(USA Today) Transgender athletes are challenging rules in athletics on separation of the sexes

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A basic tenet of modern athletics involves separation of the sexes. Yet that principle is increasingly being challenged on the court and in the courtroom.

Earlier this month, Kye Allums, a female-to-male transgender student on the women's basketball team at George Washington University, publicly discussed his decision to compete after coming out in a story first reported on Outsports.com.

The junior, 21, who once went by Kay-Kay Allums and has not had gender-reassignment surgery, is the first known transgender person to compete in Division I college basketball.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesSexualitySports

Posted November 30, 2010 at 10:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. NoVA Scout wrote:

Oh dear.  I can see it coming now.  Not only will we have men’s and women’s sports programs, but we’ll have separate but equal male-to-female and female-to-male trans-gender teams and facilities.  And I thought the BCS formulae were complicated.

November 30, 10:21 am | [comment link]
2. Sarah wrote:

What on earth are you talking about, NoVA?  Don’t you know that the whole category of “men” and “women” is but a societal construct, with no real intrinsic meaning or difference whatsoever?  No no no—we’ll have “male” to “female” on any darn team they please—mostly “female.”  And there will certainly be NO allowance for chromosomal testing—a very pernicious and evil black and white construct that should be eliminated yesterday.

; > )

November 30, 11:10 am | [comment link]
3. driver8 wrote:

From Monty Python to Californian law in under thirty years. Surely, not the only thing that might be so designated but perhaps symbolic of a “struggle against reality”:


November 30, 11:24 am | [comment link]
4. Catholic Mom wrote:

Well, in this case, the person is not denying that they are biologically female, so testing is irrelevant. 

I don’t think you’re going to get a whole lot of women wanting to compete on men’s teams for the simple reason that they’re more likely to lose.  But you will get men wanting to compete on women’s teams.  And the problem, as we saw with Castor Semanya, is that chromosomal testing does not actually turn out to give you a definitive answer.  Because genes are just pieces of DNA that code for various proteins.  But genetic action can be altered by various biological defects.  You can have extremes where a person is genetically one thing but hormonally and physiologically another and you can have people who are somewhere in the middle. 

One of my sons, for example, has non-classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia.  Basically he has a defect in an enzyme that is part of the cascade the results in cortisol.  In his case (the “non classical” form) he can convert SOME but not all of the precursor into cortisol.  The pituitary works on a negative feedback loop to turn the adrenal glands “off” when enough cortisol has been produced.  Without enough cortisol in the blood to tell the pituituary to stop stimulating the adrenal glands,  the adrenals must work almost constantly.  In the “classical” form the enzyme defect is total so no cortisol is ever produced, so the pituitary never turns off and the adrenals work 24/7.

Unfortunately, another significant product of the pituitary besides cortisol is adrenal androgens.  So a person with CAD is pumping out tons of adrenal adrogens and is masculined at an early age.  In the “classical” (more severe) form, girls are born with male genitalia.  Untreated, such a girl will be highly virilized.    Such a “girl” might want to compete on a women’s athletic team and might sale through a chromosome test, but she obviously has a huge advantage over other women in that she has been pumped full of male hormones since before birth. 

Conversely, you can have a person who is chromosomally male but because of another defect they are unable to metabolize androgens.  So they appear and function as females.  Is it fair to let the XX “woman” with a male physique compete as a female and forbid the XY “man” with a female physique from doing so?

The Olympic and other athletic organizations have basically said at this point in time that they are going to pretty much accept people as whatever sex they were raised as (for example, to compete as a woman you must have been identified as female at birth, raised as a woman, and consider yourself a woman)  with the sole caveat that if a woman has a hormonal condition which unduly masculinizes her, she must agree to be treated.  (For example, CAD can be treated by taking exogenous cortisol, which tells the pituitary to stop stimulating the adrenal glands and thereby shuts down the production of adrenal adrogens.)  I think in Castor Semanya’s case (although all this has been held confidentially) she actually has one or more retained testicles and I believe she has been or will be required to have surgery to remove them.  But even that is problematic.  Is the Olympic committe going to go around checking that a woman takes a cortisol pill three times a day like my son does?  What if she doesn’t take the pills while she’s training (to build up big male muscles) and then she starts taking the pills a week before an event so her adrenal level will be low if it’s measured?  Basically, the committe just cannot do this.  So they have to say “if you’ve always been a woman, then you’re a woman.”

This is not political correctness.  This is just accepting the reality that classifying people as “male” or “female” turns out to be a lot more complex than checking their karyotype or looking at their genitals, or measuring their hormones, which may, in fact, not correlate with each other.

November 30, 11:54 am | [comment link]
5. Capt. Father Warren wrote:

This is not political correctness.  This is just accepting the reality that classifying people as “male” or “female” turns out to be a lot more complex than checking their karyotype or looking at their genitals, or measuring their hormones, which may, in fact, not correlate with each other.

Good grief!

Shall we do away with birth certificate desginations of sex?  Did we have all these problems back in the 19th century before we got so “smart”.

