Biology, Long Read, Must Reads, Sport, Women

A Victory for Female Athletes Everywhere

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) this week upheld the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) regulations governing eligibility for the women’s category in international elite athletics competition. In effect, CAS decided the question “who is a woman” for purposes of elite sport. And it ratified the IAAF’s preferred answer: A woman in sport is anyone whose legal identity is female—whether they personally identify as such or not—and who has testosterone (T) levels in the female range. That may seem like a mere technical ruling. But as I’ll explain in this article, the ramifications are profound for female athletics everywhere—a cause that has been central to my life and to the lives of millions of girls and women worldwide.

The female range for testosterone is categorically different from the male range. In general, males have 10 to 30 times more T than females. Most females, including most elite female athletes, have T levels in the range of 0.5 to 1.5 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). For men, typical values are 10 to 35 nmol/L. The reason there is a gap, with no overlap between the ranges, is that beginning in puberty, the testes produce a lot more T than ovaries and adrenal glands combined. And so the IAAF maximum of 5 nmol/L for women has been set, generously, to reflect the upper bound of T levels that can be produced even by polycystic ovaries.

No single tool is perfect for these purposes, but testosterone comes pretty close. Sport already tests for T levels as part of standard anti-doping controls, and it is much less intrusive than other diagnostic techniques used to determine sex. Most importantly, it’s the best single physiological marker for sport’s purposes. That’s because the primary reason for the sex differences in the physical attributes that contribute to elite athletic performance is exposure to much higher levels of testosterone during male pubertal growth. Those physical attributes include power generation, aerobic power, body composition and fuel utilization. Compared to females, males have greater lean body mass (more skeletal muscle and less fat), larger hearts (both in absolute terms and scaled to lean body mass), higher cardiac outputs, larger hemoglobin mass, larger VO2 max (i.e. a person’s ability to take in oxygen), greater glycogen utilization, and higher anaerobic capacity.

The result of this differential is the performance gap between males and females that justifies the existence of a women’s category in competitive sports. That gap typically extends to 10-12%. Without an eligibility rule based in sex-linked traits, we wouldn’t see female bodies on any podium. Equally important, without such an eligibility rule, it’s unlikely that societies could continue legally to sustain separate girls and women’s only sport. The set-aside is premised on inherent biological differences between the sexes. If that basis were eliminated, it’s unclear how the classification would pass muster under standard legal anti-discrimination analysis.

As is now widely known, the IAAF’s rule was challenged by Ms. Caster Semenya, a multiple World and Olympic Champion in the 800 meters. She is an “affected athlete” under IAAF regulations, which list the specific differences of sex development (DSDs) that are of concern to sport. These cases all involve “46, XY” disorders, whereby individuals with one X chromosome and one Y chromosome in each cell (a pattern normally typical of males) may have external genitalia that are not distinctively male or female; nevertheless, they have testes which produce bioavailable T in the normal male range. Athletes who are legally identified as female, who have one of the listed 46, XY conditions, and who wish to compete in certain events restricted to females, are required to drop their T levels into the female range (i.e., under 5 nmol/L), in consultation with their physician and using the means of their choice. Usually, a birth control pill will do. Should they choose not to reduce their T levels, affected athletes can compete in different events, or in the male category, or in non-IAAF events. Ms. Semenya has already made clear that, going forward, she expects to compete in the 5000 meters as a female.

Since the regulations are about sex classifications, the arguments the parties made at CAS were necessarily based in applicable anti-discrimination law. Thus, Ms. Semenya argued that the regulations are discriminatory and that the discrimination cannot be justified as necessary to meet sport’s goals for the women’s category, or proportional in the way they are tailored. In turn, the IAAF responded that the regulations are not discriminatory, but that if they are, such discrimination is necessary and proportional given the IAAF’s goals. The material that follows is adapted from the arguments that I and others put forward to the CAS on behalf of the IAAF.

* * *

The goals of elite competitive sport are to identify and showcase the best athletes, to produce economic, political, developmental, and health-related benefits for stakeholders and society, and to foster progressive social and political change. Sport is widely seen as adding enormous value in each of these respects.

The IAAF’s mission and agenda mirror these goals. The IAAF regulates competition internationally and administers some of its own events for the purpose of establishing the hierarchy of athletes in each specialty. It celebrates the champions. And it parlays those competitions and champions into business opportunities that feed money back into all levels of the sport and into political opportunities related to its progressive goals.

One of the most important aspects of this last agenda item is empowering girls and women through athletics. In this respect, the IAAF has embraced as its own the progressive public policy mandate of many governments around the world. Specifically, the decision to carve out and equally to support separate men’s and women’s competition categories, reflects the widely-held view that girls and women are entitled to parity with boys and men in the distribution of sporting opportunities and the highly valued goods that flow from participation in this institutional setting. The continuing commitment to equality among the sexes in this sphere also reflects the data that show that empowering girls and women has exponential benefits for society.

These benefits are well-understood. As I have written elsewhere, they include financial, psychological, and political benefits for individual champions; for their governments, leagues, companies, teams and communities; and for the “vast majority of athletes—both development and elite athletes—[who] benefit from the institutional structures established to cultivate the champions and the enterprise.”

In the United States, the commitment to provide equal opportunities to girls and women in sport is based in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. As Donna de Varona of the Women’s Sports Foundation and Brooke-Marciniak of Ernst & Young have explained, “Title IX … requires us to invest in male and female athletes equally. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance—fortunately for the development of women’s sport, this law also included athletic programs.”

The author, right, at an 1500m event in the mid-1980s

My own story is a testament to the power of mandatory set-asides for female sport and to the value they create for girls and women that would not exist otherwise. I was the first female recipient of a full track scholarship to Villanova University in 1978, six years after Title IX passed into law. I was recruited because I was one of the best under-18 (U18) female half-milers coming out of U.S. high schools that year. Because even mediocre boys could and did run faster, had Title IX not forced colleges to create programs and set-aside funds for girls, I wouldn’t have gotten that scholarship. And because my family was poor, I might never have gone to college. My life story would have been altered in innumerable ways. Most importantly for present purposes, I would not exist as someone with the leadership skills and experience to advocate either for clean sport or for equality for females. I would not exist as someone who could give back, certainly not in the way that I do as a law teacher, and certainly not in this global context. Title IX powered this outcome.

Importantly, it did this not only by affording me that first scholarship, but also by providing me with the same chance as the best boys coming out of high school at securing the longer-term benefits of participation in elite sport. Winning gave me confidence, including on a stage. Training for long-term goals taught me time management, independence, and goal orientation. Losing made me resilient. And traveling made me tough and sophisticated about the world, including about how to make my voice heard in traditionally male spaces. The same is true for many other girls and women for whom elite sport has also been something of an equalizer in a world that has long privileged boys and men.

It matters that girls and women are afforded opportunities equal to boys and men, including in elite athletics. It matters because this is the only way sport can achieve its empowerment goals.

One can argue that empowering girls and women in particular shouldn’t be a focus for sport or for any institution. One can argue that there are other laudable goals, that girls and women aren’t the only marginalized sub-populations, that the allocation of scarce resources should be made differently. But until these arguments persuade policymakers to renege on existing commitments, it remains not only a legitimate policy choice but also a mandate.

Like other policy moves that involve big cultural shifts, the commitment to treat female athletes equally took years to take hold, and although it’s rarely questioned today, it remains fragile. For example, the percentage of girls and women taking part in sport has increased, but it’s still smaller than the percentage of boys and men. The most recently collected statistics show that participation by middle-school U.S. girls is actually decreasing. Funding for and promotion of boys and men remains higher, not only because their participation rates are higher but also because their events are more popular. There are exceptions, but it’s still true that, as a society, we commit to female sport because we have to, while we commit to men’s sport because we want to. There is no doubt that if someone proposed a change in the eligibility rule for the men’s category that threatened to dismantle it and the goods it produces for the participants, their sponsors, and fans, this proposal would go nowhere.

As we work to cement our hard-won, enormously valuable equality, Title IX and similar laws and policies around the world have, and continue to be, an important prod and protection, barring sex discrimination that isn’t based in inherent biological differences and encouraging affirmative measures for females when either inherent differences or continuing disparities make clear they are necessary. Importantly, legal efforts to reform sex discrimination law by erasing “sex” and replacing it with “identity” or “gender identity” haven’t (yet) succeeded in changing this basic framework. Biological sex remains an important legal classification, including in relevant domestic and international law; and inherent biological differences between the sexes remain an essential feature of sex discrimination law in particular.

* * *

It is well-understood by physical scientists, and by athletes, coaches and governing bodies, that if elite sport didn’t set aside, maintain and support a separate category for girls and women based on inherent differences between the sexes, the best athletes—the ones we see and celebrate—would always be boys and men.

Specifically, if it were decided that eligibility for the women’s category should be based on identity rather than gonadal sex—or if we adopted the theoretical proposition that because some males identify as females, some females have testes—it would be impossible to achieve parity of opportunity in this realm of society, and for sport to meet its associated goals. Despite the arguments of some social scientists who prefer theory to facts, this is not a legitimately debatable proposition.

For example, as my colleague Wickliffe Shreve and I have shown, just in the single year 2017, Olympic and World Champion Allyson Felix’s lifetime best in the 400 meters of 49.26 seconds was surpassed over 15,000 times by boys and by men. This overwhelming dominance by male-bodied athletes over female-bodied athletes is not the result of culture, resources, training or gender identity. Rather, it is the result of having male gonadal sex, specifically testes and bioavailable testosterone in the male rather than the female range. Even non-elite male-bodied athletes, including boys, can and do routinely surpass the very best female athletes. When we compare the latter two groups—the best elite females against non-elite boys and men—the performance gap is small but collectively determinative.

To illustrate this point, Jeff Wald, Wickliffe Shreve, Richard Clark, and I developed the visual that appears below, taking three of our sport’s best-known female stars, all of whom are multiple Olympic and World Championship gold medalists who, because of their role-model status, continue to produce valuable goods for themselves and for the IAAF: Sanya Richards-Ross, Allyson Felix, and Christine Ohuruogu. We placed each of their individual lifetime bests in the 400 meters in the sea of male-bodied performances run just in the single year 2017. As expected, the figure shows that Richards-Ross, Felix, and Ohuruogu would lose to the very best senior men that year—Wayde van Niekerk, Fred Kerley, and Isaac Makwala—by a margin of about 12%. But it also shows that even at their absolute best, Richards-Ross, Felix, and Ohuruogu would go on to lose to literally thousands of other boys and men, including many whose times wouldn’t place them in the sport’s elite male echelons.

To be clear, our claim is not that an identity-based eligibility rule would introduce this enormous sea of boys and men into women’s competition. Rather, it’s that biologically male athletes—however they identify—don’t have to be elite to surpass even the very best biologically female athletes. And it doesn’t take a sea of them to obliterate the females’ competitive chances at every level of competition. If only a very small sub-set turn out to identify as women, we will be overwhelmed.

This is not a theoretical proposition. At least two sets of natural experiments make clear that this would be the eventual outcome if entry into the women’s category isn’t conditioned on gonadal sex, or at least on testosterone levels as their least intrusive proxy.

First, inspired by the Obama administration’s suggestion—contained in the form of “guidance” from the Departments of Justice and Education—that sex classifications might be replaced with gender-identity classifications in school settings, the state of Connecticut’s public high school athletic association recently decided that transgender girls must be permitted to compete on their school athletic teams based solely on their gender identity. There is no requirement that they first start on puberty blockers or be on gender-affirming hormones. With this new rule in place, in June 2018, two trans girls who had previously competed as boys dominated the competition at Connecticut’s girls track and field championships. One “took first place in both the 100 and 200 meter dash, while [the other] finished second in the 100.” In the process, according to one widely shared media report, they reportedly “inspired multiple other transgender entrants.” But of course, as various parents pointed out, they also displaced “the girls who work really hard to do well and qualify for” the next-level regional competitions. Because moving on to the next level is the basis for additional competitive experience and exposure, these displacements are inevitably significant. This season, the faster of the two continues easily to beat the females in the field. Her times are within but not near the top of the range run in the parallel boys’ events.

A second example: Going into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, South African exercise scientist Ross Tucker explained that because the IAAF’s previous testosterone-based eligibility rule was not in force, Caster Semenya basically had a 100% chance of winning gold in the women’s 800 meters. In his words: “There is no more certain gold medal in the Rio Olympics than Semenya. She could trip and fall, anywhere in the first lap, lose 20m, and still win the race…She is proof of the benefit of testosterone to intersex athletes.”

Ms. Semenya proved Dr. Tucker right, of course; but the effect of the testosterone rule’s suspension was even more powerful than even he had predicted: Her 100% chance of winning gold turned into a 100% win share for the three suspected 46, XY DSD athletes in the race, and a 0% share for the biological females in the field. (Note that two of the three—Ms. Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi—have publicly acknowledged that they are affected by the regulations and thus that they are 46, XY males with DSD. As of this writing, the third, Margaret Wambui of Kenya, has not made a similar acknowledgment; however, she and the Kenyan press have hinted at her status on a number of occasions.) In other words, it is likely that no biological female won a medal in that event at the last Olympics. At least one study suggests this is a decades’ long pattern, reporting a “presumed…over-representation of [46, XY DSD athletes of] approximately 1,700-fold at the podium level.”

Some have argued that the dominance of the 46, XY DSD athletes in women’s events is not necessarily due to their T levels. It is said, for example, that advocates for the regulations are incorrectly essentializing testosterone, and that T is no more determinative of outcomes in sport than are other physical and physiological traits like height or wingspan. These critiques have no basis in fact. As I wrote in the journal Law and Contemporary Problems, the differences between male-bodied and female-bodied performances

hold even when we adjust for the fact that the best elite athletes are “freaks of nature” and that their success can be largely attributed to their unusual physical traits. Sex, specifically testes and their effects, matter in ways that other biological differences among athletes do not. For example, swimmer and multiple Gold Medalist Missy Franklin is six feet two inches tall with a wing span of six feet four inches. Her world record in the 200 meters backstroke, set at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, is 2:04.06. Ryan Lochte’s world record, set at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, was a full nine seconds faster at 1:53.94. If Franklin had been in that race, at her best she would have been about a half a lap behind Lochte when he finished, even though they are the same height and have just about the same wingspan. In a world in which competitors were categorized by height and wingspan (or just height or just wingspan) instead of sex, Franklin would not have had a world record; she would not have been on the podium; in fact, she would not have made the team. In those circumstances, we might not even know her name.

There are those who recoil at this kind of analysis because it implicitly recognizes that elite sport celebrates the athletic body, including the athletic male body in the men’s category and the athletic female body in the women’s. From their perspective, the latter isn’t a legitimate goal or effect because, among other things, it privileges femininity. They say that testes and T levels in the male range should be treated like other special traits that sport properly celebrates. Accordingly, Ms. Semenya is special because she is a woman with testes, just like Missy Franklin is special because she is a woman with an unusually large wingspan. As an academic, I’m familiar with the game that is deconstructing established truths and then re-imagining the world differently. But this isn’t the academy and it isn’t a game. In the real world, the analogy has no merit.

Sport has never sought to celebrate testes as special in either the men’s or the women’s category. Precisely the opposite is true: Gonadal sex traits define the categories, and then each separate category sets out to isolate and celebrate other characteristics. In the men’s category, testes and male T levels are perfectly normal and not at all special. Every single male in the category has them, and so the category isolates and celebrates different traits, like height and wingspan. And the women’s category was developed to exclude competitors with testes and T levels outside of the female range, so that biological girls and women could have the chance—as biological boys and men do—to have their equally exceptional but non-gonadal traits isolated and celebrated. It is within the categories that a Usain Bolt and a Katy Ledecky are properly held out as indomitable superstars.

There are also those who argue that the focus on the female body is racist. This is truly absurd if you know our sport and the many fabulous black and brown women who are not only ubiquitous but also regularly celebrated. Perhaps because they know this, actual sports experts are more careful with such claims. They merely note that any implementation of a biologically-based eligibility rule will have a disparate impact on athletes from the so-called “global south” (i.e. poor countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean).

It is a given that male-bodied athletes who identify as women will be impacted by the regulation since this is its design; but it’s not at all obvious that there will be a disparate impact on those from the global south since the conditions at issue occur among all races and ethnicities. The subset of athletes from the global south might be made more visible by their federations’ choices, but this outcome isn’t inherent in the regulations and it doesn’t tell us anything about the impacts on athletes from different regions whose experience isn’t made public. Indeed, although the African National Congress has claimed that the regulation has “racial undertones,” the organization has also argued that it “targets mainly those in East Europe, Asia and the African continent.” In other words, their real claim seems to be about economics and not about race.

This is the truth about race and athletics: Because our sport is mostly populated at the elite levels by athletes of color, it is this group that will be most impacted however the women’s category is defined. Assuming the regulations are implemented in their current state, with the IAAF using female T levels to set the boundaries of the category, the women who will benefit most will be biological females of color. If the regulations are somehow suspended or overturned, most of the women who will lose out will be biological females of color. There is discrimination either way, but it’s about sex, not race. The women’s 800 meters is a perfect example, as current results and rankings provide a strong indication that the podiums at the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympic Games are likely to be graced by athletes of color.

* * *

As an academic, I appreciate the value of intellectual inquiry that challenges our socially constructed defaults. As someone born into a mixed-race family steeped in the civil rights movement—my father was black and my mother was white—I was nurtured to recognize the harm that social constructions about race and sex can do to subordinated individuals, groups and societies. As the wife of a black man and the mother of two black sons, my radar for both explicit and implied racism is finely tuned. As a woman, a feminist and a lawyer, I have an abiding commitment to anti-discrimination norms, and to race and sex discrimination laws in particular. As a humanist, I believe that each one of us has the right to self-identify.

