You might be thinking cheese is a random answer that doesn’t make any sense. I did in fact arbitrarily choose the word to answer what my gender is. It seems difficult to accept the answer cheese as a legitimate answer but isn’t it just as random as believing “real men don’t cry”? If we really want to get technical, real male beings do cry because it is a biological function one is born with. So how is it so easy to tell someone what they can or cannot do on the basis of invisible evidence? The story of Semenya was a very interesting case that I had personally never thought about before. We do not usually think about these kind of things because all around us gender norms become accepted as true.
Let’s take a look at the two previous methods of determining sex mentioned in the article:
-Until 1915, the sex was determined by locating testicles or ovaries
-Before 1968, the International Olympic Committee verified the sex of female athletes by looking between their legs
Both were honestly too simplistic and became quite problematic. Even when we looked to some of the most advanced science for an answer, it was never as simple as black and white. Biological processes can be derailed or interfered with by dormant factors that can completely break the idea of there only being ‘male/man’ and ‘female/woman’ and that even complicate the notion of what a ‘hermaphrodite’ is. This is actually quite mind blowing to me. You can be born a ‘man’ and later turn out to be a ‘woman’. So for half of your life you were expected to act as a ‘man’ but would it be possible for society to start to expect you to act as a ‘woman’? Or would it be too weird to acknowledge you as a woman by nature when all your life you were mistaken to be a ‘man’? Gender is not a binary thing and when people try to force it to be everyone gets confused.
In the case of Semenya the investigation she was undergoing while a decision was not yet made was ‘accidentally leaked’. I highly doubt that was an accident. If you are confused about a situation that is not categorizable in your binary standards enforced by society, who should you seek? The creators of the gender norms you live by: society! Once the information was leaked there was an overwhelming response to her complex situation. The media is so powerful and it is actually quite genius to get society on your side when making a decision that is not necessarily fair, but acceptable. It is understandable that in certain sports, certain people might have advantages over others because of their biological make up and practice and thus rules are set in place in a game. However it is not acceptable to chastise a woman/man (because she says she is a woman she is a woman) because she/he does not fit into the binary set standards and suddenly causes confusion to those with simple binary gender norms/roles.
Transgender people go through these type of struggles every single day, having to withstand society’s constant push to be categorized as something they might not feel they are. Even young children with limited experience in the world but certain about their own being have to fight to protect their identity. For example, I came across an article called “10 Controversial Stories of Transgender Children” that mention a young girl who was born as a male but always felt she was a girl and fully transitioned to a girl at 9 years old. She had to fight to have her gender changed on her birth certificate. Then there is the case that made news in May 2013 of Issac, a transgender former high school student, who chose to run as Prom King but “was instead listed as a candidate for prom queen“. These examples highlight how apart from sport institutions, the struggle to defend personal gender identity exists everywhere from high schools, hospitals to the Girl Scouts organization.
Just to put some of the most traditional gender norms into a humorous perspective click here.
Have we ever thought to ourselves that maybe a situation like this would not be so ‘complicated’ if our whole system of institutions, for example sport institutions, was not based on binary societal perspectives on who is capable of playing a certain sport or who they think would provide a fair and enjoyable game. That might be a little too outside the box right now despite it being the year…2014? The year that robots are suddenly speaking and are described as a ‘friendly aid to your home that will feel almost just like family’ for just $499.
We have witnessed so much technology transcend what we believed to be possible but yet it is so hard to fathom accepting that gender was never binary to begin with. But then what would happen to gender norms/roles? You know, the random attributions such as “guys shouldn’t wear pink.” Why not? Because it is too ‘girly’? What does it mean to be girly? Is it to like pink? But why pink? Because it’s girly? Uh-oh it doesn’t look like that is going anywhere. There is no basis for it, no real justification for these norms. Tradition has always been binary not inclusive. However, tradition does not require something to be logical and it doesn’t always make sense. We once thought the sun revolved around us and knew little of other planets. Then we discovered 8 other planets. I mean 7… because it turns out Pluto didn’t fit into our category of a planet right? Or was it that the definition changed? We need to enter an era of accepting that or traditional gender norms/roles are capable of being wrong and wrongly imposed harming the lives of people such as Semenya and Isaac.