How about saying that what you were at birth is your core designation for life; whatever you decide to do with pills, surgery, or whatever course nature takes as your body chemistry matures?

Heaven forbid we have any absolutes in life.  Relativism is so cool!

November 30, 12:35 pm | [comment link]
6. Larry Morse wrote:

This is indeed political correctness. Such complex (and infinite variability) distinctions listed above a real enough and significant, but in sports (as in childbearing) there is a norm, and the exceptions are precisely that and must therefore be excluded from consideration.
For a male-born to demand to play on a woman’s team because he is a woman, either by preference or operation, is to create the customary slippery slope wherein at last all distinctions become too vague and too “subject to redefinition” to be useful. How can we reestablish the notion that “normative” actually means something important? We have already been in the quagmire about how can marry and , like Marlowe’s hell, we are not out of it.  This shouldn’t be difficult, and look at the mess this can turn into. Great, sports run by civil rights lawyers.  Larry

November 30, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
7. Catholic Mom wrote:

Capt. Warren,

I don’t think you read what I wrote.  Saying “whatever you were at birth is your core designation for life” is actually what the athletic committees are now doing.  My point was that this was NOT political correctness but just pretty much what they’ve been reduced to.

When karyotype (XX and XY) was first discovered it was treated as the final answer for determining a person’s sex.  Thus, if a person like Caster Semanya was challenged, they had to undergo a karyotype test.  If it turned that “she” had “XY” chromosomes, then “she” was told that “she” was really a man and had to stop competing as a woman.  Irrespective of the fact that she had female genitalia and had been identified and raised as a girl since birth.

In the 19th century, nobody knew about karyotype.  So somebody like Caster Semanya would be allowed to compete as a woman because she has external female genitalia and was thus identified and raised as a woman.  So, they’ve pretty much come full circle to this. 

But it’s still a really hairy problem.  If it turns out that Caster Semanya does in fact, have a retained testicle in her abdomen and that this testicle is producing some amount of testosterone, is it fair to let compete as a woman?  Does she have to have it removed to compete?

Or to make things yet more complicated, supposed that Caster turns out to have a karyotype of XY and decides that actually she wants to be a man?  This would not seem too bizarre.  Clearly she has never undergone female puberty.  She looks like a man.  She has a deep voice.  She may, in fact, have one or more testicles.  She may even have a male karotype.  Suppose now she wants to compete as a man?  Would that be allowed?

The whole thing can give you a massive exedrin headache if you start thinking about it too much.  I only thank God that my son who has CAD is a male so although we have a ton of health problems and we have at times, when we were without employer insurance, had to pay in excess of 20K per year out of our own pockets on this health problem, I do not have to worry that he will experience gender confusion.  If he were a girl (that is, if he were of XX kayrotype) but had been massively masculinzed by this condition to the point of having a penis,  I would not be so self-assured as to assert confidentally that what gender you are is totally obvious from a chromosome test and anyone with any confusion should see a good psychiatrist. 


November 30, 12:54 pm | [comment link]
8. Ian+ wrote:

It’s my hope that when enough absurdities such as this one crop up, the general public will have had enough, step in and help these directionless people to graduate from the pre-adolescent make-believe world that they’re stuck in.

November 30, 12:54 pm | [comment link]
9. kb9gzg wrote:

“But it’s still a hairy problem.”  Hmm.

November 30, 1:31 pm | [comment link]
10. kb9gzg wrote:

er, “...really….”

November 30, 1:32 pm | [comment link]
11. Catholic Mom wrote:

Yes, it is a “hairy” problem! Literally!  That’s one of the problems my son has.  Now this probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but my husband is a very hairy guy and no doubt my son with CAD would be hairy when he hit puberty anyway.  But CAD (even treated) causes premature appearance of secondary male sex characteristics.  So my 8 year old son is quite hairy and already has the slightest trace of a moustache.  Of course, we are treating this aggressively and he will not be allowed to go into premature puberty.  But he still came home in September (when he was wearing shorts to school) and told me that some kid on the bus was teasing him for having hairy legs.  I told him they were just jealous and someday all the girls will be oogling at him on the beach. smile  He thought that was funny.  But what would I tell him if he were a girl?  How about a girl with male genitalia?  I thank God I don’t face this problem.

November 30, 1:50 pm | [comment link]
12. nwlayman wrote:

Hey, Title IX has just been getting settled in.

November 30, 2:44 pm | [comment link]
13. Clueless wrote:

The solution would be to simply do away with male/female sports, let women and men and whatevers compete and have Ateams B teams etc.  Sort of like Youth sports.  Folks who are under 17 can compete both in the Jr. Olympics as well as the regular Olympics.  Why not just have Five levels of Olympics.  Granted that men would dominate the first three, I think that women might do quite well at the lower two in most sports and would dominate the upper rung in stuff like distance swimming. 

May the best man (or woman) win. (However they describe their gender).

November 30, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
14. A Senior Priest wrote:

If a female to male TG athlete wanted to complete, that’s ok. But male to female would be genetically unfair, unless the soi-disant ‘female’ were only allowed to compete with people of the same skill level.

