Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sexual “Disorder” and the Olympics

Excerpt from article:

"Sympathy for female athletes who may never be able to physically reach the athletic condition of Semanya should not unreasonably or irrationally simplify the issue of intersexuality in how it is discussed, language used to describe it, and “remedies” offered to mitigate against any unfair results. Labeling a group as having a disorder will inevitably lead to exclusion and discrimination. This is not just an athletic issue, but a civil rights issue, and a gender justice issue. As international attention is currently focused on this issue as one of athletics, the IOC, as well as commentators, must be sensitive to the wider repercussions their treatment of Semanya and other intersex athletes will have on the future treatment of all intersex people."

To read the complete article: Click here

Monday, January 25, 2010

Policy on Intersex people

Adopted at Socialist Alliance's 7th National Conference, January 2010

Intersex people are people born with physiological differences that may be seen as being both male and female at once, not wholly male or female or as neither male nor female.

Intersex people are subjected to discrimination in employment, in housing, in the provision of medical services, and the provision of government services.

There are no laws preventing discrimination against intersex people.

Intersex children may be subjected to non-consensual surgery so that their bodies conform to dominant ideas of what constitutes a ‘male’ or ‘female’ body. Non-consensual genital surgery is particularly controversial and where there is little debate against prohibitions on female circumcision, similar procedures on intersex people happen with little community comment.

The Socialist Alliance rejects pathologising definitions of intersex such as “disorders of sexual development”. The difficulty for Intersex is not differences in anatomy but rather how those differences are perceived by the community.

Social prejudice against non conforming bodies such as intersex, are the issues that needs attention. Intersex people should not be compelled to change their bodies, their behavior, or themselves to meet mainstream social expectations.

The Socialist Alliance stands for:

  1. All non-consensual surgery on children, where the child is denied the informed and cognizant right to consent or reject) ceasing immediately save for those cases where surgery is life preserving.
  2. Children being able to declare their sex, even if that is none, when they are fully informed and able to understand those concepts.
  3. Any individual having their passport marked with X rather than sex or gender if they so desire.
  4. An affirmative action policy in public housing, work opportunities, education, and the provision of medical and government services.
  5. Education campaigns to be conducted in schools and wider society to debunk the myth of sex and gender binaries, informing individuals about sex and gender diversity, and opposing bigotry because of perceived sex and gender differences.
  6. Intersex athletes like Caster Semenya not being publicly outed. That there are no compulsory sex testing procedures in sport.
  7. Legislation that provides protection against discrimination and vilification and promotes equal opportunities for intersex people.
  8. Access to appropriate medication and surgery when and if required based on the needs of the individual and not on the expectations of diagnostic protocols. This includes the abandonment of the diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” for those intersex who reject their birth assignment.
  9. All people, particularly legislators and medical professionals, acknowledging that sex and gender is more than men and women , male and female.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why imposing the gender binary on athletes is a violation of human rights

News that the International Olympic Committee is considering mandatory gender testing and therapies to 'treat' intersex athletes is quickly starting to get some attention.

Andrea James has an excellent article in BoingBoing about Caster Semenya and the apartheid of sex—a term attributed to transhumanist Martine Rothblatt. James correctly points out that Semenya is being subjected to the latest "sex science" in order to fit her into our socially imposed gender binary, so that "the apartheid of sex can be upheld within the sporting tradition."

Indeed, fostering discussions of intersexed persons within the context of social tolerance and inclusion is not where the IOC wants to go. They have a problem on their hands because they are completely unwilling and unable to look beyond fixed male and female roles. Introducing new leagues or classifications that cater to these kinds of athletes would be far too uncomfortable and complicated for them to deal with. Insisting that there are only males and females simplifies things, and coercing these athletes into conforming to a gender-specific role is a seemingly quick and easy fix.

Except for the fact that it may be a human rights violation.

Complete article: Click here

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Caster Semenya and the apartheid of sex


POSTED AT 2:29 AM JANUARY 21, 2010


Xeni asked me to give a brief analysis of her earlier post on the International Olympic Committee's decision regarding sex tests for athletes like South African sprinter Caster Semenya. Caster is one of the millions of people in the world who challenge our simplistic male/female sex binary by their very existence. Most intersex people are unremarkable in appearance; in fact, many people who would be classified as intersex do not even know it. The only time it becomes an issue is when they are subject to our prevailing reproductive ideology, which organizes the world around procreation. People like Caster are so controversial because they challenge many of the most deeply-held beliefs people have about sex. The comments sections in my recent posts here show what a hot-button topic reproduction is, even among techno-progressives, hipsters, and people who are on the leading edge of other critical 21st-century paradigm shifts. Reproduction as well as policing sex and gender boundaries will get increasingly more complex in coming decades, and technology always outpaces ethics. Reproduction issues have major ramifications for other causes near and dear to Boing Boing readers, including privacy, intellectual property, mind/body hacks, and the pathologization of human diversity. Still, it's often considered impolite or too political or too controversial, so it doesn't get discussed enough.