But none of this confuses me about sex, sex traits, and their irrefutable salience in law and society. The reason there are policies against sex discrimination—including policies that encourage affirmative action for females—is because females have been subordinated across time and geography on the explicit basis of sex, and precisely because of our sex-specific biology. This includes the biology that determines the performance gap in elite sport.

The sex-based physical differences in strength, power and endurance that allow thousands of men and boys each year to surpass the performance of the single best female are the very same differences that make us especially vulnerable to stranger and domestic violence, including to sexual violence. This includes our different reproductive biology. For example, our endocrine cycles are the basis for menstrual-period segregations in many societies, and in sport these same cycles cause us to lose valuable iron stores and diminish our red blood cell counts and oxygen carrying capacity relative to boys and men. (It is to minimize these loses that we often choose to take birth control pills to regulate our cycles.) There is a lot that is beautiful, powerful even, about being female, including, and perhaps especially, our capacity to bear children. But this isn’t an offset, it’s just an also-distinguishing feature of our existence. It’s all part of who we are and our identities.

And so, when we are told that 46, XY males with DSD who identify as female are no different from us because identity is all that matters, the effect is to erase our deeply significant, sex-specific experience both on and off the track. When we are told these things directly and indirectly by sports governing bodies, we feel betrayed. We also feel robbed: of the spots on the podium; of the psychic, financial, and professional goods that would have flowed from earning our places there; and of the opportunities to be role models for little girls who need to see strong, victorious females so that they can dream big dreams themselves. Social science literature focused on race and sex is replete with empirical evidence supporting the common-sense intuition that it matters that people can see successful role models who look like them. To quote Beyoncé, quoting Marian Wright Edelman: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

When we are told that 46, XY males with DSD who identify as female are simply “women with hyperandrogenism,” or “women with high T,” we aren’t fooled. We are just puzzled about why others are—or would want to pretend to be. Elite sport is in the business of bodies, what they can do, and how beautiful they are at their fittest. The movement to normalize and empower gender non-conforming people is enormously valuable, but this doesn’t explain why we would want to replace sex with identity in this of all settings, since the effect of this move is not only to erase our distinguishing traits from the conversation, but also—literally—our bodies from the podium.

Finally, when we are told that we are “ignorant” and “racist” when we notice that males with DSD have male secondary sex characteristics, the effect is to denigrate our well-honed, protective instincts and also our intelligence. The truth is that we know secondary sex characteristics well. We watched them develop over the course of our adolescences and, even on the track, we were witness to their effects on our relative performances: At 12 years old, we were the same or sometimes even faster than the boys, but over time, and certainly by age 18, those same boys were unreachable. For those brown girls and women among us—and we are plentiful in the women’s 800—the effect of these charges of ignorance and racism, especially when they are leveled by white people, is itself racist: as though we somehow can’t tell males from females, or as though we all look like men.

Whenever females in the field have dared to express their concerns about these various erasures, Ms. Semenya’s public supporters can be counted on to launch aggressive public attacks, disingenuously charging them with ignorance, bigotry and a lack of sportsmanship. The effect for the females in the field is to censor their voices in their own spaces. It is to bully them into a new and ironic subordination: In a setting that was carved out for females so that they would be protected from athletic dominance by males, they are not permitted even to take note that this is happening. If their faces or body language betray even the slightest hint of unease, Ms. Semenya’s supporters pounce with op-eds and Twitter storms loaded with personal attacks. And so, they learn to stand stoic at the end of each race, and to freeze their faces into what they hope is a wholly neutral, inoffensive expression. Some have sought to turn this forced silence and feigned neutrality into evidence that the female field is actually comfortable with the current state of affairs. This effort would be funny if it weren’t so Kafkaesque. As Sarah Ditum wrote in The Economist last year,

[t]here is a word for a situation where women talking about female bodies is considered impermissibly antisocial, where describing the consequences of sexism for women is systematically impeded, where resources for women are redistributed to male users while resources for men are left in male hands, and where “male” and “female” are rigidly associated with masculinity and femininity. That word is not “progressive”, “liberal” or any of the other terms usually associated with trans activism. The word is misogyny.

A particularly misogynistic form of the poor sportsmanship story is that the females in the field who express concern are sore losers who just aren’t as talented as the biologically male athletes who beat them. Ms. Semenya’s supporters were especially vicious to Great Britain’s Lynsey Sharp, who was fifth in the women’s 800 meters final at the Rio Olympics, after she vented her understandable frustration in her post-race press conference. Ignoring the fact that Ms. Sharp’s performance would have earned her at least a bronze medal had a T-based eligibility rule been in effect, journalists wrote that she wouldn’t have complained if she’d medaled, and that she didn’t medal because she isn’t as talented or doesn’t work as hard as the three male-bodied athletes who did.

These critics betray their own ignorance when they say these things. They don’t know that 18-year-old males routinely run in the 1:55 range, but that running this fast would be impossible even for the world’s best 18-year-old female. They don’t know that men’s championship events are often run tactically but that women’s never are, at least not by the biological females in the race, because the latter don’t have the explosive power to pull off late-race surges; or that, even at their peak, non-doped females can’t plan to negative split–run faster in the fourth 200 meters than the second or third—in a world class race. It isn’t awesome to watch athletes do these things in women’s races; it’s a universal tell.

Females who have specialized in the 800 meters do know these things, as well as our event’s androgen-plagued history: For a long time, the event was overwhelmingly dominated by women who were doping. In the current period, the spurious hormones are mostly the result of 46, XY males with DSD. In both cases, the athletes in question may or may not have known that they were being doped, or recruited for their DSDs, by their federations to increase their country’s medal count. For the non-doped females on the track, though, the difference is mostly irrelevant.

Bullying people into silence isn’t a respectable solution to policy disagreements. It’s wrong to treat people as though their voice is illegitimate simply because you would prefer to control the narrative. In this space that’s been set aside for our bodies precisely because they are different, it’s especially insidious to try to disguise a new form of female subordination—“You can’t talk about her body”—as progressive politics.

Although I’m not a trained empiricist, I did communicate at length with top female athletes and their teams as I prepared to testify at the CAS about this case. I wanted to be able—as accurately as possible–to describe the concerns they themselves did not feel free to express, either publicly or at the court. What I found was a lot of confusion about the science; deep hurt about being bullied into silence by false accusations of ignorance, racism, and bad sportsmanship; and a combination of pain and frustration about the competitive status quo.

I did find a few top female athletes who were supportive of “women with high T” in the women’s category. But I also found that the terms “women with high T” and “women with hyperandrogenism” have been widely misunderstood to mean “elevated levels of male sex hormones…in the female body.” As one said, “Hyperandrogenism means they have problems with their ovaries, right?” When this misunderstanding is cleared up and they learn that the term “hyperandrogenism” has been mis-applied to cases of normal T levels in biological males who identify as women, the support disappears and what remains are questions about how and why they were led to think otherwise.

It is possible that there are currently active females in the field who understand the relevant biology and still support the idea of a women’s category bounded only by gender identity. But at least at the elite level, where athletes and their families are making extraordinary sacrifices so that they can make teams, finals and podiums, it is more reasonable to presume that most are not. As Sonia O’Sullivan wrote in 2016, “it actually feels like the majority of women athletes are being held to ransom, while the legal teams get their act together and make a decision on the future for women’s sport—while the athletes in question continue to compete, winning medals, setting records and walking away with a substantial amount of prize money.”

Almost everyone I spoke with was in this camp. Some have trans and intersex friends, and so care a lot about a policy that does not require surgery of those whose identity doesn’t conform to their biology. But as one told me, “our bodies just can’t do what theirs can, and so if we’re to be able to win medals, we need protection.” Another put it this way: “We’re not allowed to speak publicly about it because when we do, we are attacked for being horrible people. But we talk to each other, and I’ve never talked to another athlete in our events who isn’t frustrated, devastated, and completely fed up.”

* * *

Ms. Semenya is an extraordinary person. She is courageous, resilient and dignified. And as my longtime colleague Edwin Moses wrote recently in Time magazine, which featured her as one of its 100 most influential people of the year, “Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and this has caused us to question the merits of distributing societal benefits according to ‘male’ and ‘female’ classifications…however [her case comes out], Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

It is beyond doubt that this road has been a difficult one for her to travel. It was difficult for me to bear witness to her process—even as she remained unbelievably gracious throughout. Still, we must recognize that the underlying issue also has caused extraordinary harm to the females in the field; to the women’s middle distances, including their commercial and developmental aspects; and to the IAAF, which has expended significant resources trying to protect the women’s category for its intended purposes.

The stakes were always much higher than these individual interests, of course, which is why the case gets so much attention. Ms. Semenya and Athletics South Africa were Claimants at CAS, and the IAAF was Respondent, but we were all really there negotiating the future of women’s sport and the ability of the gender identity movement to use the female competition category to further its agenda. If the Olympic Movement could continue to define the category using at least female T levels, the progressive project that is empowering girls and women through sport had a future. If it couldn’t, that project would fail. The gender identity movement’s goals are also important, and Ms. Semenya undoubtedly contributes to their achievement. But they didn’t similarly ride on the outcome of her case. I applaud the CAS for making the right decision.


Doriane Coleman is a Professor of Law at Duke Law School. As an 800m runner, she became the U.S. National Collegiate Indoor Champion in 1982, and the Swiss National Champion in 1982 and 1983.

Featured image: Margaret Wambui and Francine Niyonsaba, photographed at the Olympic 800m semifinals in Rio de Janeiro on August 18, 2016.


  1. Outraged says

    I am outraged that such a transphobic and cis-privileged article should appear here on Quillette, especially written by a law professor at a major American university. Don’t you realize that trans people are now struggling for the same kind of “hard-won, enormously valuable equality” that you cis women now take for granted, Check your cis-privilege. Don’t you realize that affirmative set asides for cis people are clearly necessary due to continuing disparities.

    I therefore call for your immediate resignation from the faculty at Duke Law School.

    • Ramon Amoedo says

      Really not sure if you are being sarcastic here… how can it be anywhere close to “hard-won” if these transwomen want to compete with an obvious biological advantage??

      • Outraged says

        They want to compete, but structural and societal oppression is preventing them from doing so. Their hard-won gains are bitterly fought by those benefiting from cisgender privilege.

        • Johan says

          @Outraged…Not funny. Sarcasm needs some humour.

        • gda53 says

          No problem. Let them compete IN THEIR CATEGORY. If, that is, officials deign to have another category besides Male and Female.

          BTW. Not going to humour the silly cis thing. Check that crap at the door.

          • Stephanie says

            Yes, a separate category for trans people, intersex, and those who want to dope. That might actually be entertaining enough to be viable!

          • IssacNewton says

            There was a time when Women were not allowed to go to college or compete for combat roles in the US military or Blacks could not go to retail establishments. Does a given individual have a right to compete in a Category in which He/She is not a member. My take is the best in any given category could be forced to compete against in interested athelite outside of their cateogory. Basically, this means that Males could compete against All women and let the best person win. Although, I wonder about Age categories (does a 60 year old boxer have to compete with a 20 year old).

            You need to give individuals their rights, but if other people wantly to freely associate in their distinct categories why not.

        • Lincoln Dunstan says

          Get a very good grip of yourself, Outraged!!!

        • Theodore A Hoppe says

          If allowing three to ten times the normal limits of testosterone is “oppression” what is the point of attempting to regulate the sport?

      • Hendrik says

        Yes. A satirical and a normal world view is often indistinguishable these days.

        • Angus Black says

          Another article seeking to find support for a specific confected victimhood. Ultimately, it’s sport, guys. It just doesn’t really matter.

          Female sport amounts to one of the ‘handicap’ events – nothing wrong with that – just like the under 14s, under 18s, our 35s and so on. When I played squash, there were grades from A1 – F5 in the comp…it made no sense to play in a grade in which you get slaughtered on a regular basis or a grade in which you can beat all the others playing left handed.

          All we are discussing here (irrespective of your social-engineering stance) is what the handicap rules are for a given competition. My view is that you are making a mountain out of a molehill. I’m sad if you’re offended, but it seems to me that this is all about trying to impose some arbitrary worldview on everyone.

          I suggest you play a competition with handicap rules which give you the challenge appropriate to your ability. You’ll have much more fun and challenge that way.

      • Denny Sinnoh says

        Maybe they ran with a “hard-won” on?

      • Bob Matulis says

        I too am wondering whether or not sarcasm is intended.

    • College Student says

      Interesting and well-articulated article!

    • Excellent article that is right on point. Facts are in order. And she hits the ball right out of the park. So sorry that you are offended. Your temper tantrum is a bit childish! If you don’t like it, write your own article on this issue. But just make sure to leave out the emotional outbursts. Just the facts maam!

    • John Brown says

      Just ignore the science & destroy women’s sports? That’s your answer, and by the way threaten & intimidate the Professor who dares to point out the truth? If you get your way women sports will be dominated by genetic males, who developed physically w male testosterone levels. We’ll have men’s sports & sports dominated by genetic men w male testosterone levels & the XX women’s half of the global population w women’s levels of testosterone will effectively have been eliminated from any kind of competitive sports. Ignoring science, reality, & discriminating against The female half of the population in such an unfair & insidious way is simply wrong & unjust. The Professor is right. Of course your comments are so silly I’m assuming you’re engaging in humor & sarcasm to make the same points I did & the Professor did so well.

      • Busola says

        I completely agree with you. It’s amazing and scary how many people have become completely ignorant and blinded from the truth. What happened to the world?

        A male running in a female’s race is unfair. It’s as simple as that. Who is a “male” in this scenario? A person who has the scientifically proven range of testosterone levels. Why is it unfair? Because the way a male is genetically made up arms him with the physical strength and capacity that a female won’t be able to measure up to in her wildest dreams. If males are allowed to run in races for females what would be the effect? It would mean that females will be completely sidelined and won’t have a place to compete. The end.

        I don’t understand why there are so many ignorant comments here. We need a whole lot more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding in the world. There’s way too much righteous ignorance.

        • Joseph Kenny says

          I am wondering if either you or Miss Lambelet actually understand Ms Semenya’s circumstances. She is a genetic male who suffers from a mutation of the testosterone receptor in her body. During prenatal development, her genitalia developed as female due to her body’s inability to repond to testosterone. Hence her female external genitalia and her assignment of female at birth by the midwife. She has partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, meaning she has some responsiveness to testosterone. There are a goodly number of XY individuals with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome who have very typical female appearance but are utterly unresponsive to the high testosterone levels in their bodies. There are over 400 individual different mutations of the androgen receptor that have been identified. Back when we karyotyped all female competitors for sex testing, we found quite a few of these individuals. That is why we quit sex testing, we weren’t sure what to do with this information.

          • The logical solution seems fairly obvious: Y chromosome? Not eligible to compete as a female.
            The fairest mitigator for intersex and trans individuals would be to create two additional categories of competition, the first defined as including people with a specific list of intersex conditions (which can be modified if additional syndromes are discovered), and the second as people who are genetically and biochemically male- or female-bodied and have chosen to transition to the opposite gender.

    • peterschaeffer says

      outraged, having read this article and your comments, I don’t think you are going to get real far. The truth is that the author has more points in the intersectional victim Olympics (pun intended) than you. My advice for you is to go to the Black Student Union at Duke. Try to drum a constituency against the author. My guess is that you won’t find a real sympathetic audience.

      You will do better if you try the LGBT…. folks. But not well enough. If the author was a white male, your prospects would be a lot better. But alas, that is not true.

    • Christin Hale says

      Lol. I simply have to assume your comment is in jest. If it’s not, it’s such a perfect example of the mind numbing dogma of identity politics that you should win an award just for participating.

    • Outraged – Assuming you’re serious, kindly tell me something. What’s to prevent (as but one example) a male tennis player who’s, say, ranked #50 in the world from deciding he’s trans and competing in the female side of the draw and upping his earnings by millions? And if he can do it, why can’t other less than first rate male players do the same and thereby entirely eliminate women from earning a living playing tennis? The same questions of course apply to all sports in which women compete. Would that be OK with you?

      • Nosh Itsherlock says

        I’m assuming you already know about Renee Richards?

        • Elizabeth says

          To be clear about Renee Richards, she competed in women’s sports after undergoing sex reassignment surgery (so did not have testes, to say the least) and when she was over 40, after years of treatment with female hormones (so female-level testosterone levels). She was quoted in a recent interview as follows: “The notion that one can take hormones and be considered a woman without sex reassignment surgery is nuts in my opinion,” The whole article is really worth a read:

          • Michael Stone says

            Further, Renee Richards has admitted this, and stated that her views on the issue have changed because she realizes that had she transitioned at age 23, she would have won every women’s event on the planet easily.

    • Geof says

      Thus you graphically illustrate the point she and other female athletes have been making. Unless you were being sarcastic…the inability to tell the difference is an indicator how far down the rabbit hole we’ve fallen.

    • Kady Muhammad says

      “I am outraged that such a transphobic and cis-privileged article…”

      I am outraged that you are outraged at a fact-based analysis.

    • Gretchen Dulmage says

      I believe Caster Semenya is not a transwoman, she is an intersex person who was assigned female gender at birth.

    • Gretchen Dulmage says

      Respectfully, I cannot agree that Doriane Coleman must resign her post at Duke University. Nor would I suggest that a professor holding the views you express should resign. We need to toughen up and engage in vigorous debate, not try to shut people down because we don’t agree with what they are saying. Check out this article, it says it better than I will.