November 30, 3:21 pm | [comment link]
15. TridentineVirginian wrote:

#13 - no, the solution is to put the crazy people in the mental hospitals where they belong instead of letting them redefine the rules of society in accordance with their own sick, unstable psyches.

November 30, 4:03 pm | [comment link]
16. Catholic Mom wrote:

Yes, TridentineVirginian, you’ve been reading very closely.  That’s why you realize that people like the track star Caster Semanya who spent her whole life thinking she was a woman but who obviously has, at the very minimum, a whole lot more androgens/testoterone than any normal woman, clearly is a crazy person who should put in a mental ward.  I’ll let the Olympic and other sports committees know about this right away so if anyone says “hey, that person shouldn’t be competing as a woman” that person, instead of being diagnosed or treated by doctors, will be dragged away to a mental hospital and locked up until their hormone levels match whatever gender you have decided they should match.  Clearly this is the solution to the problem.

November 30, 4:14 pm | [comment link]
17. David Keller wrote:

#16—With all respect there is a huge difference between Caster Semanya and Kye Allums.  Part of political correctness is to treat each case exactly the same reguardless of the facts—like expelling an Eagle Scout for inadvertantly bringing a Scout knife to school becasue we also expelled Bloods and Crips for bringing switchblades to school.  Or expelling a 5 year old boy for kissing a 5 year old girl on the cheek during recess because we expelled a 17 year old for attempted rape.  You have to admit that is totally insane.  My guess is that Mr./Ms. Allums is going have the you know what pounded out of him/her on the basketball court anyway, so social Darwinism will trump political correctness this time.

November 30, 5:11 pm | [comment link]
18. Catholic Mom wrote:

Yes, of course you are right.  My original response was to Sarah who seemed to be saying that all these issues could be straightened out with a good “black and white” chromosome test.  They cannot.  The new rules say that you are what you’ve been raised irrespective of what a chromosome test shows, because karyotype is only one measure of gender and may not correlate with other measures.  Under these rules Ms. Semanya is a woman and Mr. Allums is not, even though it may actually be that Ms. Semanya is XY.  But, as you pointed out, in this particular case the situation is undoubtedly going to get straightened out by itself.

November 30, 5:26 pm | [comment link]
19. Catholic Mom wrote:

Sorry, I meant to say that under the rules both Ms. Semanya and Ms. Allums are women, even though Ms. Semanya may actually be XY.  It is indeed confusing at times. smile

November 30, 5:29 pm | [comment link]
20. Larry Morse wrote:

Yes Catholic Mom, it IS confusing if you let it be by assuming that the differences in degree are not as important as differences in kind. America pursues this confusion singlemindedly, for it tells us that homosexuals are basically no different than heterosexuals because there is no difference in kind, only a difference in degree.
  But difference in degree are, in all values systems, the crucial elements, and so here. For the “transgenders,” the difference in degree is sufficient to single them out in those contexts where the degree exists. And so in sports, where differences in degree distinguish between eligible and ineligible, good and bad, winning and losing. When these differences are crucial, the demarcations must be clear and bright, e.g., can sixth graders play football with tenth graders? Are their civil rights being violated when they are refused? The answer is no they cannot because they are too young, even though some sixth graders ma weigh 250 pounds and be 6 ’ 6” and some tenth graders the size of Tom Thumb.  Larry

November 30, 5:49 pm | [comment link]
21. Catholic Mom wrote:

Sure, Larry, but even you can see that making “black and white” rules is not always easy.  Should a 250 pound 6’6’ 6th grader be allowed to compete with pre-pubescent 77 pound 4’10’ kids like my 6th grade son??  Or should they compete with tenth graders their size?  Well, that totally depends on the sport.  Where to draw the line and how to assign eligibility requires people with lots of experience in the sport who can make intelligent decisions.  Even then the rules may (and frequently are) revised from time to time.

In sports we try to have level playing fields.  Competitors are divided by a lot of things—gender sometimes (but not always), size sometimes (boxing, wrestling), age sometimes, experience frequently (novice vs. champion) etc.  And the fact is that these distinctions, while totally necessary, are always to some degree arbitrary.  Clearly there must be a rule between eligible and ineligible.  But you cannot always just put somebody on a scale and immediately know whether or not they are eligible.  The fact that it took over six months to agonize over Caster Semanya and that a lot of people on both sides of the issue are still extremely upset with the ruling shows that things not always simple even when very strict rules are in place.

Right now the rule is that “you are what you were raised as.”  Under this rule Ms. Allums is disqualified.  But, just as a thought problem, what would you say if a chromosome test showed Ms. Allum to be an XY male who had a defect in the testosterone cascade and so was identified as a female at birth but now wants to be a male?  Under today’s rules she/he or whatever would still be disqualifed.  Under the rules of, say 10 years ago, he/she would be allowed to compete as a male.

