Race Technology and Gender Article Discussion



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Create 3 questions with evidence from the reading.

Highlight important quotes in the reading to refer to the questions.

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JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH, 50(2), 103–111, 2013 Copyright # The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality ISSN: 0022-4499 print=1559-8519 online DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2012.725488 TARGET ARTICLE Policing the Boundaries of Sex: A Critical Examination of Gender Verification and the Caster Semenya Controversy Cheryl Cooky Department of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue University Shari L. Dworkin Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco On August 19, 2009, Caster Semenya, South African track star, won a gold medal in the women’s 800-meter event. According to media reports, on the same day, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ordered Semenya to undergo gender verification testing. This article critically assesses the main concepts and claims that undergird international sport organizations’ policies regarding ‘‘gender verification’’ or ‘‘sex testing.’’ We examine the ways in which these policies operate through several highly contested assumptions, including that (a) sex exists as a binary; (b) sport is a level playing field for competitors; and (c) some intersex athletes have an unfair advantage over women who are not intersex and, as such, they should be banned from competition to ensure that sport is a level playing field. To conclude, we make three recommendations that are consistent with the attainment of sex and gender justice in sport, which include acknowledging that myriad physical advantages are accepted in sport, recognizing that sport as a level playing field is a myth, and eliminating sex testing in sport. Caster Semenya, an 18-year-old track star from rural Limpopo, South Africa, won the gold medal in the women’s 800 meters at the World Championships in Athletics in Berlin on August 19, 2009. Semenya won the event in 1:55:45, 2 seconds slower than the world record, yet 7.5 seconds faster than her previous times in this event. Media accounts noted that the silver medalist, Kenyan Janeth Jepkosgei, finished a full 2.45 seconds behind her. On the same day that Semenya won gold, gender verification tests were requested by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to determine whether she was ‘‘eligible’’ to compete in women’s sport. Media reports stated that the IAAF requested the tests because of Semenya’s ‘‘deep voice, muscular build and rapid improvement in times’’ (‘‘IAAF: Semenya decision in November,’’ 2009). The general secretary of the IAAF stated that Semenya Correspondence should be addressed to Shari L. Dworkin, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, 3333 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94143. E-mail: shari.dworkin@ucsf.edu underwent gender verification testing because of ‘‘ambiguity’’ regarding her sex. On July 6, 2010, the IAAF ‘‘accepted the conclusion of a panel of medical experts that Semenya can compete with immediate effect’’ (‘‘Athlete Caster Semenya free to compete,’’ 2010). She returned to competition at a low-profile track-and-field event in Finland on July 15, 2010. Semenya competed in the 800-meter event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, winning the silver medal. The results of her 2009 gender verification test were not released to the public, and the IAAF stated that Semenya’s medical test results would remain confidential. Semenya identifies as a woman. Family members, friends, South African stakeholders, and leaders in both sport and government have insisted that Semenya is indeed a woman, regardless of what scientific testing may determine (for a discussion, see Cooky, Dycus, & Dworkin, 2012; Dworkin, Swarr, & Cooky, in press). Despite Semenya’s performance at the 2009 World Championships, the subsequent controversy regarding her ‘‘gender verification’’ raised issues regarding the COOKY AND DWORKIN eligibility of nonnormatively sexed=gendered bodies to participate in international sporting competition. It is difficult to ascertain the prevalence of intersexed individuals given a lack of consensus among biomedical scientists regarding what conditions constitute intersexuality (Karkazis, 2008). Some individuals may be born with ambiguous genitalia; in other cases, individuals are born with ‘‘normative’’ genitalia. Moreover, although the incidence of various conditions will vary, estimates are often reported in aggregate. Given a lack of consensus regarding which conditions constitute intersexuality, estimates range based on which conditions are included or excluded from the estimate (Karkazis, 2008). Adding further complexity to the task of quantifying such conditions is the fact that these often exist on a continuum. For example, the incidence of classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), where individuals have variable degrees of genital ambiguity and the most common intersex diagnosis, is estimated at one in 15,000 births. For nonclassical CAH, estimates vary between 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000 births (Karkazis, 2008). Yet there are also a multitude of ‘‘disorders’’ that scientists include under the umbrella term disorders of sex development (DSDs), including androgen insensitivity syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, and Turner syndrome. Despite the lack of consensus on how intersexuality is defined and whether certain DSDs are included under the broader term (see Dreger, 1998; Fausto-Sterling, 2000), within the popular literature and much of the academic literature the estimate of approximately 1.7% (individuals who can be classified as intersex) is frequently reported (Blackless et al., 2000; Dreger, 1998; Fausto-Sterling, 2000). Regardless of the challenges of assessing incidence, it is not surprising that a certain number of individuals with DSDs, or intersex athletes, compete in sport. However, the institution of sport is formally organized around the notion that there are only two sexes—male and female—and sport is largely segregated by binary sex category. Therefore, historically there has been no formal place within the institution of competitive organized sport for athletes who exist outside of the dichotomous categories of male and female and who subsequently ‘‘fail’’ sex testing. Female athletes who test positive for DSDs are deemed to have an unfair advantage in sport compared to female individuals without DSDs (those classified by sport organizations as normal females). As such, sport organizations attempt to police the boundaries of sex, stating that they do so to maintain a level playing field for ‘‘normal’’ female athletes. Until recently, most individuals diagnosed (or identified through sex testing) with a DSD were barred from sport competition altogether or were asked to quietly fake an injury and retreat from competition (Cole, 2000; Cooky, Dycus, & Dworkin, 2012). In the aftermath of the Semenya controversy, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) convened 104 a task force to review its policies on gender verification testing. The IAAF also revised its policies in May 2011, which continue to require female athletes to submit to a medical evaluation should ‘‘suspicions’’ of their sex arise or should an athlete have a known DSD. We review these policies in the sections that follow. To assess sporting organizations’ policies that determine whether intersex athletes are eligible to compete, we first provide a brief history of gender verification testing in sport. Next, we critically assess the main concepts and claims that undergird gender verification=sex testing in sport, including that (a) sex exists as a binary; (b) sport is a level playing field for competitors; and (c) intersex athletes have an unfair advantage compared to female athletes, and they should be banned from competition to ensure that sport is a level playing field. To conclude, we make three recommendations that are consistent with the attainment of sex and gender justice in sport, which include acknowledging that myriad physical advantages are accepted in sport, recognizing that sport as a level playing field is a myth, and eliminating sex testing in sport. History of Sex Testing/Gender Verification in Sport Women began participating in Olympic competitions in 1900. Given that the institution of sport is largely sex segregated, and given emerging fears that some athletes in women’s competitions were too ‘‘masculine’’ to be female, international sports governing bodies such as the IOC implemented procedures to ensure that all participants were indeed female. Female athletes were first subjected to a nude parade in front of a panel of doctors whose job it was to verify the sex of the competitors (Cahn, 1994; Cole, 2000; Ljungqvist et al., 2006; Puffer, 2002). This was said to be highly invasive, embarrassing, and humiliating to athletes. The IOC instituted mandatory sex testing in women’s sport in 1968 and ended the mandatory aspect of the policy in 1998 (Elias et al., 2000; Ljungqvist et al., 2006). The IOC and other international sports bodies, such as the International Amateur Athletic Federation, implemented various versions of ‘‘gender verification’’ policies or monitoring policies regarding eligibility in female athletic competitions. At the beginning stages of the implementation of the mandatory policy, the IOC took advantage of advances in technology, specifically the Barr body chromosomal test. This eliminated the need to rely solely on the visual test to verify sex and was thought to be less invasive for the athlete. The Barr body chromosomal test, which was used until 1992, could determine only the chromosomal makeup of an individual, not anatomical or psychosocial status (Simpson et al., 1993). Thus, the tests assessed only one