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Emma DeGrandi

Professor McDowell
English 1010
8 December 2015
An Unforeseen Finish Line
In the 1970s, Dr. Rene Richards paved the way for transgender rights by
fighting to play professional tennis after undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Richards believes that nothing could be tougher than what she had to endure at the time
that she came out as transgender. Living in a much less understanding world than today,
when Richards went out in public she did not know whether she was going to be yelled at
or shot at (Segar). In 1977, Richards made history when she bravely walked out on the
centre court of Forest Hills stadium to play in the womens US Open. She was the first
transgender woman to play in a professional tennis tournament (Segar). Many other
women in the tournament dropped out after hearing that Richards would be playing
because they believed this was unfair.
Although much has changed since Richards made the first leap for transgender
rights, there is still much work to be done. The most pressing issue currently debated in
transgendered athletes participation in elite sports is whether the athletes, who compete
in the opposite gender category to which they were born, retain any physiological
advantages or disadvantages associated with their original sex. However, transgender
athletes pose no advantage or disadvantage because every human being is born with
certain genetic variations that either aid or hinder his or her potential for success on the
playing field.

Throughout history, transgender athletes have been harshly criticized for having
unfair advantages. This was made very evident when Chloie Jnsson, a female
transgender CrossFit athlete, was given a letter from the governing CrossFit body stating
that she cannot compete as a woman (Tannehill). Jnsson was told that she must compete
in the mens division because she was born a male. A bold statement was made in the
letter claiming that, The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who has
a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and
physiological advantage over women (Tannehill).
The idea of transgender women competing in athletics often brings out more
anger than any other transgender issue. However, usually disapproval of transgender
athletes derives from the sheer lack of awareness of the current medical thought on the
issue. With transgender athletes only recently being brought into the spotlight, with
celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner, the ability to not fully process the issue is understandable.
The issue can begin to be solved by looking into actual scientific research.
In 2014, a study was conducted to precisely determine if transgender athletes
posed an advantage associated with their original sex (Bermon). Researchers measured
the serum androgen, also known as serum testosterone, levels among a large population
of high-level female athletes. In 849 elite female athletes, serum testosterone was
measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, a powerful technique that has
very high sensitivity, making it useful in many applications (Bermon). The study
conducted proved that there is no clear scientific evidence proving that a high level of
testosterone is a significant determinant in female sports.

Although testosterone belongs to a class of male hormones called androgens,

women also have testosterone and their levels can vary. Three specific glands in the body
produce testosterone that is then spread throughout the body (Hargreaves). Those glands
that produce testosterone are the testes, ovaries, and the adrenal glands. After a man
medically transitions to a female, they no longer have testosterone production from the
testes, additionally they do not have testosterone from the ovaries (Hargreaves). Women
get 25% of their circulating testosterone from their ovaries, however transgender women
are now only able to receive the serum from their adrenal glands (Tannehill). Therefore,
post-operative transgender women have less testosterone than their counterparts, because
their levels actually decrease.
Unfortunately, gender profiling has occurred throughout history regarding not
only transgender female athletes, but also female athletes in general. Female athletes
flagged as having too much testosterone have either been kicked out of the competition or
have undergone genital mutilation to try to make their bodies fit back into the normal
range (Fagan). The International Olympic Committee, for example, has had a long history
of insensitive and unproductive gender tests. Even though they have attempted to resolve
issues regarding transgender rights, their system is still very flawed.
In 2004, the IOC created The Stockholm Consensus that allowed transgender
athletes to compete in the olympics (Ferguson). The International Olympic Committee
then issued rules regarding the participation of transgender athletes in elite sports. Their
rules focus on three main points: they must have had gender reassignment surgery, they
must have legal recognition of their assigned gender, and they must have at least two
years of hormone therapy (Ferguson). The guidelines are systematically reviewed

overtime and amended if necessary to ensure that they include any new research in that
The flaws within the IOC were made evident when runner Dutee Chand of India
was barred from participating in the Commonwealth Games. The 18-year old sprinter
reported high levels of natural testosterone within her body. The Sports Authority of India
followed the guidelines of the IOC that had stated, female athletes with high levels of
natural testosterone possess an unfair advantage over their competitors (Fagan). Chand
was left with two options: to have surgery to decrease her testosterone to a normal level
or to reduce her testosterone levels with drug therapy. However, she chose neither and
decided to become the first female to challenge IOCs policy (Fagan).
When Chand went to court to challenge gender guidelines set by the sporting
world, it was evident this would become a landmark case. The Court of Arbitration for
Sport began to question if there was an advantage with naturally high levels of
testosterone in women. Meanwhile, the practice of hyperandrogenism regulation,
made by the International Association of Athletics Federations, was immediately
suspended (Branch). The I.A.A.F. was then given two years to provide more persuasive
scientific evidence linking enhanced testosterone levels and improved athletic
The Court of Arbitration for Sport came back with a response stating that they had
failed to prove that women with naturally high levels of testosterone had any advantage.
"In the absence of such evidence, the CAS Panel was unable to conclude that
hyperandrogenic female athletes may benefit from such a significant performance
advantage that it is necessary to exclude them from competing in the female category,"

