and sort it out afterwords. That's a maybe. What seems a lot more likely to me is that if you let these "what ifs" rule the day, they are going to have the effect of excluding. They do have the effect of excluding. Right now, the focus of these rules is on determining who can't play, rather than figuring out where people can play. I don't see that as a good thing. I consider it of a piece with the more negative history of sports competition, where if you weren't the right color and gender, you didn't get to play. I'd like to think that one day we could look back at our history, at the shameful situation of women being excluded from marathons and African-Americans being excluded from Major League baseball, and decide that maybe we don't need to always keep re-learning this lesson the hard way.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:52 PM on December 20

Unless Bagger was a pro golfer as a male, she doesn't satisfy mjk's hypothetical at all. His "what-if" has very nearly zero probability of ever being realized, and we all know it. Furthermore, the argument is based on a statement of conjecture (male journeyman pro + SRS = world's dominant female player) which cannot be supported by an actual example, and is contrary to the opinions of many medical experts. Like you, fraze, I don't have a pony protection fence around my house. Similarly, I don't think we should make a rule that excludes a small number of actual humans to protect us from one that will probably never exist outside our imaginations. If there's a case for having that rule, this isn't it.

posted by Amateur at 02:08 PM on December 20

Organized womens sport is excluding people by definition. That's the whole point: to put the spotlight on athletes who wouldn't benefit from it in an unrestricted field of competitors. I understand reality is not black and white, but in creating such a restricted field, you have to draw clear lines all around. If you fit in the line, you can compete here. If not, you must compete in the unrestricted field. I don't see any way around it, no matter how awkward it can get with gender issues. Also, note that there are a lot of different ways to organize sports for a restricted field of competitors. Junior leagues have age limits. I don't see 25 year olds complaining that they can't play bantam anymore. The only discrimination is preventing people from competing in the unrestricted field.

posted by qbert72 at 02:12 PM on December 20

Believe me, I have no problem with excluding men from the LPGA (I realize that some people do, or rather that this straw man argument is raised as a justification for excluding women from the PGA etc.). Yes, the rules can exclude certain groups of people. I just think you should have a better reason than "what if Ian Leggatt decides to have SRS and then dominates women's golf?" I also think that a hard and fast scientific exclusion (the Y-Chromosome Free Professional Golfers Association) excludes a number of people who are in all other respects female, for little apparent benefit. Or maybe somebody can convince me of the benefits.

posted by Amateur at 02:40 PM on December 20

I just think you should have a better reason than "what if Ian Leggatt decides to have SRS and then dominates women's golf?" Agreed. You still need rules to set the boundaries of the field, if you want to keep it a level field. How does the IOC manage things if it no longer uses gender tests? Good faith?

posted by qbert72 at 03:01 PM on December 20

Finally answering the eternal question: "What if my mother had balls and joined the LPGA?" She always chickened out.

posted by yerfatma at 03:11 PM on December 20

The only discrimination is preventing people from competing in the unrestricted field. But what about the many sports and competitions where there is no "unrestricted" field? Seems to me this is the rule rather than the exception.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:54 PM on December 20

Unless Bagger was a pro golfer as a male, she doesn't satisfy mjk's hypothetical at all. Bagger may not have been a professional golfer, but I highly doubt she picked up the game after crossing over. She herself said she noticed she didn't have the distance and backspin she had had as a male, which makes me think she was playing at a high level before. lbb, I understand your argument about exclusion, but I think the LPGA's choice here is one of caution and prudence. While it doesn't appear she had the SRS to further her career, so what? Will the LPGA have to delve into the background of SRSers to make a judgement call as to whether the surgery was done for psychological reasons or to enhance a career? Why should they? Even Renee Richards says in the article I linked earlier that maybe transgenders shouldn't have the same rights in terms of sports. As for women carrying Y chromosomes, that's a more difficult situation. IANAD, and so I have no idea whether or not those folks have some inherit genetic advantage or disadvantage in any activity. In fact, I have no idea whether that's even a legitimate question about the subject. I am pretty sure, however, that the LPGA is not the body which should be conducting that research, and if there's enough of a question out there that women (and men) are alternately passing and failing gender tests, I'd stand pat until it is answered.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:54 PM on December 20