    • Anonymous says

      So you want to take away from what women have fought so hard for because another gender designation has come along and feels entitled to it? But only the women will lose…only the women have to give anything up…but if we women have anything to say about it…then we should resign…
      Haha. Do you think we don’t see what you’re trying to do here?? Back in the kitchen with us!

    • says

      You’re insane.

      Men who identify as women are welcome to participate in sports, in the men’s category, where their muscle and bone structure, physical stature, and T levels are equal to other men. Even if they took the T down to women’s levels, the muscle, bone and stature would still give them an advantage over biological females.

      I really do not care what an adult chooses to do with their body – what drugs they wish to ingest, what body parts they wish to add or remove. I really don’t. But I absolutely DO care that men can now simply identify as women and get our jobs, our sports, and everything else we’ve worked so hard to excel at.

      Sorry, men and women are different. And you can’t just decide you want to be something and make it so if your biology is at odds with your fantasies.

      Your disdain for cis gendered women is your issue. And my disdain for men who wish to destroy women’s sports is the issue for all female athletes who wish to compete professionally or in the Olympics.

      But just like you can’t be a white chick and identify as black and actually be black – just as you can’t be a human and identify as a wolf and actually become a wolf – you cannot identify as a woman and actually become a woman. You will always need to take drugs, you will have to have major cosmetic surgery, and biologically, you are still a man.

      Transabled is really the only trans that is possible to achieve, because you absolutely can turn yourself into a quadriplegic if that’s what floats your boat.

      And in closing, go start your own sports categories. You can compete against biological women who identify as men, and biological men who identify as women. That would at least be fair. That would at least be logical. After all, you aren’t actually a woman, you may look like one, but underneath the paint and silicone, you’re a dude. So all transgenders can have their own events, their own categories.

      The ONLY reason a transgender person would not be down for their own events and categories is because they are not good enough athletes to compete against men or other transgenders. And if you aren’t that good of an athlete, go to college and study to be something else.

      • Gretchen Dulmage says

        FYI Caster Semenya is not a transwoman, she is intersex. This means she is one of about 1 in 2000 people who are born with Sex characteristics of both genders. Such infants are generally assigned a gender at birth, in her case she was assigned female. Semenya is not “taking hormones”, her hormones are produced by her own body.

    • Lol. Why would you imagine that anyone who matters could care less about some anonymous nobody’s call for someone to resign?

    • Larry Czaplyski says

      I too am outraged that you presume I and others have to agree with your imaginative beliefs.

    • Brent says

      Why is it every time something truthful is written about one of the radical left’s pet project that are outraged and thrown none words like “transphobic and cis-privileged” about to try and intimidate what they think as horrible Alt right monsters….I find their halting grip on reality disappointing to say the least.

    • Ruth Henriquez Lyon says

      How is it trans-phobic to ask someone with the advantage of extra testosterone to simply lower her t levels to create a more even playing field with other women? As I understand it, she does not identify as cis anyway. She identifies as a woman, a lesbian woman to be exact. Your outrage and your call for the author’s resignation are a waste of energy that could be spent fighting real injustices in the world.

    • Geoge Tyrebyter says

      I, on the other hand, am happy and pleased to see an article which is about reality, not transgender fiction. Women are not able to compete with men. M2F men are men.

    • I am amazed at the number of replies to Outraged. It is clearly a parody and the reason it is funny is because of its total straight-facedness. The facts are so bizarre and against all common sense.

      As many have stated, the only solution is a third category for those who are not men or women. A trans sports competition will have to be created if the demise of all sports competitions is to be avoided.

      I am deeply troubled by the fact a single woman would agree to compete with anyone who is not a biological female. They should and, ultimately will, stop competing.

    • Steve says

      I bet you are outraged every day of your life.

    • Stan Zorin says

      You are plain stupid.
      In the head is not the same as between the legs

  2. The essence of the argument:-

    ‘When this misunderstanding is cleared up and they learn that the term “hyperandrogenism” has been mis-applied to cases of normal T levels in biological males who identify as women, the support disappears and what remains are questions about how and why they were led to think otherwise.’

  3. peterschaeffer says

    Outraged, I think you meant

    “Don’t you realize that affirmative set asides for trans people are clearly necessary due to continuing disparities.”

    However, your comment may just be parody.

    • Outraged says

      Yes, that’s of course what I meant.

      But this isn’t parody. She must resign. Immediately. Imagine the kind of example this sets for her oppressed trans sisters, from one in a position of power at a major American law school, and from one who herself admits how important such example is.

      She is completely blind to her cis privilege. That’s because, just as whites are blind to their racism because we live in a horribly racist society, and men are blind to their sexism because we live in a sexist society, cisgendered people are blind to their own privilege because we live in a cisgenderist society. Imagine that white NBA players 50 years ago complained how unfair it was that black players were let in, because they simply couldn’t compete at that level, due to blacks’ innately superior athletic abilities. They take for granted they should be the ones making the big bucks, just cause they are white. She is making the exact same argument wrt cis vs. trans women. It’s not fair, because they have innately superior ability. That’s what it comes down to. She is holding on to her cisgender privilege in a cisgenderist society for dear life. Worse yet, she is attempting to use her status on other axes of oppression such as race and gender in order to justify it. That is absolutely despicable, every bit as much as white women using their oppressed status to justify their own oppression of their black and Hispanic sisters.

      And besides, her notion that people that can run very fast “deserve” a disproportionate share of societal benefits only comes from her privileged cisgendered status in the first place (and reflects a not insignificant amount of ableism and classism as well). Everyone knows that those who oppose affirmative action for marginalized and oppressed minorities regarding Ivy League admissions are operating from the privileged viewpoint that those who can score very well on the SATs “deserve” such admission. Whereas, in fact, they were only able to score so well due to their privileged position in the first place, and furthermore the allegedly “objective” system of “evaluation” they set up privileges what they are able to do and disadvantages other things and is therefore designed to further oppress the marginalized. But it’s the exact same thing for cis athletic women who can run very fast. Their “standards” are set up to benefit them.

      • @StewyGriffith says

        Thanks for the explanation – it is a handy insight into the gender delusion that has consumed much of society and the attack on biological women and femininity in general. People have the right to live there lives a crazy (or not crazy) gender dysmorphic individuals, and be treated as to their preferred gender, but for all the reasons outlined in this article when those rights to a constructed identity come into conflict with the rights of genuine biological identity, then the constructed rights of the individual need to be subordinate to societies biological foundation.

        • Gretchen Dulmage says

          I believe Caster Semenya is not a transwoman, rather an intersex person who was assigned female gender at birth. Hence when you say “when those rights to a constructed identity come into conflict with the rights of genuine biological identity, then the constructed rights of the individual need to be subordinate to societies biological foundation.” I don’t think this description applies to her…

          • Kevin Herman says

            Actually Caster Semenya is a man with a vagina. Everything else about him is male.

      • Wow. You are incredibly brainwashed, outrage. The article is referencing the disparate outcomes in sport involving testosterone and biological sex.

        No matter the gender orientation of the athlete, those factors create a physical advantage (or privilege if you will). There’s no cultural advantage to cis-hood that will ever budge the needle an inch in the direction of an equal playing field where one athlete is equipped with a physical advantage and another is equipped with a cultural advantage (which doesn’t actually measurably exist)

        Your position on this matter is actually telling of your own privilege as a highly educated, wealthy, white person. I suggest you try a judgement tool which will be utterly foreign to you, but is actually successfully implemented every day by billions of real people who don’t live in a money wrapped bubble…it’s called utility.

        • Outraged says

          This of course ignores the fact that the very “outcomes in sport” you refer to are themselves culturally based, a product of our patriarchal, heterosexist, cisgendered society. Who determines that what we should care about is who can run the fastest, or throw something the farthest, or beat someone else to a bloody pulp inside a ring, and that those who do so should be the ones rewarded with the big bucks? I certainly don’t and think of almost all sports as really rather stupid and pointless endeavors. Tell me, why isn’t classical ballet classified as a “sport”?

          Yes, I may be highly educated, cis, and white (though not wealthy), but I have checked my privilege at the door and listened to what my trans brothers and sisters have to say about their experiences in a cisgendered society. For me to tell them what they should be, instead of them telling me what they are, is the very definition of cissplaining. As for utility, pray tell, exactly how does running fast benefit society, as opposed to, I don’t know, improving health care and things like that?

          A lot of what you take as “reality” is, in fact, merely a social construct.

          • Bob Israel says

            Testosterone is not “merely a social construct”. Your argument is non-scientific to the point of idiocy.

          • Alice says

            You hate women you can’t dominate or emulate so everyone else has to pretend those women are no different from males who want to be women.

          • KAM says

            Outraged, though you have checked your cis privilege at the door, I find it difficult to stomach your blatant Terrian bipedal privilege, so prominently on display here. As an identifying extraterrestrial monoped, I stand outraged, sir, at YOUR blindness to the advantages you cis planetarians blithely display and ignorance vis-a-vis the injustices imposed by IAAF with respect to trans-“Martians” (more Terrocentrism!) such as myself. The IAAF’s implicitly planetocidal refusal to recognize us must not stand!

            If our galaxy ever hopes to overcome the injustices of interplanetary competition, it will never be with a spokesdweller such as yourself dominating the conversation. Promise now that you will check your cis planetary privilege, and not participate.

          • Chip says

            Outraged, you seriously need some help. Really. I say that with all compassion. You need the services of a good psychiatrist who can belp you escape all the insane doubletalk and find a way to be healthy and enjoy life.

          • D-Rex says

            OK, by now I’m pretty certain that ‘Outraged’ is actually Peter Boghossian or James Lindsay doing another one of their hit piece parodies. No-one could be that deranged to actually believe what outraged has written.

          • Byo says

            You have really gone off the deep-end there, buddy. Everything is a social construct. Her point was about protecting a system which was designed to enable women to have an equal playing-field with men in sports, by creating a protected category where women won’t be pushed out by men. What has been happening, and the bullying that has been directed at those who dare question it, is having the effect of damaging women’s empowerment in sports. How is that fair or conducive to public good? And, by the way, to borrow from your lexicon, you need to stop “whitesplaining” (and see a mental health professional)…

          • David says

            Outraged – when you state that you are highly educated…. i’m guessing you have a degree in one of the grievence study fields, right?

            Oh…. and I therefore call for your immediate resignation from “your social construct”.

          • Barney Doran says

            Outraged Stop and smell the roses. They are cis-aromatic, but I feel you need a little reality tickle to put a smile on what, I assume, is not a very happy face.

          • The irony in this your ludicrous rhetorics is that you want to use trans privilege in sport to trump biological realities, at the same time still blaming cis individuals as being privileged. This delusion of gender-identity and has really clouded your ability to think logically.

            This article stated that, either side of the coin can in some way be called discriminatory, but women sport are created for a particular range of testerone (with is exceedingly low in contrast to men) because of objective sexual differences. I’m on the side of biology. If trans women can’t play by the rules, they should respectfully move to another sport association, instead of displaying childish tantrums.

          • says

            This. This is why we can’t have nice things.

            For the record, Outraged sounds exactly like many liberal progressive cis-gendered SJWs who enjoy self flagellation. The left’s grip on reality, their ignoring of actual science (as opposed to theories), and their self righteous rejection of everything that has bound society and helped society advance through the ages is lost.

            And this is why so many who used to identify as Ds are now identifying as Is and Rs.

      • Farris says

        Some are so far out in left field that they are actually in foul territory.

      • fdsa says

        wont matter, Testosterone blockers are being used by men to meet this standard. The cucks at women sports need to be bold and audacious and virtuous and define what a woman is, like has been held in common human definition since the dawn of time…

      • House of Shards says

        I am deeply offended by your hate speech against cis white people and demand that you step down from your pedestal of outrage. Your misandry, racism, and push for inequity holds no place here. You are trying to erase my personhood with your bigoted point of view — where do you work? Where do you live? Mob justice is in order here.

        • Outraged says

          Don’t you realize that hate speech, sexism, racism, push for inequity, and erasure of personhood are only perpetrated by the powerful against the oppressed, and the oppressed, being powerless, are simply incapable of such things? In fact, when the powerful accuse the oppressed of these things (such as “racist”) that only proves in itself how racist the powerful truly are.

        • Polly styrene says

          old cis-gendered white people are the only thing in season the SJWs can shoot at. Why is that?

          • SeattleConservative says

            Don’t rock the boat, Polly styrene- That alone should make the 2020 Dem primaries popcorn worthy.

      • David says

        Dear Outraged, boo! You appear to have been successfully absorbed into the Borg. But at the risk of wasting a little cyberspace, I invite you as others here have to write something coherent. Please marshal the evidence to refute the author’s arguments. Otherwise, shut up.

        • Outraged says

          There were no real arguments made, so there is nothing to refute. The author’s entire essay was a fallacy of an appeal to undesired consequences. If we let trans women compete, that would be bad for cis women.

          Thus, she’s a flaming hypocrite, proclaiming “Wokeness” as long as it benefits her, but abandoning those principles as soon as it does not. Thus, she is not truly Woke and must be banished to the outer darkness. She. Must. Resign. Now.

          And anyway, as we all know, “logic” and “evidence” and “rationality” are mere tools of the patriarchy designed to keep women and minorities in their place, now being expanded to other intersectional axes of oppression such as cis/trans.

          • Rich Russell says

            “She. Must. Resign. Now.”

            That’s. Not. Going. To. Happen…

          • IainC of The Ponds says

            “Outraged” is a parody thread, so please relax and participate on that basis. Apart from listing every single possible parody descriptor invented in the last 5 years, and clearly and openly being bigoted against the 99.95% in order to “support” (which is cleverly written in the most patronizing fashion) the 0.05%, here’s the tell: “And anyway, as we all know, “logic” and “evidence” and “rationality” are mere tools of the patriarchy designed to keep women and minorities in their place.” Trust me on this one; no matter how deluded, a serious commenter wouldn’t put that in.

          • David says

            “If we let trans women compete, that would be bad for cis women”

            I think you mean to say, If we let biological males compete, that would be bad for biological women.

          • Inraged says

            Outraged, well done for formulating the current groupthink exactly. I still think you’re joking because you use all the clichées.

            ps. Your outrage may be a symptom of too much testosterone.

          • Polly styrene says

            Semenya isn’t a trans woman. But maybe you are. You are also certainly a troll.

      • Edith says

        This analogy would work if sports were segregated into black and white athletes, and black athletes were claiming to be white so they could dominate the white field. But this has never been the case.

        • David says

          Yes, I truly think you guys are being trolled…

      • Christin Hale says

        Oh my goodness. You were actually attempting to be serious! Laughter ensues. In truth, I’m sorry for your delusions. Science and reality actually do matter.

      • peterschaeffer says

        “That’s because, just as whites are blind to their racism because we live in a horribly racist society, and men are blind to their sexism because we live in a sexist society,”

        Sure and that is why Jews are so much poorer than non-Jews and Asians are so much poorer than whites.

        Wait a minute, none of that is true.

      • augustine says

        Their “standards” are set up to benefit them.

        And you are seeking your own structural standards to displace those you see as benefiting groups you oppose (for whatever reasons). You seek your own mountain top of privilege, and you cannot imagine that anyone on the planet has a just case for resisting your ideas. Welcome to the human race.

      • Fran says

        We need a special category for trans in the disabled Olympics: anyone who thinks he is a woman and still has testicles obviously has a mental disability at the very least.

      • jimhaz says

        Being normal or majority is not privilege.

      • GeorgeQTyrebyter says

        There is no “cis” privilege. There are normal and transgender.

  4. E. Olson says

    Wow, the marathon length of this article demonstrates the mental gymnastics required by a Leftist to justify discrimination against transgenders in order to maintain the protected status of women’s athletics. It was certainly smart of the author to prominently note that she is a multi-racial woman from a non-privileged background, married to a black, a supporter of Title IX, a humanist supporter of self-identifying (except in athletic competitions) to protect herself by demonstrating her high ranking on the intersectionality pyramid of victimhood and thus deflect likely abuse from the transgender and gender equality promoters of the Left. About the only thing missing from the author’s protection shield is some crack about how this controversy is all Trump’s fault.

    It is sad that the Leftist insistence on attributing gender differences in athletic performance as purely a product of patriarchal socialization of girls requires the author to to use so many examples and graphs to demonstrate the reality that gender differences in hormones not only effect physical build and capacity, but also mental effects related to competitive drive and ability to deal with pressure that the author neglected to mention.

    In the end the entire content of this article can be summarized as follows: even young boys and elderly men are often better in athletic events than elite women athletes due to genetic factors, and therefore permitting boys/men into women’s sports will mean women lose competitions and the rewards that come from winning. Thus men who are mentally deluded into believing they are women (or who just want to win trophies and praise for being “brave”) must be excluded from women’s competitions.

    • @ E. Olson On the other hand this article could be viewed is a wonderful example of clear and rational thinking, here combining sports history, gender politics, and science to explore a major issue facing women in sports. Extremely informative article in my opinion.

      • Harbinger says

        …an informative article indeed. In fact a display of virtuosity across several dimensions. That’s the calibre, everyone looks up to, regardless of the gender of who is speaking and who is listening.

    • EVERYTHING in history is Trump’s fault! Except the dinosaurs. George W. Bush killed them.

    • Amin says

      @ E. Olson

      Yes! Sometime all you need to say is that you are a bit of a tit. As per ususal, of course you didn’t read the article. You just post the exact same comment everywhere…

    • Nick Marcu says

      Excellent breef! also the matter of alternative reality offered it is a sad state of spiritual awareness.
      but not really new under the sun. it might feel like this is out of context, but the state of this cultural wandering is a form of blindness:
      New International Version
      They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
      New Living Translation
      Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.
      English Standard Version
      They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
      ISAIAH 44:18

  5. bumble bee says

    I find it perfectly sensible that those who are identifying as a gender need to compete within those gender matrices. There is no excuse for people who simply identify to be allowed to compete when they do not have the same physical, eg testosterone, requirements that define women athletes. The use of estrogen/progesterone to level out the playing field is a marvelous way to include those who while not biologically female, identify as such. If any athlete wanted to compete in any other designated group competition they need to conform to that group.