the court's interim ruling said in the appeal brought by Chand (Branch). The final appeals
court decided that the level of natural testosterone in any athletes body is insufficient
evidence to bar a woman from competing against other females. The court added that,
Although athletics events are divided into discrete male and female categories, sex in
humans is not simply binary (Branch). As it was put during the hearing: Nature is not
neat. There is no single determinant of sex (Branch).
For years people have confused the terms sex and gender. Sex includes physical
attributes such as external genitalia, sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and
internal reproductive structures. At birth, individuals are assigned a sex and identified as
male or female. However, gender is much more complex than that. Gender takes into
account an individuals sex (gender biology), ones internal sense of self as male, female,
both or neither (gender identity) as well as ones outward presentations and behaviors
(gender expression). These all create a complex interrelationship and allows gender to be
a very fluid concept.
However, todays western culture, as shown in the court case, has come to view
gender as a strict binary concept of male and female. What some people dont realize is
that there are more than two options. Agender, bigender, genderfluid, and genderless are
only a few examples of the many different types out there. These were created for the
people whose gender identities were so not man or woman that they needed a
completely new label to apply to them. In the past, these people that didnt necessary
identity as strictly male or female, were labeled as having a psychological condition,
gender dysphoria, or Gender Identity Disorder. They were often called confused,

troubled, or even sick. However, in reality society is confused and the understanding of
gender as binary is sick.
From a time when we are little, we are taught that gender is boys and girls.
This is not wrong, however it is incomplete (Killermann). A stereotypical boy is
aggressive, impetuous, good at math, and loves the color blue. He plays sports and gets
dirty. A stereotypical girl, on the other hand, is passive, docile, loves the color pink, and is
born to be good baker. She loves makeup, dolls, and purses. Girls grow up to be moms,
leave the other jobs to dads. Unless they want to be a teacher, a nurse, a receptionist, or a
clerk. Of course this describes some boys perfectly, and some girls perfectly. There
problem here is options. We are left with only two options to describe every single person
in this world, 7 billion individual identities simplified into two (Killermann).
Gender stereotypes are generalizations or preconceptions about characteristics
that are or should be possessed by an entire group based on their gender (Brewer). This
can become extremely harmful to an individual when it limits his or her options to be
different. The stereotype decides for the males or females what their abilities are, what
career they should pursue, and others choices about their lives and their plans. Harmful
stereotypes can be hostile and very negative, or just seemingly benign (Brewer). Women
are irrational or women are nurturing. This stereotype explains that women are supposed
to be more nurturing and that childbearing responsibilities should rely solely on them.
Men and women are individuals; they are more than just male or female. Gender is only
part of an individual; it does not fully define who we are as people.
Athletes have long been segregated on the basis of sex. Males are expected to
participate in one team, and females in the other. People become skeptical when the

stereotypical view of a male or female athlete does not come full term. When Dutee
Chand was reported to have more testosterone than the normal female, people were
quick to question whether or not she should be able to participate in womens
tournaments. However, this was just how Chand was born. There is still no evidence to
date that higher natural testosterone impacts athletic success more than any other genetic
variable. What happened to Chand is nothing short of gender policing of women. This is
a persecution of women who do not fit the traditional, mainstream idea of what it means
to look like a woman.
Despite fears that Renee Richards would have an unfair advantage as a
transgender women athlete, she was, at best, average. Richards did not make it past the
first round of the 1977 U.S. Open (Molloy). Even though transgender athletes with an
unfair advantage remained rare, that didnt stop people from being skeptical. For
example, during the 1999 Australian Open, tennis star Martina Hingis vaguely accused
Amelie Mauresmo of being trans, saying, "[Mauresmo] has a guy's shoulders, and looks
better suited to the shot put (Molloy)." The phrase guy shoulders is a complete
stereotype defining what a man or woman should look like.
Rebecca Jordan-Young, a professor at Columbia, and Katrina Karkazis, a professor at
Stanford, wrote in The New York Times in 2012: "Scientifically, there is no clear or
objective way to draw a bright line between male and female (Young)." Gender is much
more complex than what we learned as kids. An individuals gender identity involves
how they make sense of their inner-self, and what they understand gender to be.
Sometimes an individuals gender aligns with their biological sex, or fits into the gender
binary. However, sometimes it doesnt. Every human being is born with certain genetic

variations. Some variations may help his or her performance on the playing field, while
some may not. The International Olympic Committees gender tests are insensitive and
flawed. A female athlete should not be kicked out of a competition due to a natural
genetic variation of testosterone. A transgender female athlete should be allowed, after a
successful gender-reassignment surgery and continued use of hormone therapy, to
participate in competition as a woman. Gender testing and gender bias in elite womens
athletics appeared to be rendered unethical with the Supreme Court case of Rene
Richards in 1973 and the Stockholm Consensus of 2004 (Wahlert). However, the most
recent revisions to the IOCs policy show that the biases related to gender normativity in
competitive sports are alive and welland that the finish line for that race is far from

Works Cited
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Branch, John. "Dutee Chand, Female Sprinter With High Testosterone Level, Wins Right
to Compete." The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 July 2015. Web. 05
Dec. 2015.
Brewer, Holly. "List of Gender Stereotypes." List of Gender Stereotypes. N.p., n.d. Web.
05 Dec. 2015.
Hargreaves, Heather. "Debunking unfair Advantage Myths about Trans Athletes."
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Transgender Athletes | VICE Sports." VICE Sports RSS. N.p., 06 Nov. 2014. Web.
05 Dec. 2015.
Segar, Mike. "Renee Richards Still Amazed She Broke Transgender Taboo." Reuters.
Thomson Reuters, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 04 Dec. 2015.
Tannehill, Brynn. "Do Transgender Athletes Have an Unfair Advantage?" The Huffington
Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Dec. 2015.
Wahlert, Lance. "Gender Transports: Privileging the." Taylor & Francis. N.p., 13 June
2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2015.
Young, Rebecca Jordan, and Katrina Karkazis. "You Say Youre a Woman? That Should
Be Enough." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 June 2012. Web. 05
Dec. 2015.

Understanding the Complexities of Gender: Sam Killermann at TEDxUofIChicago. Perf.

Sam Killerman. YouTube. N.p., 3 May 2013. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.