Friday, October 30, 2009

International Olympic Committee to Standardize How Intersex Games Athletes are "Dealt With"

Caster Semenya's shaming, globally sensationalism surrounding her biological sex has led the International Olymic Committee (IOC) to standardize how future competitors of "ambiguous gender" are treated. (Note that if the article has this wrong; this issue was not about gender, which an individual identifies as, and which may differ from one's biological sex. {It also isn't set in stone; my own gender identity often changes from minute-to-minute, a topic that will be the subject of future posts.} This entire issue was about biological sex.)

The brief article is interesting in that it implies a reactionary approach in a situation like Semenya's, in which an athelete is perhaps outed for or suspected of being intersex after having been accepted to the Games, or even after having competed. The article doesn't mention IOC's plans to "test" for intersex. (Meaning, that genetic tests would be performed, which would be quite ineffective for certain forms of intersex because intersex is about a lot more than what genitals and chromosomes you have....especially since external genitals and/or sex chromosomes possessed may be totally typical. See previous posts for more information.) So, if the IOC didn't start performing more genetic tests to catch some of those pesky intersex athletes wanting to compete, then how would one identify intersex individuals? It seems it would be terribly difficult to "deal with" a suspected intersex individual unless it involved whistle-blowing by Semenya's fellow competitors voicing complaints about her angular features and sizeable musculature. If the latter is the case, are future competitors going to be in the same situation as Semenya, caught wondering if their medals and right to compete might be taken away from them after all their hard work and sacrifice? It's unclear if this new plan will be employing any new methods other than witch-hunt-esque techniques. Is this really acceptable? (The answer is a resounding, "NO!")

I was equally alarmed after reading this quote by IOC Medical Commission Chairman, Arne Ljungqvist: “It’s highly unfortunate. These cases should be confidential. They are private matters and should not be displayed openly. The one who suffers is the person, and the person has done nothing wrong. This may be part of our discussion — how to avoid this type of public knowledge." (Emphasis added.)

To many, this boldfaced part might be applauded and championed. After all, who would like to see future athletes subjected to the freak-in-a-fishbowl treatment endured by Semenya? However, this aim is misguided. The ultimate goal shouldn't be to avoid telling the public that an individual is intersex. That should be a GIVEN. It isn't the public's damn business what genitalia, internal sex organs, hormone levels, secondary body hair distribution, chest/breast development, etc. an individual possesses.




The real goals should be to the following:

TO STOP SENSATIONALIZING INTERSEX INDIVIDUALS.

TO RECOGNIZE INTERSEX INDIVIDUALS FOR THE HUMAN BEINGS THEY ARE, INSTEAD OF PAINTING THEM AS THESE MONSTROUS SPECTACLES FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION.

TO EDUCATE INDIVIDUALS ABOUT WHAT INTERSEX IS. (This humans-can-be-hermaphrodites thing has been soldiered on for way too long.)

CAMPAIGNING FOR ETHICAL TREATMENT OF THESE ATHLETES, THUS TRADING IN STIGMATIZATION FOR ACCEPTANCE.




It's not going to be easy for the IOC to determine what standards they will employ, but the decisions they do make are going to be really important. Keep your eyes peeled for more in the coming weeks.

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