What is NOT a problem is when chromosomes/hormones/genitals/and how a person were raised are ALL of the same gender.  If that is the case with Ms. Allums than we can safely assume that she represents no real threat to how sports are done at any high level because there is no rule under which she would qualify to compete as a male in international sport.    But it would be a mistake to assume from that that all or even most of these cases involve people who have simply arbitrary decided to announce that they are of the opposite gender.

November 30, 6:24 pm | [comment link]
22. Clueless wrote:

“The answer is no they cannot because they are too young, even though some sixth graders ma weigh 250 pounds and be 6 ’ 6” and some tenth graders the size of Tom Thumb”

They are not too young.  A 10th grader the size of Tom Thumb should not be playing against 250 pound opponents whatever their age or gender.  He/she should be playing feather weight competition until his growth spurt takes him to heavy weight or whatever other weight he ends up at.  He can then move through the levels as fast as his ability takes him. 

Currently our classification system makes no sense.  If you are big in 1st grade you automatically become first string in PeeWee football, which means that you get more coaching, more playing time, and more ability to excell. Somebody who may work harder and be more talented but who is short in 1st Grade will sit on the bench for the next several years and decide that he can’t play sports anyway.  It takes about 10,000 hours to get good at anything, and if you are good early you will get those hours, while if you are good late, you may never have the chance to get good.  We lose a lot of good sportsmen just because the calender for play is fixed at January 1, instead of either height or weight.

So, I say bring it on. Personally I went back to fencing competitively a few months ago after a 25 year hiatus.  (My 13 year old daughter just took up the sport).  We fence men and women and boys and girls.  The guys tend to be more aggressive in their attacks, while the women are often rather more subtle in their reposts.  At any rate, I am enjoying myself and plan to fence “veterans” (a kind way of referring to over 50) until I am good enough to fence regular amateur.  Similarly my kid will fence the under 14s, under 17s and under 20s until she is good enough to not be killed in amateurs.

Either way, we will both learn something and enjoy ourselves, whatever the gender or age of our opponents.  That’s the way sports should be.

November 30, 6:26 pm | [comment link]
23. advocate wrote:

Catholic Mom - this is why I have thought that it does those that are biologically intersexed (which is lumped in with transgendered, though finding the line there is difficult if not impossible) a disservice to be thrown in with the other LGB cocktail. These folks aren’t gay. They aren’t choosing anything - they are dealing with a biological condition much like being born with six fingers or with a heart defect. They just don’t get any of the sympathy that someone with a more “normal” condition get. It is deeply unfair.

The biological condition of being intersexed is no different than being born with any other biological condition. It is not a matter of “just be what you are” if your genes don’t “match” your body. Same with lookiing like a girl (or boy) but having the genitals of the other sex. Since having children myself, I’ve wondered about the poor children who were born with both sets of genitals, and have had some parent or doctor “fix” them early. What if the parents chose wrong? While this happens rarely, it happens enough to be discussed in the pregnancy books. We also know that there are biological eunuchs where they are born with two sets of internal organs and they don’t develop. Even the bible talks about eunuchs who were born that way (Matt. 19:12).  I’ve even heard of an intersexed person in Australia who had gone through life as a male, but went thorough a spontaneous female puberty when she hit her 40s.

I guess what I’m saying is that this is a significantly more complicated condition than a “toss off” comment can encompass.
I wish folks would actually learn more about this condition before they made hurtful comments - they sure wouldn’t do it if you said your son had an abnormal liver or a faulty kidney. I’ll keep your family and especially your son in my prayers!

November 30, 6:46 pm | [comment link]
24. Catholic Mom wrote:

Thank you advocate!!  That is all that I have been trying to say.  It may be that Ms. Allums is a disturbed individual that needs serious psychiatric counseling.  It may also be that Ms. Allums has significant unaddressed medical problems.  We don’t know from the article.  The concept that karyotype translates directly into gender is 30 years out of date.  Gender is mediated through the endocrine system and huge numbers of things can go wrong along the way. 

My son is being treated with cortisone (a very cheap drug) and growth hormone (a very expensive drug which he needs because CAD can lead to abnormal shortness—he was born not even on the charts for height and stayed off the charts until he started GH.  He is now at the 50th percentile.)  He also sees a pediatric endocrinologist in NYC four times a year.  Thanks be to God he is an incredibly handsome (if I do say so myself) 8 year old boy of normal height with minimal obvious symptoms, all of which will be irrelevant when he actually hits puberty.  But it could so easily be otherwise, especially if he were a girl.  People who take cheap shots at people with serious biological problems are just ignorant.

November 30, 10:30 pm | [comment link]
25. Br. Michael wrote:

My understanding is that the GLBT position is that sex/gender is a social construct and that the individual can decide or is free to decide what sex/gender they want to be.  This is far different, as I understand it, from what you are talking about.

It is one thing to have a chemical/biological imbalance or problem.  It is another thing for a biological male to be surgically altered to resemble a female and then compete as a female.  Or to pass oneself off as a biologically normal female.  And vice versa.