    Why would someone who is identifying as an alternate gender not want to compete equally with those in that group. I would think that if, as seen in this article, a person wants to compete in the female competitions, they would welcome being able to actually be defined through testing to be competing as a woman. Perhaps, co-ed groups need to be developed so that those who want to compete as they are can do as such. Usain Bolt can compete with any other willing participant, or is that somehow not fair?

    • The problem is puberty. Males who have trained/competed in male sports, and undergone the astounding changes that pubertal development brings, enjoy a huge advantage over women athletes — one that can never be walked back with a few doses of estrogen.

      • ga gamba says

        Fair point. But what about biological males whose puberties are blocked, don’t reap those physical developments, and fully complete their re-assignments? They’re still XY, yet don’t have the greater lean body mass, larger hearts, higher cardiac outputs, larger hemoglobin mass, larger VO2 max, greater glycogen utilization, and higher anaerobic capacity. Presently, there are few adults who commenced their transitions prior to puberty, but the number of children doing so is growing, and soon enough we’ll see them on, or hear them demanding access to, the fields of competition.

        • Polly styrene says

          Sometimes simple is better. The rules have worked for a long time and are accepted by all competitors and adjudicators and sporting regulatory bodies who have evolved to create parity within competition levels. The only people it doesn’t work for are the microscopic portion of society who are constructing gender identities, or who would like to take their male hormonal advantages into the realm of the female competitions where they have a performance advantage.

          I say the spoNo need to change anything, even if that microscopic portion of society is very active in social media.

        • Van Daniel says

          ga gamba, the problem is, no one under 18 (at the minimum) should be given those suppressing hormones. That’s guidance is in the new DSM. Individuals should be of sound mind and body when making those decisions, and adolescents aren’t, through no fault of their own. Their brains are not developed enough, their life experiences not long enough to be able to fully comprehend the totality of the undertaking. Therefore, no Y chromosomes in women’s sports.

      • FierceMild says

        Absolutely dead-on. Lowering T levels in a male who has passed through puberty will mot negate the advantages of physics, anatomy and physiology male people have as compared to females. Pretending otherwise is absurd.

    • Outraged says

      And who gets to define those “gender matrices” and on what basis? Why, you do, in order to maintain your cis privilege.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I’m enjoying your wonderful parody of the wankery of the woke.
        If your comments were real, I’d have to ask you, why should it matter if we maintain our so-called cis privilege? It’s obviously natural and usual for those who are not mentally ill to be privileged over those who are.
        What trans activists want is privilege of their own. They don’t deserve it. If they stopped whining and got in with life, we would see most of the trans people revert to their natural state. This trans phenomenon is mostly a way for narcissists to get attention and privilege themselves above the average person. “Look at me, says the trans, I’m really cool and brave, because I am different to you poor cis person. You must give me everything I want and pay constant attention to my needs, no matter how absurd my demands are”.
        No, we must ignore you as political animals and treat you compassionately as sick people.
        The rule should be simple if you were born with male sex organs and you still have those organs, you are a male for all purposes where sex differences count and a female where differences in gender count.

        • Outraged says

          This just shows your ableism and neurotypical privilege talking (not to mention heterosexist, as shown by your use of the term “wankery”). Since the dawn of time, the privileged (on whatever axis) have always claimed their privilege and the consequent oppression of the marginalized is just the natural and usual order of things, and the claim of the marginalized to equality and freedom from oppression is just them wanting undeserved privilege of their own, and their refusal to stop whining and get on with life. Together, naturally, with the arbitrary imposition of “rules” put in place to benefit the powerful and further oppress the marginalized.

          So, in short, check your privilege and stop cissplaining to the transgender how they should think and what they should do.

          • Peter from Oz says

            Ha ah ah. Your parody is getting better and better. You just keep piling on the cliches of the woke. Of course these cliches are just rhetorical bilge the lefty tossers use to justify their own privilege.
            Trans people have no right to tell anyone else how to think.

          • Barney Doran says

            Outraged If you are a parodist, you are absolutely brilliant. You should take that show on the road. At first, the lefties will think you are an SJW archangel and the righties will be cringing in horror. Then, as you get them all squarely on the hook, start playing with them until the lefties start having doubts and some of the righties start having hopes. But never let them off the hook. Keep em tangling. You could be another Andy Kaufman. Well, almost. If, however, you are not a parodist, I hope I never sit next to you on a plane on one of your talkative days. But then, maybe you’d have me fooled too, again.

        • Christin Hale says

          The author of this article makes a carefully reasoned argument without resorting to purposefully hateful diatribe? Do you also believe that all gay people are “sick”. Perhaps you think all gay or transgender folks should go to “conversion therapy” camps? You ought to check your very real hate at the door.

          • Peter from Oz says

            You should look up the proper use of the term “hate” and stop throwing around that word like a schoolchild who has been beaten in a schoolyard game.
            The noun is hatred, not hate.
            And just because one criticises a group of people for their bad ideas or wrong actions, does not mean that one hates them.
            Accusations of “hatred” by lefties are just another example of their ignorance of logic and their need to resort to emotion to get their grubby hands on power.

      • Polly styrene says

        WHo gets to define gender matrices? Sport adjudicators, those who have authority, knowledge and a love of sport and who wish to create a fair competition. By definition anyone taking male hormonal performance advantages into the realm of female competitions is a cheater.

    • D-Rex says

      ‘Why would someone who is identifying as an alternate gender not want to compete equally with those in that group.’
      That’s the question isn’t it? I think we all know the answer to it though, it’s just like any other form of cheating. I think the reality is that there are males who are psychologically competitive but not good enough in their chosen sport, so see ‘transitioning’ as a way to gain an advantage because in the end they just want to win. The ubiquity of drug cheats in elite sports is surely a testament to this. I find it cynical of Athletics South Africa to promote their case because it seems to be about supporting her just so they can win medals. In other words, organisation sponsored cheating.

  6. Lance says

    Beautifully written and thoughtful piece. In most minds, I suspect the name Caster Semenya will always be thought of with an asterisk next to it because she didn’t compete on a level playing field. I also think the IAAF didn’t go quite far enough with testosterone being the indicator. If one has XY chromosomes, she/he/? should compete with other XY chromosomes regardless of how one identifies.

    • peterschaeffer says

      Lance, you are mostly right. However, there are some rare conditions under which XY persons (note that I am deliberately avoiding male and female here) really should be treated as females. The best known condition is CAIS (Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome). CAIS affects 2 to 5 per 100,000 people who are genetically male.

      CAIS persons look totally female and their parents typically have no reason to suspect otherwise. Nor do they until later in life. They are infertile and have a higher risk for some tumors.

      You will find quite a few articles about CAIS online.

      • Just Me says

        People can be intersex in different ways, some that are not readily apparent.

        In those cases, the person appears to be of one gender, is treated as such, and identifies as such, so no problem until they try to reproduce and can’t.

        In other cases it isn’t clear, so there may be a discrepancy between how parents and doctors initially decide a child should be raised, how the child develops, and how the child eventually identifies.

        But this doesn’t mean gender is a continuum, or a construct, or non-existent, any more than the fact some people are born with birth defects and are missing digits, thumbs, arms, or legs, means humans are not bipedal with 2 hands with opposable thumbs.

  7. Ron Good says

    I found these statements…illuminating, especially since we are talking about an “international governing body for the sport of athletics” which I would hope would aim for non-partisan objectivity.

    “The goals of elite competitive sport are to…foster progressive social and political change,” and:

    “The IAAF regulates competition internationally…for the purpose of establishing the hierarchy of athletes in each specialty…[a]nd it parlays those competitions and champions…into political opportunities related to its progressive goals.”

    So, two things:

    1) Am I correct in my understanding that the IAAF is an explicitly partisan leftist political organization? It appears that is precisely what is written, and

    2) Is the use of “progressive” in this article just the commonplace but presumptuous self-congratulatory co-opting of the term by the left, or was it intended differently?

    • JWJ says

      Good comment. Apparently the IAAF is a partisan leftist political organization that is involved in sports.

      • Ron Good says

        “involved in” as in governing sports. They are not advisory–they make the rules. They are ” [THE] world governing body for the sport of track and field athletics.”

  8. West River says

    Great article and brave. I hope you don’t get mobbed or find your job in jeopardy.

    • Outraged says

      On the contrary, both these things should and will happen.

      • Stephanie says

        Good thing we can be sure Outraged is a nobody, whose angry emails won’t be read by anyone. Only losers are ideologically opposed to the concept of competition and excellence.

        Apologies to Outraged if this is a parody. Impossible to know these days, because leftists are already a parody of themselves.

        • Woke Ain't Left says

          These people aren’t the real “left”… trust me, the truly educated and credentialled left can still have a coherent conversation and disagree without hurt feelings. We don’t want these woke loons either. They’re neoliberal, navel-gazing narcissists who truly believe their feelings are the centre of the universe.

  9. Saw file says

    Not only was this ruling correct, it was also rational. It’s good that a major international sports organization has finally began applying the brakes to this problem. Hopefully national and regional sports governing bodies will soon follow this example.
    Sport competition is most fundamentally about fairness. Allowing men to compete against women in sports is not fair.
    The extremely rare mutation should not be a benchmark for broadly changing the entire system.

  10. Howard Ende says

    Bravo. Absolutely outstanding and correct. One of the biggest issues is that people who have never competed at the level you (and Caster) have think they have an idea as to how these things work. Recently some Connecticut HS Boys (for indoor track), competed as “girls” for outdoor and when questioned about fairness they responded “They just need to practice harder”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Thank you for this.

    • K.L. says

      @Howard Ende yes the author addressed the Connecticut HS situation in the piece

  11. ga gamba says

    There are exceptions, but it’s still true that, as a society, we commit to female sport because we have to, while we commit to men’s sport because we want to.

    Dagnabbit! Society letting the ladies down again. Is there some way we could force or legislate people to enjoy and support something they are not interested in?

    Is Ray’s Equitron 2000 an answer?

    Ironically, it is the participation of transwomen in women’s sport that has brought more attention to it than any genuine female athlete outside tennis and (possibly) golf. Perhaps this will put bottoms in arena seats and capture TV viewers’ eyeballs. Nevertheless, we cannot unsee the absurdity of women’s mainstream sport dependent for decades on men’s professional clubs for cash and non-cash subsidies and now relying on transwomen to generate the headlines to keep the money pit that is women’s sport relevant. So much for strong and independent, eh? Despite the legs up and mollycoddling, female athletes have the balls to compare themselves to their male counterparts when it comes to compensation. Your pay gap is due to the audience gap. You appeal to very, very few. Why? The talent gap.

    Maybe Ms Coleman should recognise that trans athletes offer female athletes the opportunity to divert our attention from the dismal bottom line. For that alone they should be grateful.

    Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.

    Bollocks. Semenya has a birth defect. That people such as Mr Moses contort themselves to deny truth is deemed a historical contribution is ridiculous. Moses ain’t leading you to the holy land with such fabrications.

    Anyway, without Semenya’s testosterone-fueled sprints to inspire them, how will the 46, XY children with DSDs find their positive representation and role models? One thing’s for sure, it won’t be Long Dong Silver for that. New and innovative ways to twist the minds and stack the decks must be found, and if anyone’s up to that task, it’s the progressives.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Ga Gamba

      Good point. It would be interesting to find out how many women closely follow women’s sport. Do most women give a toss? Aren’t women less competitive by nature?

      • Daz says


        I understand your point, but I don’t know many men who follow athletics either, unless it’s the Olympics, who’s watching?
        I don’t think the audience size is necessarily relevant to the point of this article, it’s the injustice and setbacks that women constantly suffer that I think is being articulated.
        It’s incredible how something we once perceived as simple, ie. Female and male, turns out to be not so simple after all.
        Personally I’ll be watching the world Tiddlywinks championship this month, the only known scientifically proven non sex or gender performance biased sport known to person.

          • Daz says

            Still being studied, bit definitely a contender

        • Peter from Oz says

          Cheers Daz

          ”It’s incredible how something we once perceived as simple, ie. Female and male, turns out to be not so simple after all.”

          One of mankind’s great abilities is to change nature to suit humans. Sometimes this is of great benefit. But in the case of sex and gender it is counter-productive.

      • Alice says

        No women are not less competitive by nature at all. Women , like men, compete to be the best and attract the best mates .

    • E. Olson says

      GG – good comment, and that line from the article also caught my attention. The fact is men are the major audience for sports and also the major participants as athletes, but also as coaches, referees, spotters, and others needed to make competitions happen. Title IX has created sports opportunities for women, but it hasn’t changed their generally lower level of interest in sports and competitions as participants, coaches, volunteers, or as spectators. These opportunities for women can come at the expense of men in “minor” sports which have been dropped by universities so that athletic opportunities for women can approximately equal their representation in the student body. This has to some degree created the death spiral in men’s enrollment as athletic scholarship or just a desire to continue competing in a sport they love are much more likely to be a driver in men’s desire and decision to enter college, and if their sport gets cancelled due to title IX they don’t enroll (which might not be a bad thing given the high cost and poor quality of higher education these days). This is a contributing factor in why we have 60% female populations in the undergraduate programs, and of course women dominate in university music and theater groups, but nobody cares about the lack of male participation in female dominated extracurricular activities.

      Given the “weaker” nature of female athletes, the more elite the competition the more likely the female winners and record breakers are going to be freaks of nature in terms of having closer to male levels of hormones that give them more of the physical characteristics of men. This can also be artificially created by giving “real” women cocktails of hormones and steroids as the East Germans famously did, but this has become more difficult with modern testing, which again put the premium on “natural” freaks of nature if you want to win. Once we get beyond the current novelty of trannies beating the girls to win athletic competitions and sharing the same showers, its is hard to see how they are good for women’s athletics. Men (the primary audience of sports) are not likely to be interested in watching fake women beat real women and setting records that no real woman is ever likely to break, because in the end it is still going to be a slower and less intense competition versus what elite men are able to do. Given the reaction of the author and other female athletes, I also suspect that fake women will only reduce real female participation and spectating of women’s sports, so beyond humoring mentally ill athletes who think they are women it is hard to see any benefit to allowing them to stomp on real women.

      • Nosh Itsherlock says

        So E. Olson thinks that Maria Sharapova and Mikaela Shiffrin are “freaks of nature”? Are you really as boorish and chauvinistic as you sound? Good lord.

        • Daz says

          and of course women dominate in university music and theater groups, but nobody cares about the lack of male participation in female dominated extracurricular activities.

          That one.

  12. the gardner says

    So, I declare myself trans-age. Although I am, say, 18 yrs old, I declare myself 40 yrs old and I must therefore compete against others in the 40 yr age bracket. There is an advantage for a younger person competing against an older one, you say? But I insist, I am not older. I’m trans-age, you evil agist!
    OK, just kidding, you can reclaim your sanity now.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @the gardner: I myself identify as trans-financial. I was born in the body of a poor person, but always felt that I should have been a rich person. I’ve had this feeling for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried everything: begging, scrounging, scouring mausoleums for rich dead relatives. Heck, I’ve even tried working for a living, but that’s just not the way I roll. I’ve honestly been dismayed by the lack of empathy from the trans-community. The Guardian, where comments are supposedly free even banned me when I mentioned this.

      I think I might open up my own Patreon site and see if I can garner donations from the cis-rich community. Maybe someone out there will recognize my special uniqueness and help a poor trans brother out.

      And for the record, my preferred pronoun is: Mr. Pirate Lord of the High Seas and Expert Treasure Hunter.

      • AMAZING! I feel exactly the same. Now I have a word for it. Trans-financial. Thank you!

      • augustine says

        Ingenious. So you are actually cis-financial but identify as trans-financial? Maybe you could trans-form the banking industry with that binary, and make a lot of money in the process.

    • Jan de Jong says

      Indeed. Like life, sports is necessarily unfair and “unfair” cannot be an argument.

  13. Lorne Carmichael says

    People get too worked up about fairness. The issue isn’t fairness. It is the survival of elite women’s sport.

    Like it or not, “Women” is a category. People will pay to see a competition to determine the fastest woman. They will not pay to see a competition among minor league players who can’t compete with the men.

    • Outraged says

      And we should care about “the survival of elite women’s sport” exactly why? If it can’t survive in the free market, it doesn’t deserve to exist, right conservatives? And even if all these governing decisions are dead “wrong” and allow trans women, what’s to prevent you from forming your own women’s sports leagues and outcompeting? Right conservatives? (Perhaps “structural barriers to entry” is in fact a little more than Leftist and Woke cant.)

      • Stephanie says

        There already are women’s sports leagues. If biological men want to compete as women, they are the ones who should make their own leagues. Wanting to appropriate what others build is actual leftist dogma.

      • John says

        I am a Right Winger. Please don’t lump us with these guys who want an exclusive sports for women.

  14. somewoman says

    Good article.

    I still don’t understand why all sports regulation organizations don’t simply ban anyone with a y chromosome from competing in female sports. It’s not that complicated. y != female.

    I was actually a little surprised by the exceptional lengths the mainstream media has taken in deceiving the general public about Semenya’s female identification. So many articles from CNN, NYT etc. all waxing on about how this regulation is an effort to police black women’s bodies or forcing female athletes to conform. Complete refusal to acknowledge that the athlete in question has testes and XY chromosomes.

  15. Alan says

    I find this quite hypocritical.

