Last night, when I finished watching The Rogan experience podcast — where Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro discussed the shortcomings of letting transgender people compete in women disciplines across different sports — I couldn’t stop to think about the complexity of this issue.
Ben Shapiro is an American conservative political commentator, writer, and a lawyer. He is the vocal supporter of binary gender system(because of course he is). If you ever followed any of his public debates, you might already know that his usual rhetorics might sound like common sense, if you actually don’t know much about the subject at hand. Shapiro is great at persuading people whose opinions are not yet fully formed.
You might hear Shapiro publicly saying that “there are biologically only two genders” and “you can do whatever you want with your body, but don’t step into my territory asking me to accept different rules of biology.” He also likes to mention the chromosome pairs that make you certain gender, “you either have women or men chromosomes.”
It all sounds like pretty basic knowledge doesn't it?
The gender issue is much more complex than Shapiro tries to frame it.
The Intersex From Your Elementary School Lessons
Since Ancient Greece people have been talking about more than two genders. The Greek god Hermaphroditos was a son of Hermès and Aphrodite, the gods of male and female sexuality. He represented hermaphrodites and effeminate of the ancient world.
Fast forward to the 20th century, science has concluded that people can be born impartial to one gender, often biologically encompassing the attributes of both sexes.
Hermaphrodite is the condition of having both male and female reproductive organs. This condition involves discrepancies between external genitalia and internal reproductive organs. Intersex is the term used to describe the people who do not fit the typical binary notions of male and female gender characteristics. Affected individuals have sex chromosomes showing male-female mosaicism(where one individual possesses both male XY and Female XX chromosome pairs).
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica under Biology
Although such cases are rare, in the same manner as the LGBT community is not the majority of all people.
For now, hermaphroditism recognizes three types; true, male pseudo and female pseudo. Neither of these three doesn’t exactly fit conventional ‘woman-or-a-man’ gender narrative (pseudo women will often have more men sex hormone testosterone and develop stronger physique and vice versa).
Biology has shown us that being outside of gender binary characteristics is not someone’s imagination or an eccentric mental disorder. Besides choosing your own gender, being transgender can also be a purely biological condition you had no control over.
The choice on how to proceed with deciding your gender depends upon the age at which you realize something is different. In some instances, the parents can choose the gender of the baby, if it’s born in a hermaphrodite state(based on the condition of his external organs), while in other cases you might feel like the gender binary form doesn’t quite describe what you are and because of it you decide to change your gender.
The issue is both biological and mental. And labeling it one way or the other doesn’t help in finding the right solution to include these minorities in everyday life.
The cases that spark outrage over gender issues are highly individual and also, important. These are real people, living real lives, and we should find a place of equal opportunity for them in this world.
Transgender Woman Dominates MMA Fights
When it comes to sports, people from every side of the spectrum have raised available concerns. Should you let transgender women participate in the same category as naturally born women?
Fallon Fox is a professional fighter that was born male but thought the years he transitioned to female. She is now a first openly transgender athlete in MMA history.
If you watch any of her fights, you might notice her technique is not impressive. She dominates her opponents with sheer brutal strength.
She is taller, her shoulders are broader and her bones are denser. This raises a question; is it fair to let her fight in the women category?
The medical community says she should fight as a woman because her hormonal levels are on that of a female. She has fully transitioned to another sex but watching Fox fight, you might notice there is something different.
Hermaphrodite wins the Olympic gold in middle-distance running
South African Olympic contestant Caster Semenya is not your everyday women. She is tall, muscle-bound and athletic. She has a broad “V-frame”.
Semanya is a type of athlete that excels anyone’s expectations. She won numerous medals at world running championships, continental cups, and Olympics.
Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships, she fell under scrutiny over her apparent gender. Semanya was requested to undergo gender tests and verify she was indeed female.
The test results were never officially published, but some of the findings leaked to the press and they were widely discussed, resulting in claims about Semenya having an intersex trait (hermaphrodite).
Later on, IAAF(International Association of Athletics Federation) reached an agreement with Semanya to keep her awards and cleared her to compete in the women category.
Since then, IAAF has officially changed the rules on hormone levels in women sports. New requirements state that hyper androgenous athletes have to take medicine to lower their testosterone in order to balance the running field.
The issue of gender in sports is far more complex than labeling it in black and white rhetorics some of the political commentators are trying to impose.
There are numerous athletes that exhibit unusual advantages over the rest of the group. In some instances, it might look unfair to let transgender women compete in a women contact sport. She might eventually dominate because she still has traits of another gender.
Also, in some instances, there are women who have intersex trails and because of their condition, they tend to produce way more testosterone than the average women.
These issues raise the question of gender categories in sports. Do we really need them anymore?
Can we let every gender compete in the same category based on their size and weight? Can we design new categories? This is certainly food for thought.