Well, sure we can. It's just that mjk's hypothetical has bearing on this discussion, while yours doesn't. In fact, it's really not a hypothetical at all Damn, I thought the link was going to be about angry circus ponies.

posted by tron7 at 05:45 PM on December 20

lbb, I'm with you on the desire to include as many athletes as possible, but I'm not sure that it leads me to the same conclusions. If, as it appears, Soudarajan is partly male, and if those male characteristics result in any advantage against women, then the only answer would be for her to compete against males. Otherwise, it cheats all those competing against her. She probably couldn't compete successfully against men because her genetic make up would be a disadvantage there, but my genetic make up won't allow me to play in the NBA or NFL either. I don't have the combination of size, speed and strength to be successful in any position at that level and no amount of training would be sufficient to overcome that. It's unfortunate for her, but it would be much more fair for her to compete against men (again, assuming that she has male characteristics that would be an advantage over women), than it would for her to compete against women. Her genetics could keep her from competing at a world class level, but that's true of 99% of the people on the planet. Also Amateur, I'm not sure why you think that the fact that Bagger wasn't a pro as a man invalidates mjk's point. If anything, it supports him. Bagger wasn't good enough to be a pro as a man, but as a woman, well...who knows how good she could be? Granted, it's not the "male journeyman pro + SRS = world's dominant female player" formula. It's worse. The actual formula is as follows: decent male amateur + SRS = competitive female pro. That is a valid point as far as I can see.

posted by ctal1999 at 06:00 PM on December 20

How one year back she was able to clear gender test? Did something happened in last one year... I am confused...

posted by babuchutkan at 07:39 PM on December 20

But what about the many sports and competitions where there is no "unrestricted" field? Seems to me this is the rule rather than the exception. I'm not following you, sorry. Maybe we mean different things by "unrestricted". Could you give me an example?

posted by qbert72 at 07:55 PM on December 20

Also Amateur, I'm not sure why you think that the fact that Bagger wasn't a pro as a man invalidates mjk's point. Well, if mjk's point was that an SRS woman has some physical advantages over the majority of her female peers, then I conceded that point long ago. But if that's the point he wanted to make, he could just have used Bagger (or Dr. Richards, or Michelle Dumaresq, or others) as his example: proficient amateur becomes middling pro after SRS. Point "proven" -- or supported, at least. So why not use an actual person as an example? My argument is that a small unfairness to born female athletes is an acceptable exchange for the larger fairness of allowing SRS female athletes to participate where they more rightly fit. Is there a competitive advantage? Sure, but it's on a scale similar to already-existing genetic differences between female players. mjk's hypothetical example turns all born female athletes into victims and turns this into a debate about the integrity of the game as a whole.

posted by Amateur at 09:25 PM on December 20

How does the IOC manage things if it no longer uses gender tests? Good faith? More or less, qbert. The basic sentiment was that: - the genetic tests were really only useful for flagging 'interesting' cases for further, um, investigation. Almost all of them turned out to be women, from a physiological point of view. - in this age of pervasive dope testing -- it is not possible to hide your genitalia during a WADA-sanctioned urine collection, believe me -- and skin-tight uniforms, it is very unlikely that a man could 'pass' as a woman for long. So participants at the Olympic Games are no longer subjected to mandatory gender testing of any kind. 1996 was the last time everybody had to go for a buccal swab. There is still gender testing, if requested (as was apparently done in this case). I do not know the details on who can request it, and when.

