Being A Woman: Who Gets To Decide?

Barbara J. King in NPR:

WomanThis week, Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand may race as a woman in international competition. This decision is significant because, just last year, Chand was denied by track and field's governing body (the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF) the right to compete against women because her natural levels of testosterone were considered too high for a female athlete. As The New York Times reported Monday, Chand is now cleared for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — if she qualifies. It's likely that this ruling also will serve as a legal precedent for women in sports beyond just track and field. The court did grant the IAAF two years to provide further evidence in support of their so-called “hyperandrogenism regulation.” Chand's victory, therefore, rests on a suspension, rather than an outright overturning, of the biologically based rule.

Even so, there's no doubt this ruling represents a step forward for women like Chand who refuse to alter their bodies by chemical or surgical means in order to conform to arbitrary biological standards of what it means to be a woman. Also this week, a young man named Gavin Grimm from Gloucester, Va., was profiled in a piece by The New York Times editorial board. Grimm, whom I have met and talked with, is a transgender teenager who was assigned female status at birth but who now identifies as male. Originally, when he asked to use the male restroom at his high school, all went smoothly. Then, parents got wind of the fact and the small semi-rural county where I live exploded. I attended (and briefly spoke at) last fall's school board meeting about the issue, a gathering accurately described by the Times in this passage:

“Gavin Grimm sat quietly in the audience last November as dozens of parents at a school board meeting in Gloucester County, Va., demanded that he be barred from using the boys' restrooms at school. They discussed the transgender boy's genitals, expressed concern that he might expose himself and cautioned that being in a men's room would make the teenager vulnerable to rape. One person called him a 'freak.'”

More here.