component of an athlete’s sex=gender and as a result were of limited use. POLICING THE BOUNDARIES OF SEX Numerous limitations existed and continue to exist in the use of scientific technology to determine sex. For example, the Barr body test would categorize individuals with XXY genotypes as women and allow those individuals to compete in women’s competitions, even though XXY individuals have ‘‘male’’ physical characteristics (Buzuvis, 2010). At the same time, athletes who were anatomically female but had genetic disorders such as 46, XY complete gonadal dysgenesis and 46, XY complete androgen insensitivity would be detected as male under the buccal smear, despite the fact that these individuals would be classified as female based on the appearance of their external genitalia (Genel & Ljungvist, 2005). Recognizing the limitations of the Barr body test and buccal smear, experts convened at the request of the IAAF in late 1990. What became evident was that the way in which sport organizations measured or ascertained the sex of female athletes often failed to account for (or was unable to account for) the complexity in various chromosomal and genetic variations that exist. However, rather than eliminating sex testing as a means to determine eligibility in women’s events, experts determined that laboratory-based sex testing should be replaced with a comprehensive medical assessment of all female athletes to determine their sex. This suggestion was later deemed unnecessary, as it was clearly impractical to implement from a cost perspective. After 1992, the Barr body test was replaced by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test of the SRY gene, a DNA-based form of testing. PCR testing for the SRY gene is a sophisticated test, given the SRY gene signals the developmental pathway for males and has been found to be 99% accurate (Puffer, 2002). However, as with the Barr body test, this test is not without its limitations. Some argued that the DNA sequences used to prime the PCR were in fact not specific to males. This contributed to a number of false-positive test results in women’s events (Buzuvis, 2010; Puffer, 2002; Reeser, 2005). For example, in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, eight of more than 3,000 female athletes tested positive using the PCR test, but all eight athletes were allowed to compete, as further medical testing determined that the athletes did not have an ‘‘unfair advantage’’ (Buzuvis, 2010; Zaccone, 2010). As a result of several high-profile cases involving female athletes who ‘‘failed’’ sex tests, and the scientific criticisms of the veracity of the tests in the late 1980s and early 1990s, members of the international medical community argued against the IOC and other international sport federations’ use of chromosomal or genetic screening of female athletes to determine eligibility for participation in international sport competitions (see de la Chapelle, 1986; Ljungqvist et al., 2006; Ljungqvist & Simpson, 1992). Scholars—biomedical scientists and social scientists alike—argued that ‘‘using a range of sex-tests including the visual test, the Barr body test, and the PCR test, the IOC could not ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt who was and was not genetically female’’ (Cavanaugh & Sykes, 2006, p. 80). The IOC abandoned mandatory sex testing of female athletes in 2000 during the Sydney Olympic Games, in part because of challenges to the scientific veracity of the tests and also due to a multitude of objections that were raised. By 2000, 24 of 29 international sports federations had abandoned routine gender verification testing (Reeser, 2005). In 2000, the IOC replaced mandatory testing with a policy that granted authority to medical experts at international events to arrange for the gender verification of an athlete’s sex, if it was called into question (Cavanaugh & Sykes, 2006; Ljungqvist & Genel, 2005). A medical team including an endocrinologist, a geneticist, a gynecologist, and a psychologist would determine the results of the ‘‘gender verification’’ test. According to Genel and Ljungqvist (2005), the abandonment of mandatory sex testing of female athletes was well received, and in the first several competitions there were no objections to the new policy, nor was there a need to apply the policy. While the IOC discontinued mandatory sex testing in the 2000 Olympic Games, they continued to retain the right to test athletes in cases deemed ‘‘suspicious,’’ whereby the gender identity of an athlete was called into question (Buzuvis, 2010; Cavanaugh & Sykes, 2006; Wackwitz, 2003). Similar to the IOC’s policy, the IAAF’s Policy on Gender Verification (2006) no longer required ‘‘compulsory, standard or regular gender verification during IAAF sanctioned championships’’ (p. 2). Instead, according to the policy, a ‘‘gender issue’’ may arise due to a ‘‘challenge of an athlete or team’’ brought to the attention of authorities at an event, ‘‘suspicions’’ raised during the process of antidoping