posted by Amateur at 09:36 PM on December 20

Amateur, you seem to think that it's a small thing to allow a woman who has a competitive advantage based on a partially male physiology to compete against other women who could not attain that same advantage without pharmaceutical help (which gets them banned from their sport in most cases). I have a sneaking feeling that most of the women competing against her would disagree with you, and I can't help but think that they'd have good reason. In most cases, these athletes have trained for years and years, and asking them to compete against someone with male characteristics isn't far removed from asking them to run against someone who's been allowed to use steroids. I know that Soudarajan didn't likely do anything to cause this (unlike steroid users), but that doesn't change the end result. The condition she suffers from looks like it may cause her a great deal of difficulty, and I feel for her, but that's not an excuse to be unfair to potentially hundreds of her competitors over the years in order to be "fair" to her. Like the vast majority of us, her genetics work against her when it comes to competing at the elite athletic level.

posted by ctal1999 at 10:52 PM on December 20

So why not use an actual person as an example? To quote myself in a comment made earlier, "Dr. Richards was 40 years old, a career amateur, and still was competetive to a certain extent against women pros half her age, quite a feat in tennis."

posted by mjkredliner at 12:07 AM on December 21

S(he) might qualify as a Hijra in India. This Wikipedia article is meaner than it needs to be, but Hijras are known as the "third gender" in India. There's a weird gray area that we in the West don't talk about much.

posted by Samsonov14 at 02:05 AM on December 21

mjk, I acknowledged the validity of that example. What I'm suggesting is that the use of the extreme hypothetical, which you introduced to the debate, adds nothing to the argument -- it's a cheap trick designed to get a knee-jerk response ("well that wouldn't be fair!") without any basis for establishing that it would or could happen.

posted by Amateur at 07:17 AM on December 21

it's a cheap trick designed to get a knee-jerk response /laughs You give me far too much credit, amateur. As wfrazerjr was kind enough to point out, it is a valid what-if, much more likely to happen than a female turned male dominating a mans sport, and I could not for the life of me remember the name of the golfer. /Twirls mustache in anticipation of his next Snidely Whiplashlike comment.

posted by mjkredliner at 07:49 AM on December 21

qbert: I'm not following you, sorry. Maybe we mean different things by "unrestricted". Could you give me an example? We mean the same thing by "unrestricted", but "unrestricted" classes in competitive sport almost always deal with age or weight. While there is competition that is unrestricted by gender, there isn't much of it, and in the world of gender-restricted sports, where does an intersexed person who's lived all her life as a woman go? Amateur has been doing a better job of saying what I've been trying to say: physiological differences exist among human beings that may give individuals an advantage in a competitive sports situation, yet we don't, for the most part, feel that it's appropriate to try and regulate away those differences. Dawn Staley, at 5' 3", had to compete against Margo Dydek at 7' 4", and no one felt the need to exclude the one for being too short or the other for being too tall. If this range of physiological advantage is acceptable, why is a range based on fuzzy gender not? I think it's because we're too stuck on looking at the label rather than on what the actual "advantage" is.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:03 AM on December 21

mjk, I'll lower my expectations. But the fact that fraze provided the name of an SRS golfer doesn't make your hypothetical example valid. Mianne Bagger is not going to dominate the LPGA Tour. If you want to debate her status, OK. If you want to debate the treatment we should dole out to some hypothetical bogeyman, I'll pass.