November 30, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
26. Ross wrote:

#25:  As I’ve seen the terms used:  “sex” is biological, “gender” is a social construct.

November 30, 11:23 pm | [comment link]
27. Catholic Mom wrote:

It is my position that the GLBT position that gender is a social construct is largely horse hockey.  However, the alternative ignorant position that “we are all born with a clear and obvious gender and this gender is further developed during childhood and adolescence in such a way that anyone who doesn’t “feel” that they are the gender that society says they are [or is otherwise confused about their gender] is obviously mentally ill and no accommodation should be made for them except to provide them with psychiatric counseling” is also a bunch of horse hockey.

December 1, 8:23 am | [comment link]
28. Catholic Mom wrote:

Because both positions ignore the overwhelming evidence that gender is almost completely dependent on biology but that biology can produce individuals with mixed or uncertain gender.  And this is not a 1 in a million “hermaphrodite” situation, but a much more common situation where genetic males are, for example,  resistant to testosterone or genetic females produce large amounts of androgens.  And there’s a big sliding scale on this as to how much individuals are affected.

December 1, 8:29 am | [comment link]
29. Br. Michael wrote:

Then there is this:  a : a subclass within a grammatical class (as noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (as shape, social rank, manner of existence, or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms.

I do have to marvel that we appear to have reached the point in western liberal civilization that we can no longer tell the difference between men and women.

December 1, 8:59 am | [comment link]
30. St. Nikao wrote:

Human identity formation, whatever the genetic/biological influences may be, is best achieved when parents and their children live in whole-hearted first-love relationship, agreement with and submission to God.  Hormones, body chemistry, structures, functions and processes are influenced by the environment, diet, genetics, emotions, thoughts, interpersonal relationships and family dynamics as well as by spiritual influences and our relationship to God and His Word.   

That is why we die to the old self and are re-born into a completely new identity in Christ and discipled in learning to walk in God’s Word and Spirit which agree as Father, Son, Holy Spirit agree One.  We will be one, whole, and in unity within ourselves and with each other only as we each come to agree with God and live and think in congruence/agreement with His Word/Laws/Ways. 

We either bless or harm ourselves and others.  We can influence the hormones of successive generations, even before birth. 

Repentance, confession and obedience are the only way to peace with God which is the only true peace and rest.  Worship is loving and yeilding/submitting to God.  Only true worship enables us to know ourselves, to be at peace with how we were created and to overcome what we have encountered, experienced and done to ourselves and others in this fallen world…including illness, abuse, abandonment, addiction, and the power and consequence of sin.

December 1, 9:28 am | [comment link]
31. Larry Morse wrote:

Actually Catholic Mom, the question - except as an intellectual exercise or a gaming by the left wing - can be solved easily as far as sports are concerned: The genetic set is the determinant regardless of the secondary events that produce external differences. Such a bright line needs to be upheld because it is the norm and because it can be justified. Will there be genetic males who appear female or vice versa? Of course, but the rule will stand nonetheless.
  Yes, Clueless, the small 10th graader can play against the 250 pound tenth grader IF HE IS GOOD ENOUGH. If he is not, then the coaches will not play him because it is unproductive to do so, unproductive in every sense. The NFL after all follows precisely the same approach. Let us suppose a 6th grader, massive, fast, able to compete with the 10th graders. Should he be allowed? No,because physically his age signifies a difference in physical development.
But can a 19year old, of the same sort, play with a 29 year old? Yes, because the body has matured.
  Can a genetic male who is built like and acts like a woman
be allowed to play, all other things being equal? Yes, because the gender rule permits it. Nevertheless, the real world will intervene, and the coaches will see that this “woman” is unable to compete
productively. And if the student is a genetic woman, but very male looking and behaving? She cannot compete because her genes rule against her.
    This is not difficult. The problem is that America has lost its idiot head and allows civil rights lawyers to make the simple, complex, because it is in their best interests to do so. How dumb will the left wing make us? We have not yet fathomed the depth of confusion and and social decay their 50 year old Slough of Political Correctness will permit.  Larry

December 1, 9:31 am | [comment link]
32. Catholic Mom wrote:

Larry, you have decided that this is “gaming by the left” and that it has something to do with “the Americans.”  Perhaps in the case of this woman wanting to play in this university it is, but that has little or nothing to do with the greater problem of how the transgendered are to be dealt with in sport which is an international issue and the rules are made by international bodies, not you, even though you seem sure that you could easily solve the problem.

At the time of the Berlin games, if they thought a man was competing as a woman, they took “her” into a doctor’s office and if “she” had a penis, then she was out.  So that was the criterion.

Then they discovered karyotype and the fact that human males are XY and human females are XX.  (This isn’t true in birds, for example, where males are XX and females are XO (no corresponding chromosome).  So then everyone thought they had the “magic bullet” that could distinguish males from females (just as you believe).  So that was the criterion and the deciding factor if any questions were raised.

