Keri Renault

Disqualifying the Gender Binary in IAAF Track & Field

Filed By Keri Renault | August 22, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, Transgender & Intersex

Can victory in the woman's 800 meters by an obscure teenager from a small South African village signal defeat of the big, bad gender binary at the IAAF World Championships?

Probably not, but it's nice to dream.

Amidst allegations that 18-year-old track and field sensation Caster Semenya is male, a committee of medical experts has been summoned to intervene by the IAAF. At stake is whether Ms. Semenya is a maligned victim of the gender binary or a "gender pretender", duping the world into believing "he" is really a "she".

What matters more; rewarding a system of gender classification which recognizes only two options, thereby marginalizing the vast majority of human beings, or awarding a long overdue victory to the diversity of nature?

The personal truth of Caster Semenya, as for many of us, may be innocently shrouded in shades of gray. When the medical review board reveals its findings the world may learn that the South African runner is any one of myriad gender expressions, including transgender, intersexed or chromosomally gender variant. She may be a biological female with a larger than "usual and customary" musculature. Her facial features may be prototypically male. But her humanity is undeniably and uniquely her own.

Should it not be respected as such?

Regardless of outcome, one insufferable fact remains: as long the complex tapestry of humanity is portrayed in black and white the polarizing gender binary will remain victorious. Outcast once again in defeat will be the infinite shades of gray that comprise the truly wondrous face of humanity. Discrimination, ostracism, and conformity win in a binary world. Individuality, diversity, and universal acceptance lose. This is the most inequitable and unfair of all "competitions".

It's time we disqualify the gender binary for good.

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Deidre Elizabeth | August 28, 2009 8:18 PM

Well I for one prefer the old male-female paradigm.. mostly i resent the whole 'trans' thing because it takes away my right to be female, subjecting me instead to be forced with a label as some third sex. I do think that my rights are being infringed upon by a political label for someone else's agenda - taking away my right to have my issues discussed privately with my doctor only. Every where i go I run into lgb folk who think they have the right, because of some political labeling or what else I can't immagine, to ask me inappropriate question and otherwise hassle me in public places. I did not sign on for any of that!!!