As previously mentioned, the Barr body test has several flaws, and as-implemented appeared to be primarily used for discrimination against intersex athletes. One especially tragic example was Spanish hurdler María José Martínez-Patiño.
María José Martínez-Patiño was born and raised as a woman, and for all appearances she was a woman with proper female genitalia. In 1983 she took and passed a Barr Body test, and was certified for competition in women’s events in the World Track and Field Championships in Helsinki, Finland. In 1985 she went to the World University Games in Kobe, Japan, where she discovered that she had forgotten her gender certificate, and was forced to take a new exam. However, this exam found a problem – she appeared to not have two X chromosomes, and was forced to undergo a detailed karyotype test. Since the results of this test would not be ready for months, she was browbeaten into faking an injury, and dropped out of the competition. (Martínez-Patiño, Adair, Buzuvis)
The results of her test shocked her – she had XY chromosomes, but possessed Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). She was told to fake another injury and withdraw from the 1986 National Championships, but she decided to compete anyhow, winning her event.
Her condition was leaked to the press by her own country’s athletic organization, and she lost almost everything in her life as a result. (Martínez-Patiño, Adair, Buzuvis) In 2005, she reflected on the event:
“When I crossed the line first in the 60 m hurdles, my story was leaked to the press. I was expelled from our athletes’ residence, my sports scholarship was revoked, and my running times were erased from my country’s athletics records. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I lost friends, my fiancé, hope, and energy. But I knew that I was a woman, and that my genetic difference gave me no unfair physical advantage. I could hardly pretend to be a man; I have breasts and a vagina. I never cheated.” (Hercher)
Martínez-Patiño challenged the exclusion of AIS women from competing in international events, and won her case, but not until she was well past her prime as a runner.
María José Martínez-Patiño, Intersex Activist.
She never received an apology from her own country’s sporting organization. (Buzuvis)
Let the Shame Begin!
Syria’s Hala Atoura was also listed in the records for an incredible 5.55-meter long jump at the Pan-Arab Games in Damascus in 1985, but in the 1988 IAAF statistics handbook her name was deleted, with a notification that she “has undergone an operation and is now a male.” (Pilgrim) What is troubling about the cases of Soekarta in 1958 and Atoura in 1985 is that at the time they competed, they competed as physical and legal females against other females, yet the future transition of their gender somehow led to the erasure of their records. This is crazy cuckoo-land insanity in an attempt to discriminate, and clearly something was seriously wrong with the sport. (Pilgrim)
But wait, it gets weirder. In 1999 when woman’s veteran Kathy Jager broke the record in the 100 meter dash, she was forced to undergo a sex test – despite having given birth to two children – on the basis of a fellow competitor pointing to her build and explosive energy. (Boman and Callahan, Shy) Again, we have to wonder what the organizers were smoking to subject a woman who had given birth to a sex test. However, after the event Jager’s urine sample was found to contain anabolic steroids, so her records were expunged and she was banned from competition for two years. (Boman and Callahan)
Kathy Jager, 2002.
In the 1999 Australian Open, tennis player Martina Hingis accused openly lesbian competitor Amelie Mauresmo of being a man, saying “She has a guy’s shoulders, and looks better suited to the shot put.” (Shy) While Hingis may have only been making a body slur towards Mauresmo, her physical presence did give rise to rumors and allegations that she was transgender, or at a minimum intersex. These allegations were actually taken seriously, although it is not known if Mauresmo was forced to undergo a sex test.
Amelie Mauresmo at work and at play – accused of being a man.
The world of golf has recently featured four transgender athletes in competition. In 1987 transwoman Charlotte Wood (sometimes incorrectly printed as “Woods”) finished third in the US Senior Women’s Amateur event, and reached the semi-finals of the US Women’s Mid-Amateur event. (Hamilton) In 2004 Mianne Bagger became the first transsexual woman to compete in a professional golf tournament. Although concerns were expressed about her having an unfair advantage, these appeared to come solely from commentators and the general public, rather than from her fellow golfers or the professional organization. (Buzuvis) Bagger herself wrote on her website:
“I don’t hit the ball as far as I used to …. My game needs only to be compared to that of other girls to see there’s no difference and more to the point, compare it with guys of the same standard … there just is no comparison!” (Shy)
Mianne was a trailblazer in her sport, successfully lobbying the professional women’s golf tours in the United States, Australia, and Europe to accept transwomen. (Cavanagh)
Mianne Bagger, transwoman professional golfer.