Complete article: Click here

Also recommended: Click here

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

AP Exclusive: IOC recommends setting up medical centers to handle gender cases

AP Exclusive: IOC recommends gender-test centers

The IOC wants rules put into place by sports bodies to determine the eligibility to compete on a "case by case" basis for athletes whose gender is called into question.

The IOC organized a two-day conference with medical specialists in Miami to consider guidelines for handling sex verification cases. The issue gained global attention last year when South African runner Caster Semenya was ordered to undergo gender tests.

The case of Semenya, who won the women's 800 meters at the world championships, was not dealt with directly in the closed meetings Sunday and Monday. But it helped focus the need for clarity on the issue of whether an athlete competes as a man or a woman.

"We did not discuss any particular case," IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist told The Associated Press. "We explored the science of all these matters. We established several important points based on up-to-date science and global expertise. Now we have the scientific basis for going further."

The IOC will consult with lawyers and its own athletes' commission to help establish specific guidelines.

Among the key conclusions was a proposal to set up health centers where experts would diagnose and treat athletes with what are known as "disorders of sex development." Most cases, Ljungqvist said, require treatment such as surgery or hormone therapy.

"We cannot expect sports in every country around the world to have the necessary expertise," Ljungqvist said by telephone. "That's not possible, so we recommend strategically located centers where cases could be referred, if necessary. It's for the experts to decide what to do with each individual case. There is no general treatment. There is no general diagnosis."

The Miami symposium _ attended by about 15 scientists, medical experts and sports federation doctors _ took place amid international scrutiny on Semenya, who was 18 when she won the 800 gold at the championships in Berlin in August. Her dramatic improvement in times and muscular build led the International Association of Athletics Federations to order gender tests.

The IAAF is still reviewing the test results to determine Semenya's future. The IAAF has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports that the tests indicate Semenya has both male and female sex organs.

Officials from IAAF and FIFA, the world soccer governing body, attended the Miami conference to explain their policies and experiences on gender issues, Ljungqvist said.

While the Semenya controversy has gone on for months, Ljungqvist said the experts in Miami stressed that all cases should be dealt with quickly.

"It is very important to as rapidly as possible establish a diagnosis once you have come across a suspicious case," he said. "It's not something that should be allowed to drag on. If the sport comes across such a case, you have to deal with it in an expeditious manner."

Sports federations should have rules to determine an athlete's eligibility to compete during the gender diagnosis and treatment periods, Ljungqvist said.

"There cannot be a general rule," he said. "The rule needs to allow for a case-by-case evaluation. Each case is unique. They are not many. They are all individual."

The delegates also cited the potential benefit of "pre-participation health examinations" for aspiring athletes. Ljungqvist said some countries, including Italy, require athletes to take medical checks before they are ruled eligible for competition.

"We emphasized that these exams could be a very important and useful tool for identifying athletes with these disorders," he said.

Ljungqvist said more discussions will be needed.

"We have achieved the first step successfully," Ljungqvist said. "There needs to be some legal input. This may require further discussions. Certainly the IOC will take some initiatives to pursue this further."

The IOC used to carry out mandatory gender exams at the Olympics, but they were dropped in 1999 because the screening process _ chromosome testing _ was deemed unscientific and unethical.

The IOC instead uses a special medical panel on site at the Olympics that can intervene, if necessary.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is the intersex movement radical?

Today I am going to touch on the controversial world of sexual politics. I wanted to talk about an odd thing I occasionally read about on the web. This is an accusation by social conservatives that the intersex movement is radical. This argument is best summed up on the the Wikipedia entry on "intersexuality":

"social conservatives have claimed that the talk about third sexes represents an ideological agenda to deride gender as a social construct, whereas they believe binary gender (i.e. there is only male and female)is a biological imperative"

Complete article: Click here

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mass. trans couple settles discrimination case

by Hannah Clay Wareham
Bay Windows
Friday Jan 15, 2010

A housing discrimination case brought by a Massachusetts transgender couple against landlords and a real estate agent of a rental property in Oxford, MA, has recently been settled.

Samantha J. Cornell, a transgender woman, and her spouse Andrea V. Boisseau, who was born with an intersex condition, were awarded $6,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, even though the defendants did not admit any wrongdoing in the spring 2008 incident.

