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HAT Forum - "Gender Categories in Competition: Should They Be Eliminated?"

  • The 519, Room 304 (check lobby screen to be sure) 519 Church Street Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C9 Canada (map)

Gender Categories in Competition: Should They Be Eliminated?

Caster Semenya, a South African middle-distance runner, has won two Olympic gold medals and three World Champions for the 800-metre race. She can no longer compete because she has too high testosterone levels. 

This hypoandrogenism controversy began in 2009 when her success in the World Championships resulted in complaints from other athletes and coaches questioning her gender identity. 

After the 2012 London Olympics four female athletes aged 18-21 were told they could not compete without medical intervention. They agreed to surgery to remove internal testes. 

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand refused to agree to unspecified and unnecessary medical intervention. She appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. 

Semenya also challenged the 2018 guidelines that said higher testosterone levels conferred an unfair advantage on female runners in specific track events-the 400, 800 and 1500 metre races, exactly the events in which Semenya excelled. Her appeal to the Court of Arbitration was rejected, which means she cannot compete unless she medically lowers her testosterone levels. 

The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) argues that its regulations re acceptable testosterone levels are needed to ensure a level playing field and to protect the female classification.   
Meanwhile the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has a policy of transgender inclusion adopted in 2004. Under these guidelines, trans women must demonstrate that their testosterone level has been below a certain cut-off point for at least a year before their first competition. In what appears to be contradictory positions, tennis superstar Martina Navratilova supports Semenya but considers transgender inclusion to be an insane policy. She claims that hundreds of trans athletes have achieved honours as women that were beyond their capabilities as men. Semenya is not transgender. 

In this age of gender fluidity, many questions arise:
-Is the argument for a level playing field valid?
-Is this a situation of two conflicting rights?
-Are racism and misogyny factors ?
-Is the requirement to alter one’s hormone levels medically ethical?
-Are there other areas where gender distinctions should no longer apply, for example the Oscars, best actor/actress?
-Are we moving towards a gender neutral world?