It’s an interesting clip, but this story by Matt Tullis – the story of the intersex Olympian – is ever better, detailing, sympathetically, some of what she and her fans experienced as a result of her autopsy and revelation.
This is a great short article on the ambiguities of sex as expressed by humans, mammals, fish and various other creatures, and covers topics like chromosomal variety, embryonic sex determination, and reproductive strategies. It’s a nice Sex 101 – and by that I don’t mean sex as in f*cking, but sex as in male/female. A lot of reasonably smart and educated people seem to think that gender is variable but sex is “natural” and binary when in fact that’s not nearly as true either.
You’ve had your turkey. Now get your learning back on.
A few years ago it looked likely that we’d discover a drug that might be taken prenatally by mothers whose children might have a high risk of CAH – in order to prevent it.
Since CAH is the only intersex condition that can necessitate medical treatment, and specifically might prevent an “adrenal crisis” that can be life threatening to a newborn with CAH – this development could have been a good thing.
Except that it’s off-label use it intended to prevent lesbians and tomboys. And career women. Depending on how exactly you’re going to define female masculinity.
It’s nice to see Slate finally reporting on it, despite the dumb-ass & sensationalist title of the article, & I’m hoping that means this question gets put to a much wider range of parents and potential parents.
Wow, this is huge news. Since Caster Semenya’s case first hit the headlines – which it never should have done for the sake of her privacy – there’s been a lot of speculation about women and competition.
That is, there wasn’t just a desire to define “woman” – since most experts know that’s impossible. (Trust me.) But the Olympics Committee instead are trying to define “woman athlete” or what might give a woman an “unfair” competitive edge against other women, and they’ve just decided how it’s going to be.
First, here’s what they came up with:
- Under the new policy, an investigation into the possibility that an athlete has hyperandrogenism can be requested by an athlete concerned about her own condition; a medical official for a country’s Olympic committee; a member of the I.O.C. Medical Commission or a member of the Olympic organizing committee’s medical commission; or the chairman of the I.O.C. Medical Commission.
- If the chairman decides to conduct an investigation, relevant documents like medical records will be gathered. If further investigation is needed, a panel of one gynecologist, one genetic expert and one endocrinologist will try to determine whether hyperandrogenism is present and if it offers a competitive advantage.
- If need be, the athlete and her international federation can appeal the decision within 21 days to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She can also compete in men’s events if she qualifies.
- The guidelines do not address whether a woman found to have hyperandrogenism could undergo a treatment to make her eligible to compete as a woman.
So, point by point:
- Any female athlete can request another athlete’s sex and gender tests. No potential for bullying or gender baiting or witch hunting or policing of gender there. *sigh* What a nightmare: women judging other women’s “acceptable” level of womanness.
- There’s no distinction being made between people who take androgens and people whose bodies produce them.
- I have to say, I love the idea of women being able to compete in men’s events if they want to. That fucking rocks. & Just lit a nice green light for trans guys, too.
- Could undergo could mean: be encouraged to, be bullied into, willingly choose, feel required to. Problematic, but when it comes to many other decisions about gender, it can be hard to judge whether a person is choosing freely or making a coerced decision. This one will be no different.
I first thought that their decision to use T levels at the determining factor was a good idea. I still think it is. BUT:
And another via my friend Matty, with whom I will be team teaching Gender Studies 100 this fall, about Caster Semenya’s return.
She added: “Even if she is a female, she’s on the very fringe of the normal athlete female biological composition from what I understand of hormone testing. So, from that perspective, most of us just feel that we are literally running against a man.”
To which I might say: isn’t the whole point of athletic competition pushing the envleope / finding the fringe of “normal”?
So what do you call it when a female doctor walks into a gene lab & doses all the pregnant mothers with a drug to prevent their daughters from wanting to work in “masculine” careers? Hypocrisy? Insanity? Female chauvinism? Pulling up the ladder under you?
I call it bullshit, but it’s happening. Dr. Maria New, an endocrinologist, is trying to prevent CAH in female infants, but as it turns out, the drug that prevents this masculinizing intersex condition in XX infants seems also seems to decrease incidents of lesbianism and bisexuality while simultaneously decreasing girls’ other “natural” impulses like playing with dolls and fantasizing about pregnancy and childbirth.
(Do little girls fantasize about pregnancy & childbirth? I had no idea. I never did, and I did play with dolls.)
And it isn’t just that many women with CAH have a lower interest, compared to other women, in having sex with men. In another paper entitled “What Causes Low Rates of Child-Bearing in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?” Meyer-Bahlburg writes that “CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”
In the same article, Meyer-Bahlburg suggests that treatments with prenatal dexamethasone might cause these girls’ behavior to be closer to the expectation of heterosexual norms: “Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.”
In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men – and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games – as “abnormal,” and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:
So dex might have prevented Dr. Maria New, which right about now looks like it would have been a good idea.
I’d also like to point out right about here that, for the record, for all the people who pooh-pooh non-trans, gender variant women when we talk about being “third sexed” along with trans women, that it looks like us dykey, tomboy, uppity types are the first on the chopping block.
Gay people have been stressing out about the day arriving when scientists developed treatments to prevent homosexuality . . . Well, here we are—the day appears to have arrived. Now what are we going to do about it?
So what are we going to do about it?
Congrats to all the winners!
21st LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD WINNERS for BOOKS PUBLISHED IN 2008
Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word), Thea Hillman, Manic D Press
This year’s Lambda Literary Awards Finalists have been posted. In the Transgender category:
- 10,000 Dresses, Marcus Ewert & Rex Ray, Seven Stories Press
- Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word), Thea Hillman, Manic D Press
- Two Truths and a Lie, Scott Schofield, Homofactus Press
- Boy with Flowers, Ely Shipley, Barrow Street Press
- Transgender History, Susan Stryker, Seal Press
I highly recommend the last of these, which I’ll admit is the only one I’ve read this year, but I’m hoping to read Scott Schofield’s soonly.
In LGBT Studies, that Tomboys book is up for an award, & I hope it wins. It is the book I am most looking forward to reading now that I’m not teaching an excessive amount.
Even cooler is to see Diane and Jake Anderson-Minshall’s joint effort Blind Curves in the Lesbian Mystery category, and good luck to them!
(But I still think they need way more categories for transgender – maybe trans studies & trans memoir/other non-fiction to start, for instance. Surely there’s enough out there these days, & for years when there isn’t, they can just ignore the category.)
(crossposted in several places, and people are welcome to forward this on freely to others in the transgender and GLBT communities, as I see this as being very serious â€” Mercedes)
A short time ago, Iâ€™d discussed the movement to have â€œGender Identity Disorderâ€ (GID, a.k.a. â€œGender Dysphoriaâ€) removed from the DSM-IV or reclassified, and how we needed to work to ensure that any such change was an improvement on the existing model, rather than a scrapping or savaging of it.
Lynn Conway reports that on May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V. Such a revision would include the entry for GID.
On the Task Force, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, we find Dr. Kenneth Zucker, from Torontoâ€™s infamous Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute). Dr. Zucker is infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. â€œex-gayâ€) therapy to â€œcureâ€ gender-variant children. Named to his work group, we find Zuckerâ€™s mentor, Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as â€œa manâ€™s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.â€
The “John Money” episode of Law & Order: SVU is was on USA right now at 9PM EST tonight.