controls, or concerns expressed by the athlete or athlete’s national federation. This policy allowed for athletes with syndromes that are said to not confer an athletic advantage, including androgen insensitivity syndrome, to compete in female athletic competitions gonadal dysgenesis, and Turner syndrome, to compete in female athletic competitions. Athletes with other conditions such as CAH, androgenproducing tumors, and polycystic ovary syndrome (POS) were also allowed to compete, according to the 2006 policy, even though the IAAF recognized that these ‘‘conditions may accord some advantages but nevertheless are acceptable’’ (p. 2). It should be noted that the 2006 Policy on Gender Verification was the policy in place when the international controversy surrounding Caster Semenya erupted. The 2006 Policy on Gender Verification was replaced on May 1, 2011, with the IAAF’s new policy on sex testing and sporting competition, titled Regulations Governing Eligibility of Females with Hyperandrogenism to Compete in Women’s Competition. In the introduction, the policy states that the regulations are ‘‘predicated along the following principles,’’ including ‘‘a respect for the very essence of the male and female classifications in Athletics’’ and ‘‘a respect for the fundamental notion 105 COOKY AND DWORKIN of fairness of competition in Athletics’’ (IAAF, 2011, p. 1). According to this policy, female athletes with hyperandrogenism may compete in women’s competitions, as long as athletes notify the IAAF in advance and the IAAF medical manager determines, in consultation with an expert medical panel (established by the IAAF), that the athlete does not have a definitive unfair advantage. Also, as part of this new policy, the IAAF states that it would no longer use the terms gender verification or gender policy in its rules. There are also new procedures in place to ensure the confidentiality of the process. According to this policy, an expert medical panel may recommend that an athlete be able to compete in a woman’s competition if she has androgen levels below the ‘‘normal male range’’ or if the female athlete has androgen levels within the normal male range but is ‘‘resistant such that she derives no competitive advantage from having androgen levels in the normal male range.’’ (IAAF, 2011, p. 12; emphasis added). It should be noted that the IAAF medical manager has only to ‘‘take into account’’ the recommendation made by the expert medical panel (which under the new policy consists of experts in pediatrics, endocrinology, gynecology, obstetrics, genetics, and psychology). Although allowing individuals with hyperandrogenism appears to be inclusive of intersex conditions, there are concerns regarding the way in which athletes are compared with the average ‘‘normal values’’ (Camporesi & Maugeri, 2010). This concern recognizes that sport training changes the realm of the ‘‘normal’’ body, underscoring that there are biological factors that interact with environmental factors to shape the body. Assumptions of Sex Testing: Sex as a Binary Category In the following sections, we critically assess three major conceptual assumptions that undergird sex testing of female athletes. The first assumption of sex testing is that sex exists naturally as a dichotomous binary. In fact, prior to the late twentieth century, technological constraints limited what could be known about sex. As such, scientists and medical professionals could not point to genes in the way we can today to define one’s sex (Dreger, 1998). However, despite the fact that the technology now exists to allow us to determine the genetic components of sex, we echo the position of scholars who argued that this does not mean we have the ‘‘ultimate, necessary, for-all-time answer to what it means to be of a certain sex’’ (Dreger, 1998, p. 9). In writing about scientific attempts to definitively establish a binary classification of sex categories, Fausto-Sterling (2000) argued, ‘‘A body’s sex is too complex. There is no either=or. Rather there are shades of difference’’ (p. 3). Indeed, the previous section illustrates how DSDs are but one example of these ‘‘shades of difference.’’ Yet sport organizations continue to police the boundaries of sex 106 through sex testing and the segregation of sports by sex, and the policies in place ostensibly are there to ‘‘ensure’’ that participants of men’s competitions are male, and women’s competitions are female. Indeed, the IAAF’s 2011 policy contains a key principle of maintaining ‘‘a respect for the very essence of the male and female classifications in Athletics’’ and thus illustrates how reaffirming the sex binary is central to sex testing policies. The IOC’s 2003 Stockholm Consensus illustrates how athletes that transverse the landscape of the sex=gender continuum are allowed to compete, ...
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race, technology and gender
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Really helpful material, saved me a great deal of time.