Cornell and Boisseau began the search for a new apartment after their landlord lost his building in foreclosure. They found a rental property in Oxford, MA, and viewed the apartment with a real estate agent. The agent then called them a few days later to inform the couple that the apartment had been rented to a "straight, single male."

A subsequent investigation conducted by the Worcester Fair Housing Project at the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts (LACCM) found evidence that suggested the couple had been illegally discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and disability. These claims were included in the lawsuit brought against the landlords and real estate agent. Cornell and Boisseau also became homeless for a significant period of time after being refused the rental property.

"Advocates are working to amend the state’s anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add gender identity and expression as a protected category, but people should realize that the existing law’s prohibition of sex and disability discrimination may offer protection for transgender individuals," Jane L. Edmonstone, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said.

Massachusetts’ 1989 anti-discrimination law protects lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (and people perceived as such) from discrimination in education, employment, services, credit, places of public accommodation, and housing. The law does not, however, include gender identity or expression.

"We filed this case because we believed what happened to us was discriminatory and based on biased perceptions of our sex," Boisseau said. "We are pleased that the case has resolved and hope it shows that everyone, regardless of gender identity, has a right to equal housing."

Along with the $6,000 settlement, the real estate agent in question has been ordered to undergo fair housing training.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Semenya remains in limbo despite coach's claims

By Simon Turnbull
Thursday, 14 January 2010

There was a false start to the new year for Caster Semenya yesterday. It began with Michael Seme, coach of the athlete who won the women's 800m title at the World Championships in Berlin last summer, proclaiming, "She's going to run in international events," and speaking of his teenage charge challenging for World Junior Championship, African Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals in the year that lies ahead.

His words gave the impression in South Africa that Semenya's delicate situation had finally been resolved by the sport's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations. That, however, is definitively not the case. The athlete from the Limpopo region remains in a state of limbo.

The IAAF has yet to reach a decision on Semenya's future after conducting gender tests on the South African runner, who turned 19 last week. The governing body remains in talks with Semenya and her lawyers, Dewey and LeBoeuf. "All the parties are still in negotiations," Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for the law firm, said. "We're optimistic that there's going to be a positive resolution for all parties concerned."

Later in the day, coach Seme backed down from his earlier comments, saying: "Just listen to the lawyers."

"We are still in the same position as before – no official IAAF comment until we have finished the inquiry – and I can't tell you how long the inquiry will take either," said an IAAF spokesman, Nick Davies.

Semenya has never been under any formal suspension. She is free to compete as a woman, pending the IAAF's ruling.

It is unlikely that Semenya would be allowed to take part in an international event until her case had been resolved, although she has been back in training for the past two months and is planning to compete in the upcoming domestic outdoor track season in South Africa. According to Seme, the opening race on her schedule is the first in the series of Yellow Pages meetings in Port Elizabeth on 18 February. "She will run in at least three Yellow Pages races this year," he said.

Semenya's future, however, remains far from clear. The IAAF has yet to comment on claims made in the Australian press in September that tests had found the athlete to be a hermaphrodite, with both female and male characteristics. If that were the case, she might be required to undergo gender realignment surgery before being allowed to compete as a woman.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Intersex Criminal brought to justice

Drug Lord Discovered To Be Intersex

Monday, January 11, 2010
Posted By Brooke Murphy

On the drug-ravaged streets he’s known as Fat Murphy. Feared by many, the burly suspected drug lord is clean-shaven and wears his second wife’s name tattooed on his arm.

But the man who was banished from a crime-ridden suburb on the Cape Flats by furious residents protesting against alleged drug dealers has now been unmasked – as a hermaphrodite named Hilary.

Complete article: Click here

More information: Click here

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Intersexuality and Muslims

"What is intersex?

Intersex people are people who, as individuals, have genetic, hormonal, and physical features that may be thought to be typical of both male and female at once. That is, we may be thought of as being male with female features, female with male features, or indeed we may have no clearly defined sexual features at all." (
Organisation Internationale des Intersexues)

I saw a documentary last night about an intersex child. It was fascinating and made me re-think my position: that there are only two genders, male or female. Is there a third gender? What is Islam's position about intersex?

The child in the documentary was born a "boy." He had a penis, but upon closer examination, he also had a little "vagina" underneath it. Instead of urinating from an opening on the head of the penis, he urinated from an opening at the top of his "vagina." "His" parents refused to consent to the hospital's recommendation that they operate on the child and "fix" the genitalia. Although the parents gave the child a male name and socialized him as a boy, the child grew up showing interest in feminine things and activities. The child also insisted that he was a girl. The documentary permitted the viewer to accompany the family on a beautiful and sensitive journey. It ended before the child entered puberty, and it would be interesting to see a follow up documentary.

The program also said that intersexuality is common in nature.

To read the complete article and comments: Click here