Except that it turns out that all that “XX” and “XY” does for you is turn on certain hormones and it is the hormones that make you male or female in the uterus and thereafter.  And then it was discovered that various biological defects could make XX babies produce male hormones and XY babies be unable to convert estrogen to testosterone (in the normal cascade) and hence have no testosterone but lots of estrogen.  So that their bodies don’t match their karyotype.

And the international bodies of sport (not “the Americans”) trying to be fair and in consultation with doctors and researchers decided that they would get out of the “who is a biological male and female” business and simply say that whatever you were raised as (whatever is on your birth certificate) is what you are.  So that is the criterion now.  This brings us full circle to basically saying “whatever is between your legs is what you are.”

Not only is this NOT “gaming by the left” but it is actually the OPPOSITE of what the left claims.  The left claims that “you are what you say you are, what you feel you are, what you want to be.”  This ruling says, basically, “somebody looks between your legs when you’re born and puts M or F on your birth certificate and that’s what you are unless an error was discovered and corrected very early.”   

So the actual paradox here is that, under these rules, an XY individual raised as a female cannot then assert as an adult that they are actually a male and compete as a male.  Is it unfair?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, as has been pointed out, you have to draw the line somewhere.  The fact that you think it should be drawn differently does not make everyone else the foolish patsies of the left.

December 1, 10:11 am | [comment link]
33. Catholic Mom wrote:

BTW, Larry, under your “you are what your chromosomes say you are” approach, how do you classify XXY individuals which occurs in 1 out of 1,000 births?

Perhaps to help you with your answer I will tell you that such individuals have small penises and testicles so are classified as male at birth but 1/2 of them are infertile and have an unfortunate tendency to develop breasts as they get older.  But since you’re not counting what your body looks like as a criterion for sport, what gender do you put them in??

December 1, 11:32 am | [comment link]
34. TridentineVirginian wrote:

Has a penis and testicles? Is a man. Can those XXY men nurse with their “breasts”? No? Then they aren’t breasts are they. Seriously, Catholic Mom, what gives? I guess “male and female He made them” isn’t true anymore?

December 1, 12:15 pm | [comment link]
35. TridentineVirginian wrote:

PS - well said there Larry, in #31.

December 1, 12:19 pm | [comment link]
36. Catholic Mom wrote:

Yes, TridentineVirginian, but are you actually reading the comments?  The response was to Larry. According to Larry, what you look like is just too bad.  You should be defined by your chromosomes for purposes of sports teams.    If you are XX with a penis, you’re still can’t play on a man’s team.  If you are XY with no penis, you still can’t play on a woman’s team.  So my question was—what if you are XXY, as 1 in 1,000 is??  Why does physiology then become the determining factor? 

Or perhaps Larry would like to make a new rule that says simply “if you have a Y chromosome you’re a male regardless of how many Xs you also have.”  Of course, I will then point out that it is possible for the Y chromosome to break in half at the time of meiosis.  So you can be X and 1/2 Y.  And this occurs.  And I suppose, with the bad luck to combine nondisjunction on the part of the egg and a damaged Y chromosome on the part of the sperm you could be XX and 1/2 Y. 

This is one of the many reasons the sports authorities have backed off from using “simple” chromosome tests to determine gender and focused more on body type.  The relationship of chromosomes to gender is not that simple to use chromosomes as the determining factor in sports.  Indeed, it is especially in sports that you are likely to find the XX individual who has become highly virilized through a biological defect and thus has a huge advantage in sports that require a great deal of strength and muscle.  Nobody would even have heard of Caster Semanya or know about her medical condition if she weren’t breaking international track records for women.  [Actually, only a few people really do know her medical condition because it’s being kept confidential.  We don’t even actually know her karyotype.]

December 1, 12:41 pm | [comment link]
37. Larry Morse wrote:

Well, I won’t belabor this subject any more after this. The standard chromosomal distinction is sound for virtually all of mankind virtually all of the time. This is good enough, it is sufficient, and it works.  The exceptions are simply excluded from competition because they do not meet the standard. Damn it all, why do we make this ridiculous rule, that the deviations set the standard? What’s wrong with “the norm?” Why doesn’t it mean anything anymore? It now is as if the bell curve has suddenly been outlawed because it is unconstitutional. Larry

December 1, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
38. Catholic Mom wrote:

Yes, Larry, but ANY of the normal distinctions are sound for 99% of all mankind 99% of the time.  Because for MOST people 1) what your chromosomes say you are 2) what you look like 3) what kind of hormones you have 3) what your birth certificate says 4) how you were raised and 5) what you think you are are ALL THE SAME!!  So you might just as well pick any of the five and say “that’s the rule we’re going to use to determine gender because it is sound for virtually all of mankind virtually all of the time.  The problem is **what do you do when you encounter someone for whom these five measure do not correlate??** 

Nobody’s “outlawing the norm” or the bell curve or anything else.  But elite athletes almost always fall way outside the bell curve on many many physiological measures.  That’s why they’re elite athletes and we’re not.  And hormonally screwed up individuals who fall in excess of three standard deviations from the mean of the bell curve show up in athletics much more frequently than they do in the rest of the population.  So what do you do then?? You have to establish a set of rules.  And that’s all that this is about.