posted by Amateur at 08:06 AM on December 21

ctal, as far as Soudarajan is concerned I really don't know how I feel. I think that there are some kinds of intersexualism (e.g. CAIS) where the right answer is fairly obvious. There are other cases where things are not so clear, and given that Soudarajan passed and then failed a gender test she is probably pretty close to the line. The determination should be based on asking how much natural advantage she has over other women, and whether that is large or small compared to the natural differences between women. Since I don't know what Soudarajan's status is I can't say very much about her. These cases should be decided by experts in sports medicine (and I am not one). The more controversial issue deals with transsexuals, who have at least some degree of choice when it comes to their chemical gender (for lack of a better word). However, as post-SRS women, these athletes have no remaining chemical advantage over their competitors. They receive female hormones and have had their testes removed. Any advantage that lingers is due to the male chemistry they had during puberty, and any associated sociological differences (e.g. because they were boys they were encouraged to be more aggressive). Again, the question in my mind is whether these advantages are large or small compared to natural differences between women. A team of experts commissioned by the IOC to study the issue determined the conditions under which a male-to-female SRS athlete should be allowed to compete against women. That's not without controversy, and -- as you pointed out -- lots of female athletes disagree with it (my wife is one of them). Most of them feel that a post-SRS female should not be allowed to compete in women's events. Finally, since you brought up doping, consider this. When an athlete has a first positive test, she is usually suspended for competition for two years. After that time she is reinstated to competition. A male-to-female SRS athlete similarly has to wait two years before she can compete in women's events. This has been a good conversation. As usual I have contributed too many words but I have learned a few new things, so thanks.

posted by Amateur at 08:41 AM on December 21

in the world of gender-restricted sports Maybe it's because I'm more knowledgeable of professional than amateur sports, but I don't know of that world you speak of. A person of any gender can play in the PGA, NHL or whatnot. I thought we established long ago that so-called "mens" circuits are in fact open circuits. I honestly have no idea if women are prevented to compete in mens events at the Olympics, for example. If that is the case, then I believe it is wrong. If this range of physiological advantage is acceptable, why is a range based on fuzzy gender not? I think it has to do with the fact that gender defines this field of play. It is womens sports, after all. If there is fuzziness about who can play, then there is a door open for abuse. And no matter how much you dislike "what if"'s, they're what making rules is all about. The way I see it (thanks Amateur for your anwer), at this time nothing's stopping anyone from competing in womens events at the Olympics, as long as they claim they've been a woman all their life. What you're saying is "Let's wait for such abuse to happen". I would prefer to prevent it. And yes, that would mean some tough, heartbreaking calls with regards to edge cases.

posted by qbert72 at 10:21 AM on December 21

Maybe it's because I'm more knowledgeable of professional than amateur sports, but I don't know of that world you speak of. A person of any gender can play in the PGA, NHL or whatnot. I thought we established long ago that so-called "mens" circuits are in fact open circuits. No, we didn't. Each circuit and each league is whatever it is; no one, certainly not "we" on Sportsfilter, ever came up with a blanket rule establishing who may compete in all of them. I'll give you one small limited example from the wide world of sports competition: high school sports in the United States. As educational organizations that receive federal tax dollars, US high schools are required to provide access to programs irrespective of gender. This includes high school sports. However, this does not mean that every team in every sport at every high school in every state is open to any student, regardless of gender. Each school is supposed to provide something that can be construed as equal opportunity, but US federal law grants a lot of leeway in how that can be measured. It can mean providing equal dollars to boys' and girls' programs, although no one ever does that because of (cue dramatic music) football. It can mean fielding boys' and girls' teams in each sport, or an equal number of boys' and girls' teams. Or, it can mean allowing a student to compete on a team that is nominally of the opposite gender. To make matters more complex, each state's interscholastic athletic association creates its own set of regulations indicating which forms of the federally-approved compliance may be used within the state. The end result is that an individual school may well blend several of these forms of compliance: my local high school, for instance, fields a football team that is nominally for boys and a field hockey team that is nominally for girls, but they have had boys compete on their field hockey team -- and their girls' tennis team has competed against teams including boys. If you stopped reading halfway through that paragraph, I don't blame you. The point is that there are plenty of gender restrictions in sports participation. As for the Olympics, they deal with it by having competition for both men and women -- sort of. Women's ski jumping didn't make it into the Vancouver Olympics, which sucks much ass if you ask me. I think it has to do with the fact that gender defines this field of play. It is womens sports, after all. If there is fuzziness about who can play, then there is a door open for abuse. And no matter how much you dislike "what if"'s, they're what making rules is all about. Hang on -- you just got done telling me that you didn't know of the world of gender-restricted sports, and now you're sayng that "gender defines this field of play"? As for the fuzziness, you missed my point: there are already great physiological differences between competitors, much greater than those posed by transsexualism or intersexed status. Given that, isn't it purely arbitrary to say that these differences are permissible, but "fuzziness" in the matter of gender is not? If your answer to this is, "Yes, but you have to draw the line somewhere," we're now going in circles. My whole point has been that if you're going to make rules and draw lines regulating sports competition, then for God's sake, draw them where it makes some sense! Why were you creating the rule in the first place? Um...er...well...I forgot...cuz you gotta have rules? Oh, wait, to ensure fair competition! Well, that's great. But a set of rules that arbitrarily bans intersexed people, while permitting Margo Dydek to play in the same competition as Dawn Staley, has nothing to do with ensuring fair competition.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:21 AM on December 21