    On the one hand, we are told that any biological male “identifying” as a women should be allowed to compete with other women.

    But in Caster Semenya’s case – where she did not choose to be anything other than what she is, which is a woman who was born with extra internal male genitalia (I’m not 100% sure of the specifics). She is NOT allowed to compete?

    All the linguistic and pseudo intellectual gymnastics in the article, with irrelevant references to identity politics and victimhood, do not really address the core contradiction of the issue IMO.

    We all know that in certain sports, males have a large advantage over females. That is a fact. Allowing men to compete against women just because they “feel like it”, is plain stupid and unfair to the natural women athletes who would otherwise win or be competitive.

    Caster’s case is a difficult one IMO. She is a woman with a potentially unfair advantage, which she was born with. For all the people arguing that there is no difference between men and women other than “social constructs etc”, she clearly shows that argument to be false, because the difference in her performance is plain to see.

    But in her case, how is her advantage any different to someone born taller than the rest of us, for example? It’s a difficult question to answer.

    Personally I do not think this ruling properly addressed the real issue, and is hypocritical in terms of the latest moral fashion where it is considered a wonderful thing for a male MMA fighter, who identifies as a woman, to beat the snot out of other women, or a male weight lifter to compete against women.

    It’s all pretty stupid – no matter how many words you use to justify this insanity!

    • maria says

      @Alan: You are asking how is Caster’s advantage any different to someone born taller than the rest of us ?
      Did you even read that males have 10 to 30 times more testosterone than females ?
      Did you see any person being 10 to 30 times taller than the rest of us ?

      It’s only fair that Castor lowers her testosterone levels to a comparable female range in order to compete.
      Every sport category needs comparable metrics range and in running its testosterone. In other (e.g. mixed sexes) sport categories, it can be weight that matters, so you need to adhere to your weight class that you want to compete in (no matter the sex).

      • Lilly says

        So cripple yourself or don’t compete. That’s the stance here. Interesting. How about biathletes with extremely low heart rates? Do we demand they to take drugs to increase their heart rates to level the playing field? Michael Phelps has a genetic advantage of low lactic acid generation, which allows him to bounce back faster than his competitors. So do athletes similar to Phelps take drugs to inhibit that ability, to make it fair? It is rumoured that Wayne Gretzky had legendary peripheral vision. Should he have been slightly blinded in order to compete? Because that’s what is on the table here. If you have a genetic advantage, you shouldn’t be able to compete because it isn’t fair to the pack. Castor is intersex and that gives her a natural advantage. A natural advantage just like Phelps, Gretzky, and many more.

        • maria says

          @Lilly, as in Alan’s case, may I also draw your attention to the numbers here.
          You are not bringing examples to the table of genetic advantages which help athletes as much as is the case for Semenya.
          Genetic variation leads to a distribution of phenotypes, which can of course bring some health advantages for some sport or the other. The examples you mentioned are within the lower and higher boundaries of that distribution. Semenya’s genetics are extreme, out of the female distribution and into the male scale. None of your mentioned sportsmen had 10 – 30 times lower heart rate or better eyesight.
          Your alternative seems to be: let’s just get rid of all standards in sports all together and have everybody compete against each other. Good luck with that!

        • GeorgeQTyrebyter says

          Castor is a guy. He is XY. Let him compete against guys. Problem: He is mediocre as a guy. He does well against women, but all guys do.

    • somewoman says

      “But in Caster Semenya’s case – where she did not choose to be anything other than what she is, which is a woman who was born with extra internal male genitalia (I’m not 100% sure of the specifics). She is NOT allowed to compete?”

      I am sorry that you have been successfully brainwashed by the media. Caster Semenya didn’t choose to be born as Caster was born, but neither did any other man or woman. And Caster Semenya was not born a woman in any way shape or form. This person was born with an XY chromosomal makeup, testes and a lack of ovaries or a uterus. They call her “intersex” yet she appears to have no secondary sexual charactersitics of women.

      Semenya is a man and was always a man. Seemingly the entire establishment media skipped biology class and refuses to acknowledge the simple reality of what XY chromosomes mean. She was born with genital deformities and perhaps some level of prenatal androgen insensivity. But she was never a woman. She is a man with a significant birth defect.

    • gda53 says

      Well, the Greeks (inventors of the Olympiad) never envisaged this happening, that’s for sure.

      Hence the saying “The Greeks don’t want no freaks”./s

      Perhaps it would be wise not to throw away the entire edifice of women’s international sport competition to accommodate a very few sad individuals whose development in the womb (or elsewhere) went wrong.

      Big article in the National Post today which argues against this position BTW. This from a formerly “Conservative” news outlet.

      The mind boggles.

    • Says says

      Thank you. Loads of people missing the point here. Caster Semanya is a CIS WOMAN and she was born one.

      • GeorgeQTyrebyter says

        He’s XY. That makes him a guy. He’s fathered a child. He married a woman, as a man.

  16. Jean Levant says

    A very clear, precise, meticulous, convincing and complete essay on the topic. Kudos, Doriane.

  17. Sadie Slays says

    Nobody wants to watch biological men dominate women’s sports, but everyone is too afraid to say it.

    • MMS says

      Your right and I for one will say it.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Why are people so cowed by a nano-minority they’re “afraid” to state the obvious? Some things have been self-evident for all of human history.

      • Sadie Slays says

        Because that “nano-minority” has a lot of organized support who will censor, mass shame, and financially hurt all dissenters who dare say “that woman is a man.” To most people, this fight isn’t worth the risk of losing a job or other professional opportunities. It’s how the Left gets away with pushing unpopular, but “politically correct” ideas.

        • GeorgeQTyrebyter says

          Well, I’m retired, and so I can say whatever the hell I want to say. And I am starting to speak up on this issue.

  18. Matt says

    Setting an upper limit on testosterone is a clever solution. It doesn’t mess with gender identity. A transitioned woman can compete in women’s sports provided she doesn’t have excessive hormone levels. Objective and clear.

    And of course it’s not a completely new approach as already mentioned in the article. Anti-doping rules already acknowledge the potential for hormones to improve performance. In the past they looked for artificial doping. A biologically male athlete competing as a woman has the same effect even if her hormone levels are natural (for a male).

    I see this as a balancing of rights between biological women and trans or intersex women. Provided the hormonal playing field is even, then the competition is fair.

    • Peter from Oz says

      ”a balancing of rights between biological women and trans or intersex women”
      Interesting how one has to put these women into 3 classes. Accordingly, trans women and intersex women are not women. So why is it so hard to admit that they should not be able to compete against other women.
      What be much fairer would be a new category of sport: trans sport. The trans and the intersex people can then compete against each other. You could have drag races 🙂
      I wonder if there would be one trans category for trans men and trans women. Or would that be a field where the ”men” would actually be weaker than the ”women.”

  19. Aux says

    This standard is terrible. Men who train for decades with high T levels then transition to female, lowering levels to qualify, will dominate all women’s sports.

  20. Adelyn says

    Wonderful article, thank you for working to protect the rights of girls and women in a culture of shouting, threats and misinformation. Males should not be competing in women’s sports, however they ‘identify.’

  21. Cynical Old Biologist says

    The answer to all these problems is to return sport to the amateur activity it began as. Remove the financial incentive from “elite” sport and people will compete for enjoyment rather than glory/money. Sure, no more world records, but who cares?

  22. Lightning Rose says

    Has anyone ever stretched their brain so far as to wonder why there is so much money in “sport,” and such emphasis on atheletic “scholarships” to begin with? We’re not living in the world of “mens sana in corpore sano,” “playing fields of Eton” and Chariots of Fire anymore and haven’t been for a century. What we ARE living in is an age when athletes’ REAL value is their media draw–how many eyeballs they can fixate long enough for the advertisers to receive their value per minute paid! Which, of course, fills up the college’s monetary coffers. Can we be honest?

    In a world where a large percentage of the workforce does no muscular labor whatsoever, the value of “sport” is as spectacle. “‘Tis the image of war without its guilt, and five-and-twenty percent of the danger.” Literally. Today we cheer players crashing helmets together on the football field or groan as a gymnast breaks both her legs in lieu of bear-baiting, dog-or-cockfighting, or bare-knuckle back-alley boxing for bets. Same shit, different day, MUCH more money involved for gambling, platforms and advertising. The athletes are nothing more than a vehicle to the real, monetary end. The Olympics are now unwatchable there are so many ads.

    There is a complete disconnect between “scholarship” and athletics; the one really has nothing to do with the other. Perhaps we should question what the ability to chase a ball or sprint has to do with the mental skills that will enable one to be successful in college and beyond. Athletic prowess, after all, usually has a short shelf life. Vanishingly few make it to financially remunerative elite levels. Thousands incur debilitating injuries trying. What comes next for them? Hope they actually studied during their “college” career.

    As for the thrust of the article: “Cis privilege” isn’t going anywhere; most of us know biological normal from socially constructed nonsense. Some of you should hang around a barnyard long enough to learn something. 2 + 2 STILL isn’t 5. And .004% of the population with crossed wires won’t dictate how the rest of us comprehend self-evident biology.

  23. Pingback: A Victory for Female Athletes Everywhere | TrumpsMinutemen

  24. Gera says

    All of these words.. this incredibly long article.. to justify the very existence of women’s sports. The only reason why these sports appear to exist is mandated for ‘equal access’ for sporty women get scholarships and opportunities like sporty men, even though no one wants to watch their events.

    Taxpayer money via publicly funded universities (or otherwise) doesn’t need to go to any sport. As far as I’m concerned these are all privileged people who work in entertainment. While I go to the metaphorical salt mines every day they are arguing not about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but what sex they are.

    Social justice is a racket for people who create no value to collect a nice paycheck.

  25. The liberal fascist democrats have devolved to not being able to distinguish a boy from a girl………and the want to run the world?

  26. I’m amazed that nearly 60 years have passed since Kurt Vonnegut Jr. proposed an obvious solution to all the myriad problems generated by the fact that inequality pervades every aspect of life on Earth, in a brilliant short story, that we’re still squabbling over this subject.

    I nominate Robert Swan Mueller III for the position of United States Handicapper General.

  27. FishEagle says

    The outcome from all of this delusion about biology is that women are eventually going to have to boycott sport. Reasoning simply won’t work with social justice warriors. The question is whether women will do it in time to have any impact and whether they will still be able to negotiate their place in sport before they are all replaced by biological males. The clock is ticking.

  28. perpetuaofcarthage says

    Thank you, Doriane Coleman. Thank you for explaining this issue so well from the point of view of a woman of color with athletic ability and experience who is a legal scholar.

  29. Pingback: A Victory for Female Athletes Everywhere – Sirwebs Report

  30. This is an incredibly well written article: logical, lucid, informative and compassionate. I think the answer to this undeniably complex issue is threefold. Let biological women compete with biological women, let trans women (who went through puberty as males) compete with like trans women, and for the special category of athletes like Semenya (46 XY with DSD), allow them to compete as women if their T-level is lowered to the proscribed range.
    I don’t know if that will level the playing field sufficiently; maybe more research is needed.
    I feel for Ms Semanya and athletes like her, but I also completely understand the feelings of frustration and disillusionment suffered by the athletes who have to compete against pretty much insurmountable odds.

    • Stephanie says

      Charlie, I agree with much of what you’re saying, but it’s not clear to me that Semanya is closer to being female than male. Wouldn’t it make appropriate for someone who produced male levels of testosterone throughout puberty to compete with the men? Wouldn’t intersex people be better placed in their own category, with trans people, or with men?

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  32. Ms. Coleman – A bit off topic, but where do you stand on female tennis players being paid the same as male players despite doing less work and garnering a much smaller share of the viewing audience, i.e. the thing that produces the most revenue for tournaments?

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  34. Outraged says

    Very few of you are even identifying, let alone justifying, the fundamental premise upon which all this is based: namely, that cis women have a right and are entitled to their own sports leagues and events just for them, and that anything which impinges on this is ipso facto unfair, and the problem is how to deal with trans women, or how to define the term, such that this fundamental “fairness” is not impinged upon. Thus, you simply assume this, and praise the author to the skies for “lucid and informative logic” by simply arguing in a circle to what was simply assumed from the outset. The vast majority of people, I have found, alas, are either unable or unwilling to critically examine their assumptions

    • David Doyal says

      Outraged…..If you critically examine your own assumptions as you suggest others fail to do… will find that you have no foundation for arguing what should or should not be the case. You are taking a hypocritical stance. You have NO supportable foundation for your preferences regarding who should be allowed to compete in what category. Your preferences are no better than anyone elses. When you claim others have no foundations… should glance down and check-out what you are standing upon.

      • Outraged says

        This is in essence a classic tu quoque fallacy. It does nothing whatsoever to refute my claim that “separate leagues/events for cis women should exist” is an unsupported assumption. Even if my own assumptions were in fact unsupported, that doesn’t change the fact one iota that the OP and the posters supporting it are merely arguing by assertion and in a circle.

        But they are not. Your claim that they are is merely that, an unsupported, contradictable, and contradicted claim. Now, in general, I think sports in general (whether for men or women) are a huge waste of time and resources. If we’d spent half as much resources on more worthwhile things as we have on sports for the past three decades, we’d probably have cured cancer and colonized Mars by now. But given that they do exist, the supportable foundation for my preferences is that trans women should not be denied economic opportunities relative to cis women merely by virtue of being trans; and if they are, this is the very definition of discrimination and oppression.

        • Jim says

          Thank you, Outraged, for your participation in this discussion. I’ve found your comments to be thought-provoking. However, there are several aspects of your argument that still confuse me.

          You appear to be in favour of allowing trans women (however defined) to participate in women’s sports (and presumably trans males in male sports). How do you feel about the rights of people who don’t identify as male or female, and don’t wish to do so? Must they be forced to first self-identify as a woman or a man before they can participate in gendered sports events? Viewed through a critical lens, it seems to me that a significant inequity would still exist, since the male-female sports divisions would still exist. Would this inequity be important to you? If so, how would you resolve it?
          Alternatively, perhaps you are you proposing that we abolish gender divisions in sports altogether? Such a position might be more consistent with the critical perspective you’re espousing. Abolishing gender divisions would a concern for me. As a high school teacher, I have seen many girls embrace sports. I’ve seen our students develop habits of physical exercise and fitness that will serve them well as adults. They learn about the rewards of hard work and training and teamwork. These are all good things. If we abolished male-female sports divisions in high school, would we rob some of our girls of these learning opportunities?

          In essence, while I appreciate your concerns, I’m not sure what you’re proposing as realistic alternatives. Please say more about how you think things should be.

          • Outraged says


            Thanks for your comment and your intelligent questions.

            In the first place, I’d like to point out that gut, instinctual, emotive reactions to what is “fair” often turn out to be difficult, if not impossible, to justify on a rational level. In fact much research (in psychology, neuroimaging, etc.) suggests that what goes by the name of “fairness” is, in reality, often mere tribalism at work: simply a desire to punish deviants and threats to the social order while rewarding those who uphold it (or reward the in-group while sticking it to the out-group). And in fact, the human brain is not only expert at deceiving individuals about their true motives, but this happens at an organizational and institutional level also.

            And that is, of course, exactly what I am suggesting here: the existence of trans individuals is a threat to the conservative social order, and that is what all this is really about. (Lest you think I’m being partisan, liberals are no better on this.) I could easily come up with several hypothetical scenarios for which the conservative response would be quite different, yet the reality for most women athletes would be the same. For instance, in order to improve their efficacy as soldiers, the Armed Forces subjects female soldiers to an intense bout of hormonal treatments, including testosterone (similar to what the East Germans did in the bad old days). Then, when these soldiers return home from their tour of duty, some of them want to compete in athletic events. Guess what happens? This time, despite the fact they are putting up similar times in the 800m as Semenya, it’s liberals who complain about lack of fairness, while conservatives condemn their exclusion as discrimination against veterans. (“It’s not fair to exclude them when they have put their lives on the line for the country. Society owes them this chance, etc.”)

            That being said, my position is this: there is no “right” whatsoever for anyone, of whatever group he or she may be, to expect that societal resources be expended so that he or she may compete in organized athletics, which provide little or no societal benefit. The Olympics are an absolute scam and shake-down racket and should be sued out of existence, and several people put in prison, in my view (IOC corruption is well known). It’s inconscionable that gazillions of dollars should be shelled out by cities in order to host them (a cost which they do not come close to ever recouping, and venues which are just left to rot on the vine and serve no real purpose, such as Olympic Stadium in Montreal), or even for the chance to host them, with imported workers working on the venus in slave-labor conditions, while the homeless are just left to fend for themselves. Individual groups and organizations are free, of course, to organize their own events as they see fit. It’s up to them what conditions of contest they want to have, with the caveat that as private enterprises, they are of course subject to normal employment law, and cis vs. trans simply won’t cut it as a bona fide occupational qualification.

            So no, I don’t see it as an “inequity” at all, let alone one worth arguing about, if one must self identify as male or female, anymore than the baseline necessity of choosing in which category one wishes to compete. Because that’s all he or she is doing – only “self-identifying” insofar as choosing a category for competition.

            As for high school athletics, your argument is not cogent. Yes, some students derive some personal benefit from them. But other students who do not take part in athletics might derive some personal benefits from other extracurriculars, which would not cost the schools nearly as much resources, and provide much more benefits. Imagine if instead all the money shelled out for football stadiums, uniforms, transportation, etc., went for remedial after-hours math and science education for those who needed it. AND a trans individual has as much “right”, such as it exists, to engage in athletics as anyone else. Saying “oh he can just compete with the boys” just won’t cut it – the psychological situation must be taken into account just as much as the physical.

