…”Can you please step this way so that we can test your sex?”
Quick History Lesson
In the 1936 Olympic Games Dora Ratjen, a german athlete, came a respectable fourth place in the women’s high jump. In 1956 Dora revealed that she was really Hermann Ratjen- a man forced to complete as a women by the Nazis.
From the 1960′s women athletes at Olympic Games have been subjected to tests to prove that they are in fact women as it was believed that the Soviets would attempt to pass male athletes off as women in order to win extra medals. Initially women athletes had to parade naked before a panel in order to prove their sex, but from 1968 this procedure was replaced with chromosomal testing. Using this method no males purporting to be females were uncovered but rather some women’s previously undetected chromosomal abnormalities were found.
Anyway the NYT has run the story today as a lab is being set up in Beijing to in order to do the more modern version of the sex verification test — athletes are now evaluated by an endocrinologist, gynecologist, a geneticist and a psychologist.
Here are some quick thoughts on the matter. It just goes to show that sex and gender are a) not a simple matter, b) still being policed with the most sophisticated and up to date science and rhetoric of the day, c) Once again, women, and their bodies, are at the centre of the dispute as both the battle ground and the testing ground.