Should transgender/intersexual/mosaic athletes compete as male/female? Bionic modifications?
At the current time, you can compete in many athletic events, including ISU and Olympic events, based on your "gender identity" - i.e., the gender you consider yourself to have, or are legally considered to be, under local law, under certain conditions.
In addition, people in these categories are sometimes allowed, in some cases required to take, hormones which would count as "performance enhancing drugs" for most other athletes.
Finally, it is becoming possible to make surgical modifications which might give people substantial performance advantages over other athletes.
I'm trying to decide, in my own mind, whether these things are "fair". Given that most sports require male and female athletes to compete in different categories, on the assumption that substantial gender related advantages and disadvantages exist, should such athletes have to compete in separate categories? Or would that be unfair to the relevant athletes, some of whom have not been able to compete under earlier rules? It is desirable that athletic events be as inclusive as practical, so that no one feels left out.
First, some definitions, for the purpose of this post (some of these terms have other meanings):
1. Transgender, for this post, refers to individuals who have been modified surgically and by hormonal treatments to appear to be a different gender than when you were borne. Current ISU and Olympic policy on their competition is specified by The Stockholm Consensus
2. There are genetic anamolies, like XXY, that cause people not to appear to fit the typical gender dichotomy. They either have some of the characteristics of both genders, or change gender at maturity, unless hormone therapy occurs. Sometimes these things are called "intersexual" phenotypes, but I'm not sure that term has an exact definition.
3. Mosaiced individuals are people who are effectively a combination of cells from two different embryos. E.g., your outer body might be made up of cells from one embryo, your inner body another.
For 2 and 3 above, no doubt some of them probably competed in the past, before, testing, and sometimes knowledge, existed to detect the difference.
The relevant experts in the IOC made their decisions based on a lack of statistical evidence for a performance advantage. Many sources say there is also a lack of evidence for the abscence of a performance advantage. And since the associated protocols specify that the information will be kept private, there will never be an adequate basis to test whether there is a competitive advantage. It was stated that there were a number of transgender/intersexual athletes at the Sochi Olympics, but their identities were mostly hidden.
BUT: Physics says some advantages and disadvantages MUST exist. For example, typical males have much wider shoulders than typical females. That gives them an overwhelming mechanical advantage for upper body strength moves. Likewise, typical females have much wider hips than typical males. Again, typical females have much greater flexibility - e.g., much more hip mobility. This means a wider range of motion, and smoother motion. Typical males also have stronger bones, and are somewhat less fragile. Typical females have a lower center of gravity, leading to better balance.
And it has been known for some time that females become stronger if they take male steroids, and males become stronger if they take female steroids. (BTW I don't understand how that can be true. Why should the presence of both increase strength or muscle mass.)
OTOH there are huge variations of body structure, weight, strength, flexibility, grace, bone density, etc., even within the range of "normal" males and females. There are a few sports, like boxing, where people divide by weight class, and there are some age divisions, but for the most part, we don't have divide people out by body type, except for gender. Maybe we shouldn't divide people without clear reason here either. On the other-other hand, we don't let people in wheelchair race against "normal" runners.
Along the same lines of surgical modification, it is still not realistically possible, YET
, to make fully "bionic" people, along the lines of "The Six Million Dollar Man" and"Bionic Women" TV shows. But it is absolutely becoming possible, to give people substantial performance advantages. For example, you might give an athlete a stronger joint, or re-attach a muscle in a place that gives you a greater mechanical advantage, or make you more flexible. It used to be that joint replacement was rarely done, because you had to cut through a large amount of muscle, which would never fully recover. But those days are changing. It is inevitable that it will be possible to make people stronger, faster, and perhaps more graceful. (Have some you dreamed of becoming bionic?) In fact, when athletes are injured, I think they are sometimes repaired in ways that make them stronger.
WIll this be fair? If bionics is banned, what about athletes who have already been modified repaired?
Figure skater CHRISTINA KOCI
Wikipedia Gender verification in sports
Please, keep this discussion civil! Some of our members might be within these categories.