A few years ago, I espoused an opinion on assigning binary (male or female) gender to professional trans-gender athletes. The most current case, to date, is over the gender assignment of Castor Semanya, a South African 800 m runner who holds numerous world-class records. In my blog post, I summarized a beautifully written, though lengthy article on the history of trans-gender disorders and the ridicule that Castor has endured across her years as a professional athlete.
This subject has been re-opened within the past week because the International Olympic Committee plans to test Olympic “female” athletes for excessively high levels of testosterone, evidence of androgen insensitivity syndrome, and/or possession of a Y chromosome in order to determine “his/her” immediate eligibility to compete and/or reason to strip “her/him” of a medal. If you recall from a previous post, my lab works with a mouse model of gender that enables us to dissociate between chromosomal vs. hormonal sex influences on sleep; our mice that are XX can be phenotypically male and mice that are XY can be phenotypically female due to a spontaneous mutation the Sry gene.
While I agree that this practice is wrong because it would not only violate, to some extent, medical confidentiality under the jurisdiction of HIPAA, there is no credible or even substantial evidence for the performance-enhancing effects of testosterone and what constitutes as normal, baseline measures of testosterone in female athletes. While this is a more scientific, less demoralizing strategy for assigning gender than during the 1960′s Olympic campaign, in which women were forced to walk naked in front of a panel of doctors to determine gender, it is still not appropriate.
To end on a happy note, this Bob Kostas-narrated preview should bring excitement!