And when Lana Lawless won the Women’s World Long Drive Championship in 2008, there was some public outcry – but none from her competitors, some who even defended her right to play. (Buzuvis) Another golfer, intersex woman Danielle Swope, underwent surgery and began competing in women’s golf. (Wamsley)
Canadian mountain bike racer Michelle Dumaresq has competed since 2001, 6 years after transition, despite a stream of criticism from both commentators and competitors. After she won a victory in 2002, several of her fellow riders petitioned that she be expelled from the sport and be forced to compete in a special “transgender” category. (Buzuvis) In 2006, after she won another cycling victory, her runner-up, Danika Shroeter, protested by wearing a shirt emblazoned with “100% Pure Woman Champion 2006” while on the medal podium. (Buzuvis, Travers) To their credit, their sporting organization censured Shroeter by banning her from competition for a year. (Travers) The National Post printed the following transphobic editorial regarding Ms. Dumaresq in 2002.
What we can’t understand is how Ms. Dumaresq gets satisfaction from chalking up victories against natural-born female competitors. (In six races this year, she has twice finished first and twice finished second.) Though Ms. Dumaresq has not broken any rules, she reminds us of those able-bodied athletes who occasionally get caught feigning disabilities so they can compete in the Special Olympics – or parents who lie about their 14-year-old’s age so he can be the leading goal-scorer in a hockey league for 10-year-olds. What’s the point? Is there any glory in collecting a trophy when the people you’re beating have been programmed by nature to lose? (Cavanagh)
One way this could be read is as a highly misogynistic screed – since when are women “programmed by nature to lose?” However, Dumaresq reported that her long legs, which some competitors claimed were an advantage, were actually a disadvantage for her.
“It actually made things harder because after the hormone treatment and operation I no longer had the muscle mass to support my bones. This so-called advantage I’m supposed to have doesn’t exist.” (Cavanagh)
The unconquerable Michelle Dumaresq.
Another Canadian transsexual cyclist, Kristen Worley, nearly qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in short-track racing. (Buzuvis)
Transmen athletes are known, although they are rarer. Alyn Libman competed on the University of California-Berkeley club figure skating team, and Keelin Godsey was an All-American hammer thrower on the Bates College team before socially transitioning to male, and faced challenges ranging from finding locker room space to complaints from competitors. (Buzuvis) One wrinkle in this case is that Godsey has not legally nor medically transitioned, so he still competes on the women’s team. Recently, he tried out for the 2012 London Olympics games but missed qualifying by one position, coming in fourth in the women’s hammer throw. (Borden)
Keelin Godsey, 2012.
The Not-so-Welcoming Gay Games
The Gay Games, which one would think would be gender-inclusive, has actually had a fairly poor track record when it comes to their treatment of transgender and intersex persons. Despite transgender persons being the catalyst of the Stonewall Riots and the surge of media recognition for LGB rights in the late 1960’s, in the 1970’s some factions of the LGB community did their best to distance themselves from those “embarrassing” transsexuals. (Sykes) Initially, the Gay Games mandated full SRS and at least 2 years of hormone treatment before a transgender athlete could compete in their proper gender. After years of protests, the organizers modified the policy in 1998, requiring participants to have undergone hormone treatment and have government identification(s) showing their current gender. The latter requirement was very difficult, as in 1998 few countries would modify official government documents for transsexuals without SRS, so this change effectively represented no change in the policy. Eventually the policy was opened up further, but even to this day the Gay Games has a clear divide between transgender athletes and everyone else. (Sykes)
The IOC and the Camel’s Nose
In 2003 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) created a policy known as the Stockholm Consensus, which outlined a path for transsexual athletes to compete under the new sex. Despite many reports to the contrary, this policy was not directly driven by the influence of transsexual activists, but instead was brought about due to rulings made by the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 regarding the rights of transsexuals. (Sykes)
The final policy on transgender athletes which was developed by the Stockholm Consensus is as follows:
The group recommends that individuals undergoing sex reassignment from male to female after puberty (and the converse) be eligible for participation in female or male competitions, respectively, under the following conditions:
- Surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy
- Legal recognition of their assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authorities
- Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimise gender-related advantages in sport competitions.