you just got done telling me that you didn't know of the world of gender-restricted sports, and now you're sayng that "gender defines this field of play"? Way to twist my words, there. Gender defines womens sports' field of play. Of course, womens sport is gender-restricted. As I said a long time ago, that's its purpose. And it has absolutely no bearing in the existence or absence of an unrestricted field of competition in the same discipline. If your answer to this is, "Yes, but you have to draw the line somewhere," we're now going in circles. Probably. Mind you, I'm not especially in favor or against moving this line past intersexed people. But a line will be drawn, and it will still be arbitrary, and someone is still going to end up being just on the wrong side of the line, and you'll again be the first to denounce this injustice. The only way to end this is to remove all lines, and have only one field of competition.

posted by qbert72 at 12:45 PM on December 21

you'll again be the first to denounce this injustice Well, hurray for me. I'd rather be among the first to denounce an injustice than among those hanging to the rear, or acting as apologists. We all have our choices to make, I guess.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:19 PM on December 21

Sorry about the personal jab. My point is that it is not an injustice. Exclusion is an unpleasant but necessary artefact of ideas such as womens sports. If you want to end exclusion, you need to end womens sports, and have men, women, intersexuals, transexuals and everyone else compete together. I'll grant you one victory: we are going in circles.

posted by qbert72 at 01:39 PM on December 21

l_b_b, qbert has a point though. Since every person is unique, none of us are ever exactly equal (except in theory) in any situation. There will always be unavoidable inequity in any and every group. If you define it as an injustice every time someone is just a hair outside of the rules, then there are injustices in almost every competitive situation. What's worse, more often than not, if you eliminate one injustice, you'll end up creating others. You may want to rethink the Staley/Dydek argument as well. You're comparing apples and oranges. Soudarajan competes in an individual sport while Staley and Dydek are each part of a team. Their size, skills and style of play are very different even though they're playing the same game, but that's not a problem because the demands of their respective positions are different. They'd never be expected to compete against one another in a head to head sport where the size difference would be overwhelmingly decisive (weightlifting or boxing, for example). In many other individual sports, they'd both be eligible to compete, but not necessarily very capable because their physiology doesn't fit with the demands of that particular competition. I have no doubt that Staley would be a better gymnast or sprinter, while Dydek would most likely be better with strength related activities like the shot put. None of that matters because their game is basketball and they're each well suited to the demands of their given positions. Your comparison implies that the size difference somehow makes it as unfair for them to compete against one another as it would be for a woman who has male characteristics that give her an advantage over the standard woman to compete against a field comprised of just such women. That comparison simply doesn't wash. Remember, there is a qualifier here. If it's demonstrated that Soudarajan has some masculine characteristics, but none that give her an unusual edge (such as high testosterone levels, etc.), then there should be no objection to having her compete against other women. On the other hand, if she does have demonstrable advantages, and your interest is truly fairness, then you cannot expect all the other athletes to compete against her.