        • Woke Ain't Left says

          But they should at the expense of women, right? Who have been giving up their physical, emotional and psychological space to every man who decides he wants it for millennia.

          You know, with all the privileges women around the world currently enjoy, like lipstick and periods.

          That is the very definition of male entitlement and misogyny.

          I know you mean well, but blasting “transphobe” and “cis-privilege” at women who are very much not in a privileged position in most of the world, shows that you have to be no older than 20, no more educated than undergrad, and, whilst clearly meaning well, very much dying on the wrong hill.

          • Outraged says

            You obviously failed Intersectionality 101. And you think that being oppressed on one axis justifies continuing structures of oppression on others. That makes you a hypocrite, just like the author in the OP.

            Cis women are privileged relative to trans women on the cis/trans axis of oppression. They are not privileged relative to cis men. Just like white women are privileged relative to black women on the racial axis of oppression. Yes, this means cis and white women must be willing to part with their privileges, too, if their demand to dismantle the patriarchy be more than just mere opportunism, self-interest, and hypocrisy.

            Just like the conservatives, you attempt to end-run your way around this by pretending a trans woman is “really” a man with your claims of “male entitlement”. Which is a denial of reality, to pretend that a trans woman benefits from the patriarchal power structure in the same way that a cis man does.

    • Cynical Old Biologist says

      Outraged, I would be very interested to know what a trans person defines as a “woman”. What is it precisely that some trans people are so desperate to identify as?

  35. Eskay says

    you notice this isn’t an issue in men’s sports…that right there tells you something.

  36. Outraged says

    ETA: This is why conservatives will never win against the Woke. Whenever Woke ideology leads in an undesired direction, they appeal (at least implicitly) to a conservative principle, and conservatives (very foolishly) take the bait and bail the Woke out instead of forcing Woke ideology to its conclusion. Just like a parent who always tolerates his spoiled child’s antics and always pays the bills for them, and the child is never forced to face the consequences of his actions.

    • itsherlocknosh says

      @Outraged Your satire is spotless.

    • Woke Ain't Left says

      I’m on the left. The real left. Stop pretending you speak for the left, when you don’t.

      PS. Ideology is bad. Ideas good.

  37. Jim says

    Watching woman’s sports is enjoyable for what it is – competition amongst athletes in the same league. Fans of college football would be justly outraged if the rules allowed NFL players to play in college games – not even a great college team like Alabama would be able to compete under those circumstances. The effect would be to wreck college football.

    Lets not wreck woman’s sports by allowing jokers in the deck.

    • Mec B says

      Have you watched College sport? The divide between very athletic and average is spectacular. College level actually is a place to watch young people who excel at their sport outright demolish average people. I mean how else could you know that someone is better if they did not show you on the field.

      • IssacNewton says

        I was a competant High School athelite, but on the college level I was no-where near a college player’s skill and abilities (a crushing experience). Maybe the best way forward is to let all individuals compete (without drugs). Integrate the Male and Female sports and let the best person(s) win. This would also eliminate the need for Title IX.

  38. Raul Alessandri says

    This is stupid. Everybody knows that boys wear blue and girls wear pink. It is just a matter or looking at the color, and then you know everything that is to be known.

  39. Apparently those unhappy with this ruling were not good enough to win as males and thus decided to compete as females. Wow, the desire to win overrode everything else.

  40. JOHN REPETTI says

    separate but equal is never equal under the law

    • IssacNewton says

      There is freedom of association. Sports already use Age, Weight, Sex, Nationality, School Associations, etc. to limit competition. But the the very top levels all should compete with each other. If a Male wants to compete and beat the Female in sport X why not. They same for a Transgender or Inter-Sex individual.

  41. Mec B says

    Castor is a woman. End of story. She does not have to be sorry for her given benefits at a young age just as LeBron James has over 99% of men.
    Nor did Castor wake up from the couch and decided to start running today. She has put a lifetime of effort to be the most competitive at her sport. You can have a defect and not act upon it or decide to do something that the defect benefits towards. And guess what!? We all use our given benefits in life for our own advantage.
    And I get that it really sucks when others are plain better than you, but you may not realize that she is likely not smarter than the average bear. She may even have a hard time in so many other fields in life just like everyone else.
    But now we are denying this actual woman a place in sport because she does not describe to the “fairness” that must exist in sport. There is NO fairness is competition. You win or you loose.
    Let me put it another way. Is it fair that some are just way better at a sport than others? How about for IQ? How about for beauty?
    She has not asked to be Trans which this article has gleefully lumped in to get readers into a dizzy. She was given these benefits at birth.

    • peterschaeffer says

      Mec B, women are XX. Caster is XY. He has testes but no ovaries. He is a man.

  42. David Doyal says

    Outraged……please see my comment above…..

  43. peterschaeffer says

    This is a good article. However, the author only hints at (suggests) the obvious conclusion. Caster Semenya is a man (46-Xy) and should be competing with other men.

    For fun, take a look at what Zuby did over in the UK. He set the “women’s” dead-lift record for the UK (apparently on his first try). Check out the beard on this guy. Impressive.

    Caster Semenya was able to ‘compete’ in the 2016 Olympics by playing the race card. Apparently, that won’t work anymore.

    • Amin says

      How do you know she is a man? Semenya has been through vigorous examination for years. And she isn’t a man.

      • peterschaeffer says

        Amin, Caster Semenya is 46-XY (not XX). He has testes (internal) and no ovaries or uterus. His testosterone levels are in the male range.

        Pretty obviously a man with a DSD.

        • Gretchen Dulmage says

          Respectfully, Caster Semenya is a intersex person who was assigned female gender at birth. In my understanding, such gender assignments are predicated on a physician’s decision as to whether the infant is more female or more male (sorry for clumsy expression but I think you get my drift). So how do you know she does not have ovaries or a uterus?

          • peterschaeffer says

            GD, Caster is a genetic male (as in XY), but intersex is probably the single most accurate term to describe him/her. As for no ovaries and uterus, that question was reported on extensively back in 2009. See the following articles

            “Caster Semenya ‘is a hermaphrodite’, tests show” (UK Telegraph)
            “South African runner Semenya a hermaphrodite” (CBC)

            Note that I have seen conflicting report on Caster’s Testosterone levels (some as low as 5, some as high as 50). Note that 5 is still three times the high-end of the normal female range.

          • peterschaeffer says

            GD, As stated below, ‘intersex’ is probably a technically accurate for Caster Semenya. However, that level of subtlety has been lost on the other side of this debate. They have invariably described him/her as a ‘woman’ (not ‘intersex’) and conspicuously failed to mention his/her 46-XY status (along with his/her mostly male anatomy).

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  45. Rob Schmidt says

    Well written thank you for the background and data. It’s more of an outrage to Francine Niyonsaba that she is not awarded the gold medal for the 2016 Olympics and Melissa Bishop not awarded a bronze medal while setting a national record for Canada.

  46. Sean OConnor says

    Not much of a “victory”. The low testosterone + legal recognition still allows biological men to take advantage of 20 years of male muscle growth as well as their different – and for the purposes of most sports, better – musculoskeletal structure. This just means womens sports will take a decade or two to be completely dominated by biological men instead of a few years. It’s probably worse, as the necessary backlash will be weaker.

  47. David Crowe says

    Why is Caster Semenya not on the data visualization? Because it destroys the argument that testosterone makes her unbeatable. Caster’s best time in the 400m is 49.62s, behind the three women on the graph. And far, far behind the men. Clearly she is in the range of elite women runners, and nowhere near the range of men. In other words, Caster is a fast woman, and anatomy, not chromosomes should be used to define sex. Both XY women and XX men exist, with genitalia that define their sex. DNA is not the only influence on development as drug-induced birth defects such as caused by thalidomide clearly show.

    • peterschaeffer says

      DC, From another source

      “But All Three Women’s Olympic 800 Medallists From 2016 Are Believed To Be Intersex”

      Caster Semenya was just one of the men who medaled in the 800 in 2016. Apparently, all three of the ‘winners’ were actually men. Allowing men to compete against women is absurd. The fact that all three of the winners were really men is telling. Such a result can hardly be a coincidence.

      • While these runners may be XY, they were identified as female at birth. That’s what’s on their birth certificates. They do not have penises and were raised as girls by their families. They might be genetically male, but socially, they are women. A few decades ago, their intersex status would have probably never been discovered, not even by them. It may not be fair for them to compete with other women without suppressing their testosterone, but they shouldn’t be referred to as “men.”

    • … anatomy, not chromosomes should be used to define sex.

      Sex is defined by and phenotype. For karyotype, XY allosomes = male; XX allosomes = female. In at least 99% of humans, karyotype and phenotype correlate precisely. For the c. 1% of exceptions — known as ‘intersex’ or ‘Disorders of Sex Development’ — no single criterion suffices.

      You vaguely demand that “anatomy” be the sole criterion. Semenya’s anatomy displays both male and female characteristics. Rumor has it that Semenya possesses genitalia that are superficially female in appearance. In contrast, most of Semenya’s other physical traits are strongly masculine. Why should external genitalia — which have no effect on performance in sports* — and not muscle mass, muscle firing, bone structure, etc. — which do, and are closely correlated to sports performance — be the defining criterion?

      (With the possible exception of sitting the trot.)

      — A different Matt.

    • peterschaeffer says

      DC, I did some research into record times in the women’s 400 meter. I was immediately struck by the dominance of ‘competitors’ from the GDR and other Soviet block countries. That period was infamous for its doping scandals.

  48. Outraged says

    So far, we haven’t heard even one cogent argument as to why cis women’s sports/leagues should exist, except mere appeals to emotion (and cisgendered prejudice) as to how awful and “unfair” it would be if they were “dominated by biological men”. Meanwhile, we’ve heard plenty of reasons why they should not – waste of resources, “equal access” for things that are not beneficial in the long run, transgendered individuals shouldn’t be discriminated against and oppressed.

    • peterschaeffer says

      O, You are so right. We should not have women’s sports/leagues at all. How about just human sports/leagues. No issues of biology, sexual development, chromosomes, etc. Just one big, open to all, competition.

      That would be completely fair.

      • Stephanie says

        Until we abolish the women’s category, we should restrict it only to women. The justification for women’s divisions is indeed outlined in the article, and it is essentially because half the population wants to be able to play sports, too.

    • Woke Ain't Left says

      Yeah, that would actually require reading books written by women for about a hundred years. That’s so much harder than a Retweet.

  49. Islamaphooey says

    I’m sorry, she really didn’t have to convince me, so I’ll be honest and admit that I read about half of her piece. Common sense tells us all we need to know about this situation. But of course, common sense is out of fashion. My wife’s daughter transitioned a few years ago, and is still the same level headed conservative as before, and she thinks transitioned men competing with biological women is nuts, and bad manors besides.

    • peterschaeffer says

      I, it’s ‘manners’, not ‘manors’. However, I agree with you. No self-respecting trans woman would compete with biological females. Alas, self-respect is in short supply these days.

  50. hibbysam says

    Congratulations to Quilette for publishing this piece. As has been mentioned above, so many progressive publications – for want of a better of word – toed the line and completely failed to mention that Caster is XY, as if this was a minor detail.

    As for Outraged, is it perfect satire? Scarily, the fact that is impossible to tell speaks volumes.
    No doubt the author WILL be mobbed by SOME despicable trans activists – I hope she and her institution stay strong.

  51. the gardner says

    Can anyone tell me why jockies are tiny men? Why are there no? few? women jockies? Seems like a sport women ought to move into, take it away from men. And not even have to claim some gender victimhood status.

    • Larry Larkin says

      There are increasing numbers of female jockeys here in Australia, both full professional and apprentice. They make up about 30% of the riding numbers.

      However, they also make up about 75% of the fatal or career ending fall numbers.

      In some cases this is because they don’t have the upper body strength to hand on and so become dislodged more easily, and when they do hit the ground they aren’t as resilient.

      There is an old Australian horseman’s saying that men fall like boiled eggs and women fall like raw eggs.

  52. No one cares about female athletics anyway. Ask anyone who the fastest man in the world is and they will say Usain Bolt. Ask them who is the fastest woman over the same distance… tumbleweeds. No one either knows nor cares.

    • Amin says

      That is because Flo-Jo is heavily suspected of being a drugs cheat.

      • Larry Larkin says

        And even then there are tens of thousands of men who have run faster, myself included, and I did it 10 years before the Seoul Olympics, on a grass track.

        In fact, with the exception of the hurdles races, I still have better times from the late ’70s/early ’80s over all distances up to 5,000m than the womens world records, and better long and triple jump distances.

        And I was a field hockey and tennis player.

    • somewoman says

      Do people actually care more about male track and field athletes than female? Usain bolt is only famous because he is a record holder and because he is so dominant.

      Otherwise, who knows the best male pole vaulter or hurdler or 800M runner?

      When female athletes are very dominant in their sport, they get known too. Ronda Rousey, Serena williams, flo jo etc. are all well known.

  53. John Smith says

    Caster is being treated consistently with other Y-chromosomed persons (transgendered individuals). CAS is very careful to use the new euphemism “difference in sexual development, DSD” instead of referring to these individuals as biological males or genetic males. Very respectful to gender identity, but prone to media mischaracterization of the situation.

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  55. DWP says

    What if a woman has more androgen receptors than others? What if her androgen receptors are more sensitive? What if she is capable of producing high levels of testosterone but her cells have a diminished capacity to detect it? What if a male identified individual still fits the categories presented by the author? If we are to believe the authors view, it would be unfair to leave these avenues unexamined and they are absolutely not limited to Disorders of sex development or the trans community. There is every possibility that an athlete like the author might find their body benefits more from testosterone than the ‘average’ female in the future. What will she do then? Return her scholarships and trophies?

    I have to agree with Outrage, privilege has allowed this lawyer to see their biased opinions of biology as somehow supported by a deep understanding of the actual underlying processes.

    • somewoman says

      The CAS decision on testosterone levels only applies to athletes competing in the women’s division who have Y chromosomes. Women with XX can have any natural testosterone level, even if it is freakishly high for some reason.

      A high testosterone level compared to normal ranges is a red flag for doping anyways for either sex.

  56. mitchellporter says

    The New York Times just ran an op-ed called “The Myth of Testosterone”, dedicated to debunking the propositions that testosterone has any privileged association with maleness or that it is a key to enhancing sport performance. The authors appear to be two feminist scholars. The reader comments are extremely negative – the top-rated comment (as rated by the readers, not by the Times editorial staff, who have quite different preferences) describes the editorial as “un-scientific”, the second top-rated comment describes its presentation as disingenuous, in that the authors are introduced as Dr X and Dr Y, which might lead one to suppose (given the topic) that they are doctors of medicine, but in fact “one is an anthropologist and one is a gender studies professor”. One thing I have learned, from reading criticism of the op-ed, is that testosterone is a biological marker of sex difference almost as straightforward as sex chromosomes. XX is clearly different from XY, and men simply have far greater quantities of testosterone in their system.

    At this point we are faced with a familiar kind of enigma. Why would two women make such an effort to argue for a position which not only requires lawyerly contortions in order to avoid the plain facts, but which ends up disadvantaging many women, insofar as it ends up being used to excuse trans participation in women’s sports? A similar question could be asked as to why the Times has given them a platform to promote their forthcoming book on this topic, but I will put that aside… I have considered a few explanations. One is that they do it out of sympathy for trans and intersex individuals who want to participate in women’s sport. Another (which seems outlandish but I don’t totally discount it) is that they are trying to cover for a few female champions who in reality took testosterone.

    But the explanation I favor, is that they are ideologically apriori committed to the idea that sex differences are culturally constructed, and that this makes it necessary to debunk anything which would instead imply that some of those differences are biologically determined. In other words, they are tilting at the windmill of “testosterone ideology” precisely because it is such a clear case. The facts here are especially dangerous to their ideology, and so, like a red flag to a bull, that automatically makes it a high-priority target for debunking, deconstruction, and obfuscation.

    • peterschaeffer says

      MP, you are entirely correct.

      “But the explanation I favor, is that they are ideologically apriori committed to the idea that sex differences are culturally constructed”

      Allowing transsexuals and intersex people into women’s sports will have highly negative consequences (for women’s sports). The public will be alienated and stop watching. Sponsors will loose interest (except for the very PC).

      It will be a huge setback for women’s sports. A few women get this (the author obviously). However, the ideologically blinkered don’t get it at all. They are quite willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  57. AlabamaKid says

    I am going to make an assumption that women make up a somewhat higher proportion of what is commonly known as ‘the left’ than men. And that ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ genetically ‘XX’ women of any race represent 99% of these women. Thus a broadside attack, also from ‘the left’ on the big majority of women as cis-gender privileged is going to have interesting effects. Ironic that the Title IX edifice is threatened by boys who think they are girls, or perhaps more in line with today’s thinking, girls trapped in boys bodies. Giving a monetary incentive via scholarships and other things, is going to bring out trans-women in droves, and women’s sports will become trans-women sports.

  58. Flic says

    I read this whole article as a supporter of semenya and critically considered the author’s points. I don’t know that there is, in fact, an outcome that is fair to both semenya and her competitors, and I don’t envy the people trying to walk that tightrope.

    However, the author’s beliefs and intentions are exposed by continually using terms including “male bodied athletes” and “46,XY males” when referring to semenya, while also defining her as intersex.

    Regardless of the argument, referring to her as male when she clearly identifies as female and is biologically intersex (Not male) is just offensive. I’m not arguing she doesn’t have “male levels” of T but if the author’s language was slightly less politicised I think it would be less inciteful to semenya’s supporters.

    I also think the commenters quoting the identity politics of people demanding to be treated as female based on identity alone are being disingenuous- semenya does not fall into that category so it’s a total red herring and a different conversation.