In the opinion of the group, eligibility should begin no sooner than two years after gonadectomy.
It is understood that a confidential case-by-case evaluation will occur.
In the event that the gender of a competing athlete is questioned, the medical delegate (or equivalent) of the relevant sporting body shall have the authority to take all appropriate measures for the determination of the gender of a competitor.
(Reference: “Statement of the Stockholm consensus on sex reassignment in sports.”)
This IOC policy took effect for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The initial reaction was generally transphobic, such as that reported by the Sunday Telegraph of London:
“Male athletes aiming to win Olympic medals without resorting to banned drugs could soon have a new, legal way of gaining an advantage over their rivals – wear a dress for two years and then compete as a woman.” (Cavanagh)
Or the Canberra Times, which reported “What an Olympic Drag; These Queens will be Kings for a Day.” (Cavanagh) Pat Connolly, former Olympic runner and pentathlete, bombastically stated:
“It’s the biggest insult to women and everything we’ve gone through. Gradually over the years, (the Olympics) started adding events for women. Why? To give women an opportunity to compete. … Because there’s an essential difference between men and women. Any dummy on the street knows the difference. … The big part of the story is that there’s no research whatsoever. What little evidence they have is not on athletic performance.” (Marech)
This appeal to “common sense” is actually a celebration of ignorance and discrimination, although it was true that at the time research was not very extensive on how the effects of transitioning hormones could influence athletic performance. Even today the research is far from extensive, largely because transgender persons who can even hope to compete on the world stage are vanishingly rare – and like most of us, exceedingly private persons.
The 2004 Athens Olympic Games represented the beginning of trans and intersex inclusion in international competition.
In the end, the policy was widely popular and has been adopted by most other major sporting organizations, with some exceptions. (Buzuvis) For example, while most British sporting organizations have supported transgender athletes, the British Paralympic Association formally objected to the UK Gender Recognition Bill of 2004, on the basis of “‘grave concerns over the protection of vulnerable adults and children and the implications for volunteer supervisors in the world of disability sport, in relation to the issues presented by a pre-operative individual.” (Cavanagh) In short, saying that transgender persons are all potential sexual offenders.
Support for transgender youth athletes is slowly gaining ground.
Recently, many have been critical of the application of the IOC rules to transgender youth who wish to participate in sports, as the requirement for SRS is a very high standard for those under age 18. Two quotes from a recent report titled On the Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes drive the point home. From Griffen et al.:
“Requiring sex reassignment surgery before allowing participation for the high school or collegiate student athlete is medically unnecessary and not linked to competitive equity. IOC regulations requiring surgery for Olympic transgender athletes have been controversial and it would be unreasonable to make this a requirement for high school and college students.” Eric Vilain, M.D., PH.D., Professor , Director of the Center for Gender -Based Biology and Chief Medical Genetics Department of Pediatrics , UCLA.
“The World Professional Association for Transgender Health Board of Directors has stated that policies requiring surgery as a condition of identity recognition are not advisable as a matter of ethical healthcare. High schools and colleges should not require surgery for a student to compete in their affirmed gender. – Jamison Green, Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, UCSF, WPATH Board of Directors.
Furthermore, data collected by one researcher (Devries) suggests that 2 years may be overkill in terms of a “waiting period” for athletes of any age.
Part 1 – Introduction and Early History
Part 2 – The Cruelest Test
Part 3 – Post-Richards to the Stockholm Consensus (Current page)
Part 4 – Current Events
Part 5 – Let’s Get Physical
Part 6 – Why, oh Why, Must it be This Way?
Part 7 – Are There Any Cases Where an Advantage Seems Possible?
Part 8 – Final Summary and References