If you wish to think this is all some vast left wing conspiracy to undermine society, please fell free to continue to do so.  Otherwise, read up on how the governing bodies of sports are dealing with it and spend a small amount of time thinking about it.

December 1, 7:40 pm | [comment link]
39. Sarah wrote:

RE: “My original response was to Sarah who seemed to be saying that all these issues could be straightened out with a good “black and white” chromosome test.”

And so far we find that these issues of *sex identity* still can be straightened out despite the red herrings of various physical diseases of men and women thrown up throughout the comments.

That’s what makes the “transgender” surgeries so pathetic.  One can chop off one’s organs all one wants and even take masses of hormones—but as others rightly point out, the results are secondary and far more surface characteristics irregardless of what is *foundational* at core as to what our sex is—revealed by the chromosomal reality.

In fact—the need to discover what one is *at core* will drive, eventually, the non-politically-biased actual scientists to also discover the sex of those with the *chromosomal* anomalies as well—because that is the foundational identity, in regards to sex.  Truth really matters—and who we are at core is actually important—*regardless* of various diseases that affect *secondary sexual characteristics* [and yes—even penises are *secondary sexual characteristics*].

RE: “However, the alternative ignorant position that “we are all born with a clear and obvious gender and this gender is further developed during childhood and adolescence in such a way that anyone who doesn’t “feel” that they are the gender that society says they are [or is otherwise confused about their gender] is obviously mentally ill and no accommodation should be made for them except to provide them with psychiatric counseling” . . . “

But as this position never was remotely brought up in the comments then it’s odd that it was mentioned, save as another red herring.  We are blessed by God to have the medical and scientific ability now to be able to actually determine the sex of children with anomalous secondary characteristics through the chromosomal tests.  That is a huge gift and shuts down a lot of really foolish false treatment trails that were used before those tests became available.  The fact that some people prefer to go against their chromosomal identity for various psychological reasons is neither here nor there.

Thankfully, anyone who doesn’t “feel” that they are the sex that they have been raised to be, may have a chromosomal test to discover what their foundational sex identity is.  Once that is completed, one may have all sorts of excellent hormonal tests to discover if there’s anything going on hormonally—even that one may have an undescended testicle or is not processing the hormones correctly—and one may then, thanks be to God, have those fixed so as to cause a congruence between hormonal chemistry and chromosomal reality.

If one *still* feels like one is the sex one is not, there are all sorts of potential background and psychological reasons for that—but it’s always a good idea to first eliminate the medical causes before one proceeds to other solutions.  *Then* one may bring in the psychiatric counseling.

Fortunately, there are still wise physicians in this world who can guide their patients into following that appropriate medical path.  But very unfortunately—thanks to the political worldview and drives of some, brought about in part by their own mental illnesses—we have others who wish to *not* follow that perfectly valid and sound medical path and who wish to blur the actual foundational reality of chromosomal sexual identity.

RE: “Except that it turns out that all that “XX” and “XY” does for you is turn on certain hormones and it is the hormones that make you male or female in the uterus and thereafter.”

Well, no.  It is not “certain hormones” that “make you male or female” although they do give you the many secondary sex characteristics that cause society to decide at surface what sex you are.  That’s why it’s important to *not go by secondary sex characteristics* to determine sex identity.

RE: “And then it was discovered that various biological defects could make XX babies produce male hormones and XY babies be unable to convert estrogen to testosterone (in the normal cascade) and hence have no testosterone but lots of estrogen.”

Yes—thank God for medicine so that the biological defects can at least be ameliorated such that the surface characteristics may come to match the foundational chromosomal sex identity.

That is, in fact, what Catholic Mom has done for her son—and it is what all good parents do for their children.  Were a little girl to have a similar problem, causing secondary male characteristics, the test would determine what sex she was and treatment would proceed, which might certainly include surgery on any retained testicle or other characteristic.

It’s really pretty simple—not easy, mind you, but fairly direct.  It’s freighted with all sorts of anxieties and fears and questions of identity—but then that’s true with all sorts of other medical conditions as well.

Advocate—I appreciated your comment.

You may be interested in the work of Dr. Paul McHugh who as chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, closed down the gender identity clinic and ceased all gender reassignment surgery of those who are chromosomally male or female.

His reasons for doing so were quite devastating to the transgender activists and they have hated him intensely over the past years, in part because he’s brilliant, learned, and articulate—a deadly combination.

You can read his explanation-for-the-masses in the excellent First Things article from 2004—it covers the sad history and failure of sex-reassignment surgery and the terrible errors made back in the day when we didn’t have chromosomal testing to discover foundational sex identity or worse, ignored the results.  In the old days—and in response to your query above—when a boy was born with indeterminate secondary sex features, they simply reassigned him as female, deleted the organs, raised him as a girl, and usually didn’t tell him what sex he was.  The resulting agony as the boy wrestled with his foundational sex identity but “assigned gender” you can well imagine.