  59. Flic says

    Also, the argument that men will “turn trans” to win sports is pretty extreme. Admittedly, genuinely trans athletes who wish to compete pose complexity, but I find it incredible that anyone would believe an otherwise cis male would decide to go through the process of transitioning genders (required to legally change gender) purely to win at women’s sport. Trans people are the most persecuted minority group on the planet….

    • Stephanie says

      Flic, why wouldn’t it be fair for Semenya to compete with the men? Being intersex with tested, no ovaries, and testosterone at male levels means it would be more appropriate than competing against women.

      The author of this article was much more delicate than she needed to be about Semenya. Semenya’s own personal feeling about gender are not relevant to the physical advantages Semenya possesses over women.

      Trans people are not the most persecuted minority on the planet. They are accorded undue privileges in the West, and seen as perferable to gays in the Muslim world. Surely you’ve heard of gay men forcably transitioned to women by the Iranian government?

    • Stephanie says

      Oh, Flic, men can also be extremely competitive, even if they are not talented. I have no doubt some men who cannot successfully compete against men will choose to compete against women if the option is available. Particularly since no real transitioning is necessary.

      Same as the bathroom issue: if men know they can go into women’s washrooms unquestioned, predators will take advantage. It’s simply what people do.

    • Woke Ain't Left says

      I dunno, people will do some pretty crazy things in the pursuit of money and fame.

  60. IssacNewton says

    Fun stuff. I am fairly libertarian. Just let them all compete as indviduals. You run one mile and the one who runs the fastest wins or you have a boxing competition the better boxer wins. All Combat roles in the US military are now open open to females. If they can pass the standards and are the best more power to them. Although, a few service branches to sex-norm their standards (bad for combat performance).

    That said, we still have freedom of association. If certain groups want to limit membership to certain Age, Sex, Race, Weight and/or Genetic categories that is fine too. People who think these limitations are horrible do not have to participate. Perhaps the courts could force the best female one mile runner in a given year to compete once a year against any males. That way the best get to compete and they could leave demonstrate their relative runnig speed. You might do this at every-level of competition if there was an interest.

  61. Nicolaas Stempels says

    It is not fair to ‘intersexuals’ not to let them compete against biological women. but is not fair to have biological women compete against ‘intersexuals’ either (let alone males that ‘identify’ as female).
    Now let us look at the numbers: biological women constitute close to 50% of the population, ‘intersexuals’ less than 1%.
    I’d say that the ‘right’ of biological women to have a fair competition against other biological women should outweigh the ‘right’ of a very small minority.
    The IAAF was very generous with allowing up to 5 nmol/L, well above the normal female range (more than 3 times). I think there is no ‘win win’ possibility here, but the IAAF’s ‘compromise’ is profoundly reasonable, albeit too generous immo.

  62. Peter says

    When I watched the 800 m run in the Olympics, I was really puzzled. The winner looked like a man (albeit with long hair), walked and talked like a man. So were the other two medalists. Even the controversial heavyweight Soviet athletes Tamara and Irina Press in early 1960s looked more womanly.

    Any sane society will in a conflict like this use the minimum damage principle. Letting males with a certain defect or transwomen compete with girls will hurt tens of thousands, maybe millions of women athletes. Excluding them will hurt a much much lower number of special and trans individuals. That is what they did in 1966 and the Press sisters stopped competing.

    But, but, but wait: leftist understanding of human rights rejects that. It puts rights of certain minorities before those of majorities, no matter what the cost. The emphasis is on »certain«. I will elaborate on that later.

    Supporting Semenya is an opportunity to present yourself as the avant-garde, the enlightened, follower of the Party Line, and smear, intimidate and eliminate the opposition — exactly as the Holy Inquisition worked. The Left is always disciplined and united.

    The Right is fractured, infiltrated by the leftists, corrupted by corporate funding and special interests. Just see the droves of Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Power lobbyists in the comment section of Quillette. They often make very good observation on social justice issues, but lose all credibility when discussing science.

    Now back to minorities.
    According to progressive media and social science madrassas, not all minorities deserve preferential treatment. It does not apply to Christian minorities. BBC interviewed a Pakistani bishop, who fled to Britain because of threats to his life. The BBC man was repeatedly asking the bishop if he did not feel bad about deserting his flock, suggesting he should go back. The journalist was not even trying to hide his hatred toward the bishop. A female NPR reporter did exactly the same to a minister who fled Zimbabwe. So Christian ministers who really fear for their lives should go back and become martyrs, while the same media show infinite compassion to economic migrants from the same countries.

    As soon as the left gets power in a certain area, they start destroying the old order, intimidating, terrorizing and subjugating people. The scary thing is: they have practically nothing positive to offer.

  63. Rosalind Arden says

    Not so much about this article, but a comment on the suggestion, offered to Caster Semenya, that she take Testosterone-reducing drugs. Given 1) most drugs have unintended consequences 2) the preposterousness of asking an otherwise healthy person to take drugs, and 3) the fact that biology almost always turns out to be more complicated than earlier supposed., Is a handicap system, as they have in golf where each competitor plays against the course, worth considering?

  64. Ashley says

    Let’s clarify something: I’m a black gay South African. But I’m also a thinker (B/S professor PhD ’04). I’m grateful for Quilleyte publishing this article because the debate so far has been dominated by rhetoric rather than reason. In SA, for instance, the government, with the help of the media, have run what I can only call a “propaganda” campaign (I grew up under Apartheid so I can smell state sponsored propaganda). First it was racism, then the feminist gender studies professors got on board to present a reductionist argument, now appeal is being made to suggest that medication suggested will harm Caster, with a group of MDs offering their opinion (for what its worth). I hope this article gets shared and discussed more widely, so that informed rather than emotional positions can prevail.

  65. Barney Doran says

    Then there is always handicapping.

  66. C. Field says

    Excellent article all in all, though it is my understanding that Castor Semenya is a biological male (XY)who was born with no uterus, no ovaries, and undescended testes and indeterminate external genitalia. Had Castor been born in a first-world country, medical interventions would have most likely been performed to descend the testes.
    A more in depth article on Semenya and the obfuscation of the MSM.

    • Just Me says

      C.Field –

      Yes, it is disturbing how much of the reporting avoids mentioning this key information.

  67. Jason W. says

    Best article I read in a long time.

  68. MJinNC says

    Some have raised the question of why we have female sports anyway. Sex is a convenient way numerically to divide the population in half, with each half sharing many common characteristics and each half differing from the other in statistically significant ways. Sex is readily identifiable and ingrained in all human societies. Humanity values physical health and development, and sports is a system to both develop and showcase athletic skill. As women have improved their status to near equality with men, they have demanded and received access to sports. We have decided that it is wrong to deny half of the population, the female half, access to sports. We could decide that it is wrong to deny sports to other classifications of humans such as little people, trans people, disabled people (we have- the Paraolympics), or mentally handicapped (we have – the Special Olympics). If there is enough interest in the trans community, perhaps they should develop their own leagues and competition. I, for one, am looking forward to the drag races.

  69. Peter says

    Excellent and very thoughtful article. Probably the best article I read on Quillette. Congratulations.

  70. Pingback: Skills gap 2 – The Other Club

  71. scribblerg says

    I couldn’t read the entire article. Two quick points. First, the intersex example presented isn’t the reason for the current debacle. Intersex conditions are incredibly rare and are not the vast majority of “trans people”.

    Second, I note the author enjoyed the govt privileges Title IX gave her and many women in sports in the university in the U.S. Despite lack of popularity and much lower participation by women themselves, colleges were forced to subsidize female sporting teams and programs, including many scholarships.

    It’s so sick. Oftentimes even middling female athletes were given prestigious scholarships and immense monies were spent by colleges to support these mandated programs. Many schools had to cut spending from other popular and more relevant sports programs to accomplish this.

    This is on top of all the overt privileges granted to women in our educational environment over the years. This author – who I’m sure is nice and well intentioned – greedily took advantage of privileges granter women, and knew she was doing so.

    Is this what “equality of the sexes” looks like?

    • Joseph Kenny says

      Intersex conditions are not “incredibly rare.” I have seen them at least a dozen times in a 30 year medical career. Back when all female athletes were karyotyped (“sex testing”) we found so many that we quit the testing.

      • augustine says

        What was the rationale for abandoning karyotyping, and for adopting it in the first place? How could such a criterion become irrelevant?

      • Just Me says

        Joseph Kenny-

        A dozen times in a 30-year medical career IS rare by most standards, if maybe not “incredibly” rare. Just how rare must something be for you to consider it so?

        Maybe most are not obvious and are only detected through testing, and most people with the condition identify as that which they most look like outwardly, so no one is the wiser.

        The problem only arises when someone, like Caster, identifies with the gender which does not correspond best to their physical traits.

  72. Mader Alois says

    Great comment. A fair decision of CAS for all not intersex woman. These women such as Semenya, Wambui and .. should make a special category. Other wise you may give them gold medal for all next big competitions right now. This biologocial advantage no normal women can compensate by training so congratulations to CAS and your great articel

  73. Ah BenG says

    Sports is in effect a celebrated discrimination. Winner takes all to the best thrower, or fastest runner, or fastest person to react. To start setting boundaries on this discrimination is to invite debate on where these boundaries lie and how overreaching they’ll be. Some sporting associations (NBA) do not set such boundaries, and thus allows anybody to participate, so long as they are good.

    I say this was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen ever since the male/female division and boundary was made. Now that some people have “discovered” (or concocted, whichever you believe) that gender and sex is a spectrum, it now throws this boundary into question.

    This argument of intersex female participating in female sports is no different than that of blacks are better track athletes than whites or asians, or that polynesians are suitably built for rugby. Should we also start setting boundaries in terms of race? After all, some already doing so with SAT scores for admissions purposes. Hell in the canine world, Collies have their own groupings because they’ll outcompete every breed in existence.

    Everything is a competition. There will be winners, and there will be losers. Time to figure out what are you good at and get on with life.

    • Just Me says

      Ah BenG-

      “This argument of intersex female participating in female sports is no different than that of blacks are better track athletes than whites or asians, or that polynesians are suitably built for rugby.”

      It is totally different. Intersex means in between the sexes, someone who does not fit into either category, physically, because they have characteristics of both. Psychologically they may identify more with one gender than the other, but that is irrelevant to sport.

      The question is whether they should be allowed to compete according to their psychological identification, or their physical reality. Allowing someone who identifies as female but actually has the physical characteristics of a male, is unfair to the actual women.

      Might as well abolish the male and female categories and make women and men compete together, which means the end of many women’s sports.

      The idea that sex is a “spectrum” is misleading. Rather it is bimodal, with a small number of people in the middle feeling more comfortable identifying as the other gender, and a small number at the extremes.

      • Ah BenG says

        Just Me,

        “It is totally different. Intersex means in BETWEEN the sexes, someone who does not fit into either category, physically, because they have characteristics of both. Psychologically they may identify more with one gender than the other, but that is irrelevant to sport.”


        “The idea that sex is a “spectrum” is misleading. Rather it is bimodal, with a small number of people in the middle feeling more comfortable identifying as the other gender, and a small number at the extremes.”

        Clearly you have some logical inconsistencies to deal with here. If you want to argue bimodal, then one should be able to accurately and completely define what constitutes as male, and what constitutes as female. Allow me to help you here, if we are to use chromosomes as the basis of sex, where as long as you have a Y (normal XY males and Klinefelters males), you are male. X (Turners), XX, XXX,… will be female. This would be a bimodal distribution. You may change your gonads, but you will definitely not change your DNA.

        What the CAS and IAAF did instead was something else entirely, where they used testosterone levels to define sex. If we are to use that as the definition of sex, then yes I will argue that sex is a spectrum because you can lie anywhere on that number line. It is a futile exercise altogether because you will have those who will be in the middle of that spectrum and they will not fit in any category set by the CAS/IAAF. And when that happens, questions on how these boundaries are set will arise (as shown here). In addition, to use any physical traits as a tool to separate male and female would result in the same argument and problem here.

        The CAS and IAAF should have just set chromosonal tests as the ultimate marker in gender identification and categorisation, at least at a time before people are able to manipulate their chromosomes at will.

        “Might as well abolish the male and female categories and make women and men compete together, which means the end of many women’s sports.”

        If you ask me, I would let economics take the wheel. A lot of women sports will die just because there isn’t a demand for them simple as that. Funny cause intersex participants will surely cause its demise faster.

  74. Maartin says

    Nicely written piece. While the arguments are well articulated, I unfortunately do not see the scientific evidence in support of the arguments. A recent opinion piece in the NY Times refers to scientific evidence (see below) and the scientific evidence does not support the argument that “higher testosterone = better performance”. How or why sports governing bodies such as the IAAF ignores the science, is beyond me.

    I have inserted the link here for those who might be interested.

  75. Frans Rutten says

    Answer within a second the question why one would send a 17 year old girl of a rural african village to a far-off Bydgoszcz (Poland), just competing as an also ran? That question that I posed myself in 2008 led to an answer just 13 months later during the World Athletics 2009 Championships 800m Final in Berlin, where Caster Semenya outsprinted the lot in a fashion never seen in athletics before. DSD runner Pamelo Jelimo crashed in the semifinals and had to take place on a stretcher, because she already was injured before the start, but was “forced” to start anyway. Pamelo Jelimo, in case you don’t know, was the world athletics star of the year before with 1:54.01, a time Caster Semenya, for the obvious reasons (according to many insiders) never achieved. Normally we would thus have had a 2/3 DSD 800m podium as opposed to a total podium in Rio Olympics 2016. Pamelo Jelimo again “crashed” in 2011 during the Prefontaine Classic as she underway to another stellar performance ran completely out of gas and finished last in 2:09. Rumoured was she had undergone secretly medical procedures. In 2014 she vanished from the athletic scene. At 800m the best girls are globally approx. 2% slower than boys, but soon after the onset of puberty this changes dramatically and from 18 years on the difference plateaus and remains in the regular 12% range. No woman, outside DSD athletes or doping-induced athletes ever outperformed the age-13 world best performance of a boy (1:56.41), let alone that of an age-14 world best performance of a boy with 1:51.23. What more prove would you need, that Testosterone (and it’s changing consequences) is an extraordinary marker of how different men and women are from a sports view that is, are defined. To get away from the distraction of T-levels, for a moment. From 1500m on the young boys all of a sudden start to lose virtually against the world’s best women of the likes of Dibaba, Ayana, Hassan et cetera and the age where boys meet the equivalent in performance rises to 16 and even higher as distance grows. Anaerobic enlarged capacity has been the sportive weapon Caster Semenya used throughout her career, except for the last time last Friday at Doha, where she apart from the hare run all the race by herself. Thousands of athletes out of Africa run in our day and time thorughout the world primarily for a living and that’s their right to do so, no matter how most likely their dominance is not only based on natural ability but also on fraud (doping). But to me it seems that some managers and trainers also have seen (giving the tampering of this atletics event with Jarmila Kratochvilá, who’s world record stands as the oldest in women athletics and celebrating it’s 36th anniversary this summer and many others, of which also the one, who actually has trained Caster Semenya) the revenue model in young female 800m runners, because in just a few years four DSD runners prominent emerged within one or two years with great success in reaching world level. It also seems that the characteristics for performing at your best at the 800m are quite unique, because the same procedure wouldn’t yield als nearly as much success in other events. And another thing: the performances itself seem to me, with respect to their starting point, quite mediocre. But these performances are still enough to dominance. Mary Decker, the fallen angel of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, ran as a 14-year-old the 800m in 2:02.43, although not her best event. World level is for those who are really the best. I’m from the Netherlands and I tried viewing this issue from a pure statiistical and physiological point of view rather than writing of guilty by association or guilty by appearance.

  76. Jim says

    Why do you want to make it so hard, when there are objective methods that require no “interpretation” or adjustment of hormone levels or concerns about how long the young man – ahem, woman – was exposed to testosterone?

    How about we use the criteria I learned oh-so-many years ago in medical school? If you have an XX genotype, you are a woman. If XY, you are a man. If you have certain – fortunately extremely rare -“intersex” genotypes, like XXY, XO, XYY, each case is handled individually.

    Somebody tell me why we’ve gone so far afield with this nonsense.

    • somewoman says

      I think it’s even simpler than that. If you have any portion of a y chromosome, you aren’t female. You can be XXY or XY with a y chromosome with significant deletions on it or XY with androgen insensitivity and in all cases, not female.

      Agree with you that this isn’t hard at all. These is very clear cut and ideologues just want to pretend it is complicated so they can lie to themselves and say that both sex and gender are on a complex spectrum rather than a binary system.

    • Roger says

      1) Because the advantages are not know
      2) Because its a social issue with important implications and not just an athletic one

      • Jim says

        Justice Brandeis famously said that, “Stare decisis is usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right… ”

        We can go ’round and ’round, with our bowels in an uproar, talking about “social issues” and their implications, or we can just settle it. Genotyping settles it, and we can then go on to deal with issues that do not involve a vanishingly small minoritie’s disruption of standards that involve exactly half the people on the planet.

    • Well, a woman with CAIS would be XY but would not have the same advantages Semenya has. CAIS women can’t process androgens at all, so they are extremely feminine. They have no body hair, for example, and they often don’t discover their condition until they hit puberty and don’t menstruate. So a woman with CAIS who wanted to compete with other women would not have any particular advantage. That’s why the IAAF’s rules make sense. It’s not just about the chromosomes. It’s about the condition and whether or not it puts you at an advantage to other women.

      • somewoman says

        There is no reason to complicate reasonable standards to allow people with this kind of rare disorder. “Women” with CAIS are not women. They are men with a significant developmental disorder and they do not belong in women’s sports even if they have no advantage compared to XX women. Why shouldn’t they be allowed? Because they are not female.