posted by ctal1999 at 03:04 PM on December 21

If it's demonstrated that Soudarajan has some masculine characteristics, but none that give her an unusual edge (such as high testosterone levels, etc.), then there should be no objection to having her compete against other women. On the other hand, if she does have demonstrable advantages, and your interest is truly fairness, then you cannot expect all the other athletes to compete against her. I don't believe the gender testing does this. It doesn't test whether the differences between Soudarajan gave her an advantage, it just tests whether there are differences. I think that is a pretty important distinction. To the extent that such differences may give an athlete an advantage over other athletes, then it is worth discussing where to draw the line. However, if we are not sure if there are advantages and we only know that there are differences, then excluding athletes like Soudarajan is unfairly harsh.

posted by bperk at 03:36 PM on December 21

Sorry about the personal jab. No need to apologize at all. As I said before, I'm perfectly happy with where I am on the action/inaction spectrum when it comes to injustice. What you said is a compliment, not a jab. We will have to agree to disagree on this. You believe that the only way to avoid excluding intersexed people from sports is to eliminate women's sports. I believe you're wrong. Furthermore, while I grant you that slippery-slope and circus-pony arguments may be strong enough to carry the day when some matters are concerned, I'm strongly against them as the sole support for a policy of exclusion. When we're talking about not allowing people to play, I like stronger arguments than vague hypotheticals. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:42 PM on December 21

l_b_b, qbert has a point though. Since every person is unique, none of us are ever exactly equal (except in theory) in any situation. There will always be unavoidable inequity in any and every group. If you define it as an injustice every time someone is just a hair outside of the rules, then there are injustices in almost every competitive situation. I thought that was more my point than qbert's point, actually: that inequities exist throughout the world of sports, but we're very selective in how and where we regulate them -- and that this area, by objective standards, does not cry out for regulation more than many other inequities that continue to go unregulated. As for the Staley and Dydek apples-and-oranges argument, you're right that basketball is different than track; however, it's silly to deny that being tall gives you a big advantage in basketball, and that the difference between the two is enormous. There are all kinds of things that convey physiological advantages in sports, so why is this one important to single out? It's never an "all other things being equal" situation with real live human beings; somebody got more protein when they were four, someone else grew up in a subtropical climate and had more year round training opportunities, someone else came from money and had the best coaches. Why the overwhelming need to rectify this supposed inequity, and let all the other ones go?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:54 PM on December 21

Hey...did somebody say "pony?" Hardy har har, har hardy.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 07:14 PM on December 21

l_b_b, you're right that we're selective about what we regulate, but we have little choice. Since it's impossible for any of us to anticipate every scenario, we could never regulate all the possible situations. Hence, we regulate some things and not others. Since I know from experience that you're very intelligent, I'm certain that you already recognized that fact. Under those circumstances, it seems to me that your argument is more about what we choose to regulate than the fact that we don't regulate absolutely everything. I get your stance that this situation doesn't demand the level of regulation that it seems to be drawing, and I'm not sure I disagree...and there's the rub. Whether or not I agree with you, I think it's a certainty that we'll never be able to set regulations that everyone agrees on. There will always be those who think a regulation goes too far or not far enough, or that a group should be exempt, or one that is exempt shouldn't be, etc., etc., etc. Still, that doesn't mean that you should hesitate to argue for what you believe to be the most equitable outcomes. Just realize that others will probably have different opinions, and often their reasoning will be just as well thought out and valid as yours, and since we can't regulate everything, the only other way to eliminate these arguments would be to eliminate all regulation as qbert suggested. As to the Staley/Dydek debate, I still think that you're putting too much emphasis on size. It's only one factor, after all. Staley's speed and agility nicely offset Dydek's size and strength. Would you also argue that AI would be overmatched by any of the NBA 7+ footers? He plays on the same court with them all the time, and he seems to get by fairly well, don't you think? I get the point that you were trying to make. I just didn't think that the Staley/Dydek example was an apt one.

posted by ctal1999 at 11:40 PM on December 21

Heh. It is, in fact, the case that Staley has gone up against Dydek and scored. That's one reason why I chose that example.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:33 AM on December 22

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.