        • As Ms. Coleman makes clear, the reason women need their own protected category is not just because their chromosomes are XX. Women participate in a separate category because of the effects of testosterone and male puberty that put them at a disadvantage. CAIS women do not undergo male puberty. They do not have testosterone. If not for the medical advances of the past few decades, most of them would live their lives never realizing that they were genetically male. That’s why it makes no sense to call them “men.” A woman who is identified as female at birth by her parents and doctors, who is raised and socialized as a woman, who has unambiguous external female genitalia and secondary sex characteristics, and who doesn’t learn she is XY until she is a teenager or older is not a “man” in the social, cultural, or linguistic sense. I think the IAAF’s rules are more rational than yours regarding this issue.

  77. Bob says

    The hearth of the problem is that female sport makes no sense, because less feminine women have an advantage over more feminine women: there is a continuum, and who wins is determined by where the arbitrary threshold is put. Should we allow trans to compete among women? XY disorders? CAH? Lesbians? Feminists?

    • somewoman says

      Where is there any evidence that less “feminine” XX women have some advantage against other XX women?

      Rather than testosterone, height, build and race determine a large portion of success in sports and different sports require different builds. It doesn’t help to be tall or big framed in gymnastics or figure skating. In fact, it’s better to be small. It doesn’t help to be black in middle distance running, but it does at short distances.

      XX women with high testosterone tend to be women with various disorders and the negative health outcomes that accompany these disorders make them worse athletes, not better ones. Within gender, the correlation of testosterone and success depends on the sport and isn’t present for a lot of sports.

  78. Robert Wagoner says

    As a young athlete in the 1970’s, Ms. Lambelet-Coleman was one of my heroes. After reading this brilliant article, as a former attorney and law professor myself, she continues to impress and inspire.

  79. ralph says

    All competition at the elite level is “unfair”, because the basis of elite performance is largely inherited. The only way to resolve the problem, including the one dealt with here, is to introduce handicaps in all sports, so the winner is not the absolute best, but the “most improved”.

    • Somewoman says

      Jesus h Christ. How are people not getting it? This isn’t some advantage which occurs in the natural range of female abilities. Caster semenya isn’t a female. She has xy chromosomes and testes.

      Non females can’t play in women’s sports. Every single man is banned regardless of what natural abilities they might have. That’s what women’s sports means.

      You can’t fight as a flyweight if you’re in the heavy weight range. You don’t get to argue that your 210 lb body is just a special talent of flyweights.

      This has nothing to do with introducing any handicaps to women playing in women’s sports who are xx females.

  80. GRPalmer says

    How about using the tried and true vagina / ovaries / penis / testicles test to determine gender?

    Have sports divide athletes into groups of consisting of those who have an identifiable set of what ever genitals competing against others with a like set of genitals.

    Again just how many non standard gender athletes are there competing in high level sports?

    The alternative is to shut down gender based sports and have open to all, winner (men) takes all.

    • “Again just how many non-standard gender athletes are there competing in high-level sports?”

      Quite a few, apparently. Only a tiny percentage of human beings make it to the Olympics and similarly elite competitions, so it makes sense that that tiny group would attract a rare group of people with physical advantages. I think increased interest has brought scrutiny. We’ve also learned more about intersex conditions in the past few years, so we know what to look for. Forty years ago, Caster Semenya would have probably never realized she was genetically male. She would have most likely lived her life thinking she was an infertile, masculine woman. I imagine that if we looked at history, a lot of the “butch” women who achieved in sports might have had similar intersex conditions that gave them advantages.

  81. Jessie says

    Caster Semenya doesn’t have T levels in the “normal male range” as this author repeatedly implies. Her T levels were lower than the 7.5 nmol/L regulation that the IAAF had in place until this new ruling in 2018. Which is why she has been able to compete for the past decade. If normal male levels 10 – 35 nmol/L, then how in the hell could it be claimed that her levels are anywhere near the “normal male range”. If Semenya wanted to compete with the men, could she then be allowed to dope her T levels up to 20+ nmol/L in order to be in the “normal male range” to be able to compete with the male athletes? Or would the IAAF consider that “doping” and disqualify her anyway?

  82. JamesNick says

    This is truly a complicated issue. For example, the article mentions the significance of the displacement of female athletes by the transgendered athletes, but one must also consider the “displacement,” if you will, of male athletes whose sport was eliminated by their school in order to comply with Title IX parity requirements.

    I see no easy answers.

  83. bill53 says

    This women is as much a SJW as Caster Semenya, she has no issue with transgenderism. She is only against it because it impinges on her life. Sorry ladies you are going to lose this battle. Tranny’s are higher on the Intersectionality pyramid then real females. Actual female sports are an inferior product anyway, especially since all the sports were created for men. So why are we funding an inferior product just to make women and girls feel better? Society should create sports exclusively for women that they are superior at . Or women should only compete in existing sports that they can actually compete with men equally. On top of all that this piece was way too long, it could have been better written using less words, I almost gave up reading the entire piece of nonsense. MEN HAVE PENISES WOMEN HAVE VAGINAS, APPARENTLY THIS NEEDS TO BE REPEATED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

  84. GeorgeQTyrebyter says

    Semenya is XY. He has fathered a child. He is a major league swindler of female athletics.

    • OleK says


      I’m not doubting, but do you have evidence? I haven’t heard this.

  85. Alan says

    I think half the problem is that in our brave new progressive world, where the political correctness religion has become dominant, western society is losing sight of reality in many cases, caused by the need for ordinary people to avoid being accused of heresy or blasphemy against doctrines imposed by the extremely powerful high priests and priestess of our new religion.

    Which is resulting in all these contorted, basically stupid arguments, which verge on insanity.

    The core issue here is not Caster Semenya.

    The core issue is the fact that trans gender people have been elevated to the highest, most protected victim level within the political correctness religion and thus accorded all sorts of illogical preferential rights over the rest of us.

    One of the consequences of that, is that female athletes and sportswomen are now forced to accept that men claiming to be women are equal in every way to them and can compete against them in sport. Even though we all know that the claim of “being equal in every way” is complete rubbish.

    Caster Semenya’s ruling, which appears to be hypocritical, or at least partly contradicts this, has thrown the whole issue into stark relief. Hence the argument, which needs all sorts of contortions to try make it consistent within this broader scenario.

    If Caster is biologically a man, then why can’t she compete against women on the basis that she identifies as women, just like the other transgender athletes accorded that right? If she is biologically a female, well then she automatically qualifies.

    This is the issue raised by this ruling. Which can hardly be described as settling the issue, or being “a victory for women everywhere”.

  86. Dale says

    There seems to be a third logical position which I haven’t seen mentioned. It would be to accept woman-identified intersex people into the women’s sports, while noting that they will enjoy an enormous advantage sometimes, and that that is just because they are statistically ‘freakish’ individuals – just like all winners of elite sports. It might mean that cisgender women are disadvantaged by their genetics, just as I am disadvantaged by my genetics (I am a cisgender man but without the luck to have athletic genes). This means that all ‘normal’ men and women would never win at elite sports – because to win one has to be really freakishly gifted genetically. Not saying this would be a good thing or not, just a logical position which I haven’t seen discussed.

  87. Carl says

    If gender was a social construct we would have as many women athletes transitioning to become men as men athletes transitioning to become women, but we don’t. Hence, for most of the men athletes transitioning to become women in order to compete in women’s sport it’s a question of getting a better career in sports rather than any gender dysphoria. In addition, for most of those advocating that biological men should be allowed to compete in women’s sport, it’s driven by a pathological political ideology rather than by any concern of marginalized groups.

  88. john bicourt says

    A thorough and compelling article. The problem now is, following the CAS decision, how will or can the IAAF and IOC deal retrospectively with her past achievements and associated financial winnings.

  89. Just Me says

    Transgender advocates like to point to other societies where trans people are accepted and even celebrated, often as having special, magical powers, but then conveniently forget precisely that, that those societies do not consider MTF trans people as “just women like any other”, they consider them a separate category of gender, a third sex.

    The trans movement activists in the West are not satisfied with being accepted as that legitimate third category, but insist on MTF trans being considered as actual, ordinary women, and FTM trans as actual, real men, which no society does.

    This is a self-contradictory stance.

    • GeorgeQTyrebyter says

      If a person is a female, she can 1) gestate a baby 2) suckle the baby 3) has XX chromosomes.

  90. Bruce Wilson says

    I agree with the article that it’s fair but think this comment is being needlessly cruel to Semenya as there is no intermediate competition and she didn’t choose to be who she is. You should reflect on the last three paragraphs ( which I think should have been at the start).

  91. Robert King says

    Great article, stupid comments.

  92. Merely testing for current T levels doesn’t go far enough. Going through puberty under the influence of a Y chromosome and a pair of functional testes confers lifelong strength and increased oxygen capacity, and shapes the bones straighter, in ways that can’t be undone. There is no sport nowadays in which a person’s talent isn’t recognized and cultivated in the pre-teen years, in order to have any hope of competing at an elite level. A simple cheek swab for a Y chromosome in 12-year-olds could eliminate such surprises and route intersex athletes into their own competitions.

  93. Pingback: Caster Semenya is a woman – but that doesn’t mean she should compete as one | Coffee House

  94. San Fernando Curt says

    I support competitive sports participation cleaving at the Y chromosome, even though I realize opposition is likely to co-opt the phrase “Y Not?”

  95. J C says

    Brilliant article and i concur 100%. As a non-native speaker of English, I cannot help but shake my head to this nonsensical debate of identity, which exists due to English itself being a piss poor language ( no really, it, like most European languages are far inferior in structure, semantics, grammar and phonology to languages such as Korean and most Indian languages).

    For eg, the word ‘woman’ and ‘female’ is the same word in Hindi. Ditto for male and men. It does not have a ‘he’ or a ‘she’, its term ( uski, unki, woh, etc) are all gender neutral. It has 4 genders in its language vocabulary: male, female, trans and neuter ( this is applied to non-living objects only, and that too, only being extremely formal).

    Its laughable to watch all this problem existing, due to English and European languages being such shitty languages to begin with.

  96. J C says

    To elaborate, in Hindi or various other languages, trans identity is decisive. You look down, you see a penis and you feel like a man = you are a man (aadmi). You look down, you see a penis and you dont feel like a man = trans (hijra). You look down, you see a vagina and you feel like a woman = woman ( aurat). you look down, you see a vagina but dont feel like a woman = trans(hijra). You look down and see bits of both = trans ( hijra).

    Its pretty simple, elegant and devoid of this nonsensical ‘identity’ crap that is the consequence of English being a shitty language. Leaves people to actually focus on the rights and rights violations of people and their comfort, than waging silly battles regarding terminologies in a shitty language.

  97. Feminist says

    Trans women are women, period
    Intersex women are women, period
    Trans and intersex people just want to be treated as their identified gender, so let them. This is regardless of hormone therapy, as some trans and intersex people would be in danger taking the medication
    Your transphobia is evident by grouping “females” with things like cycles and childbirth, intentionally segregating trans and intersex women
    As far as the government is concerned, sex and gender are the same thing and both their markers can be swapped with a change of one of the two. Because gender and sex (even if we ignore 4) are both on a spectrum as you said, it wouldn’t be ethical and would be misogynistic to not allow all women from competing in women’s division events. These are not exclusive clubs for your transphobic TERF friends, as you insinuate near the end of the article

    I will remember your name, so i can celebrate with all of my friends when you are fired or forced to resign from your current position for being a bigot.

    • GeorgeQTyrebyter says

      “Chicks with dicks” are guys. Chicks with XY are guys. And I will remember your silly posts where you substitute lies for truth.

    • Alan says

      Transwomen are NOT the same as other biological women – period!
      Intersex women are NOT the same as other biological women – period!

      There is no “phobia” (which is an irrational fear of something) in those statements, it’s just plain fact.

      There is fear involved here though, but that is fear of rabid activists like yourself, who very quickly want to start poking your unwelcome vindictive noses into other people’s lives, with the aim to destroy anyone who does not warp reality to suit your silly religious doctrine. Your last paragraph is direct evidence of that.

      There is also irrationality on display here – which is the irrationality inherent in your opening statement – it’s irrational nonsense pedalled by you and your friends – forced upon the rest of us, who are frankly starting to get completely and utterly sick of it!

    • Morgan Foster says


      “As far as the government is concerned, sex and gender are the same thing and both their markers can be swapped with a change of one of the two.”

      You certainly came to the wrong place to invoke the government as an authority on ethics.

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  99. persons with XY are male, regardless of their Androgen Insensitivity issues
    persons with XX are female, regardless of their testosterone levels
    The decision was arbitrary and not fair still to women (XX)
    Women’s sport needs to be protected from the Y chromosome
    Make Women’s Sports XX Again !

  100. Asenath Waite says

    Too bad. I was hoping this would be allowed to go forward because the inevitable destruction of women’s sports might have been just the kick in the pants needed to snap society at large (the media, etc.) out of the spell of irrationality they seem to be under. Now they can just continue to view this as trans-oppression while admiring the fine clothes of the emperor.

  101. Dan Flehmen says

    Why are these people being referred to as “46, XY, DSD’ individuals’. They are men, pure and simple. You are just as male with undescended testicles pumping out testosterone as with normal scrotal ones pumping out testosterone. In spite of all the nonbinary gender blather, these are men competing against normal women. End of discussion.

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  103. Edward says

    Thank you for this. Reading a rational, common-sense argument and explanation of the tyrannical use of gender-identity as social and political deconstruction is the fresh air we need.

    While your article only directly applies here to sports, it’s truth reaches far, far beyond.

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  106. conservativeprof says

    Nice article. I hope that every Democrat reads it. Democrats in the House passed a bill providing rights to transgender athletes to compete in athletic events according their gender identity. As a father of a female tennis athlete, I oppose allowing biological males to compete against biological females. My daughter’s many years of practice and dedication would have been trampled on by biological males playing girls tennis. I make a plea to every Democrat voter. Please pressure elected Democrats to stop the madness on gender identity.

    • peterschaeffer says

      c, I wrote the following for a different web site.

      Folks, calm down. This is ‘playing to the crowds’ legislation that the advocates (even the advocates) know will be struck down. It just politics as the theater of the politically absurd. To use another example, Nancy Pelosi just got the Democrats in Congress to vote to abolish women’s sports. Don’t believe me?

      “Women shouldn’t have to compete against men in order to play sports.

      Yet that’s exactly what is happening increasingly across the country and around the world, as a growing number of male athletes who self-identify as women are being allowed to enter women’s competitions.

      The so-called Equality Act would only worsen this trend. This piece of federal legislation, being pushed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would create a civil right for male athletes to self-identify as females at any time, without any evidence of physical changes to their bodies.

      It would spell “the end of women’s sports,” in the words of Duke University Law School professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman, who testified against the bill at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing.”

      Does Nancy Pelosi really want to abolish women’s sports? Probably not. Does she want to virtue signal about how she supports the ‘progressive agenda’? Of course. Does PS admit the obvious? Of course, not.

  107. Dr P S M Chandran says

    DSD athletes as they are differently abled may be separated from the normal stream of biological male and female athletes and allowed to participate in paralympic sports in their respective sports disciplines where the competition will remain within DSD athletes only. .

    Dr P S M Chandran
    New Delhi
    9 May 2019

  108. JD says

    This is a thoughtful, well-reasoned essay and a compelling argument. Commenters who only respond with anger, rage, and opinions based on nothing are actually giving your argument more validity.

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  112. So, a female, or a woman, no longer exist as a separate biological entity. They are only a female, or only a woman if their T scores says they are. There goes the whole “women’s rights”, Title IX, and “feminism” movements right out the window. They’ve been athletically legislated out of existence. Mom isn’t mom, sister isn’t sister, wife isn’t wife, daughter isn’t daughter, they no longer exist in the world, but for a certifying T score. how sad. I just don’t see how women are okay with this relegation out of existence.

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  117. Caster Semenya did not alter her body via drugs, so why force her to take drugs in order to compete. The requirement is a total reversal of the practice of drug-free sports. Somehow it seems unfair to require her to chemically force her body’s testosterone level downward toward that of women in general. She has the condition known as intersex. But clearly she has a super advantage over other women, because her body has the feature of a high degree of hormonal “maleness.” I believe some special accommodation is needed in cases like hers — perhaps a special award category that celebrates her (“natural”) performance rather than penalizes it.

  118. citicrab says

    By the way, what about chess? Is performance in chess also heavily affected by the T. level? After all, people just sit in their chairs, not much physical exertion required (and the brain only consumes like 20 watts), still men and women compete separately. As they do in shooting. On the other hand, there is no separation of sexes in equestrian or sailing though those do call for a certain level of physical fitness. Is it because, Testosterone or not, de facto women can not compete on the equal footing in chess but can riding horses? Further, the regulation in question seems to apply to middle distance races only (indeed, Semenya intends to compete in 5K instead of 800 in future), but the gap there at the elite level is also huge, so would she not be as dominant as before? If not why not?What physical/mental characteristics other than T, if any, are responsible for that difference in performance across all sports (plus chess minus equestrian)?

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  122. Melissa Deysel says

    I am medically trained and South African. I can totally understand the science and the logic behind the testing and wanting to level the playing field. I do however feel that there are more then just one lady that will be affected by this ruling. And possibly the only reason IAAF is only implementing it now, is because there is enough competitors complaining, cause lets face it, some previous 800m women winners were also questionable…

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  124. Rational Number says

    Great article.

    As usual the regressives are Outraged, and calling for sackings and depersonisings as is the norm of their Totalitarian way. Demanding even. lol.

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