Here’s the reprint of that excellent article from First Things:

You can find out more about McHugh over at the wiki article on his work:

There’s a really fun article titled “Psychiatric Misadventures” from 1992 that you might appreciate as well.

As I recall, you have mentioned that you are RC, and Dr. McHugh is as well.

December 2, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
40. Catholic Mom wrote:

Sarah,  it is certainly true that when a child is born with indeterminate sex features it is important to know the child’s karyotype and to use medicine and surgery to try to bring the child’s body as closely in line with the karyotype as possible. 

But you are mixing apples and oranges here.  There are many people who are **not born** with intedeterminate sex features.  They look very clearly and definitely like one sex.  It just happens not to be the sex of their chromosomes.  And Caster Semanya, for example,  is very probably one of those.   

All embryos develop into female babies if they are not exposed to androgens in the uterus.  If you could COMPLETELY block uterine adrogens, you would have a complete and total female.  She would have a uterus and ovaries and ovulate and be able to nurse children.  She would be a female.  She would be unable to produce testosterone.  No doctor in the world would say to such a person “well, your chromosomes are XY so you are a male and that’s what you need to try to be.”  In fact,  this person probably might never know there was something wrong with them until they had fertility problems. 

Conversely, if you could flood a developing XX female with sufficient androgens in utero, you would produce a male.  He would have a penis, he would have testicles, he would be able to produce testosterone. 

As it happens, androgens are rarely totally blocked in utero and females are rarely flooded with enough androgens to make them totally male, so you get intersexed people who have characteristics of both sexes.  And in most cases knowing the karyotype and then using medicine and surgery to develop the person in that direction is the right thing to do. 

But it is not at all as simple as you make it out to be for EVERY case. And sports is where you are most likely to see the problematic cases cropping up precisely because it is the virilized female who is most likely to excel in sports.

No poster here who has been saying “chromosomes are destiny” has answered (or even tried to answer) the two questions I posed:

1.  How do you define the “foundational” sex of a person with XXY chromosomes?  (1 in 1,000 has this condition)

2.  What should a person (probably like Caster Semanya) do if they are born looking like a girl, it says “female” on their birth certificate, they are raised as a girl, they feel like a girl, and they want to be a girl.  They have a rudimentary vagina and may have “normal” sex.  However, at some point, let’s say, they go to a doctor who discovers that they have no uterus or ovaries so they are tested and the doctor discovers that they are of XY karyotype.  Should the doctor encourage this person to change gender?  Have surgery to create a penis where none exists?  Sew up the “vagina”? Maybe try to create a scotum and bring down that retained testicle?  Take exogenous testosterone if that doesn’t work?  Isn’t this EXACTLY the kind of case where the almighty medical establishment should not be dictating but the person themselves has to have a say?

December 2, 2:09 pm | [comment link]
41. advocate wrote:

That’s what makes the “transgender” surgeries so pathetic.  One can chop off one’s organs all one wants and even take masses of hormones—but as others rightly point out, the results are secondary and far more surface characteristics irregardless of what is *foundational* at core as to what our sex is—revealed by the chromosomal reality.

In fact—the need to discover what one is *at core* will drive, eventually, the non-politically-biased actual scientists to also discover the sex of those with the *chromosomal* anomalies as well—because that is the foundational identity, in regards to sex.  Truth really matters—and who we are at core is actually important—*regardless* of various diseases that affect *secondary sexual characteristics* [and yes—even penises are *secondary sexual characteristics*].

Sarah, just to somewhat reiterate Catholic Mom’s question but take it one step further, what about the person who was raised female (for the sake of this discussion, but same works for male), who may have had some health problems over the years but nothing requiring extensive tests, but who believes herself to be female, gets married, has problems getting pregnant, and gets a genetic test only to discover that she is chromosomally XY and sterile. What now?  What happens with that marriage? Is it real? Is it valid?

Sarah, I have heard of the scientist you mention, and was somewhat surprised when from what I can tell, the Vatican a few years ago had a symposium on this subject but did not wholesale adopt his theories. I’m paraphrasing here, but while they basiclly said that if you simply don’t “feel” like your proper gender and you have surgery to “fix” the problem then you are unlawfully mutilitating yourself (the purely psychological part of this issue of being transgendered), they don’t address the biological component of the problem (being intersexed) namely, what if there is a biological anomaly that makes your gender inconclusive, or if you were born with both sets of parts. 

Going back to the example - so, upon discovery of her XY chromosomes, should this person then try to conform to being male? Should she get surgery? Should she divorce?  If she chooses to have surgery, is it mutilation or is she “fixing” the problem of her body not conforming with her chromosomes?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I think that this is a much more difficult issue that we assume when we hear about these cases.  But I do think that we need to make the distinction between people who “match” their chromosomes but who simply feel they should be the other sex, and those where there are significant biological anamolies - including that XXY permutation. These are not the same thing.

December 3, 1:53 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): AN ENS article on the New TEC affiliated Dioceses in San Joaquin, Quincy, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth

Previous entry (below): Historic Prince Edward Island Anglican church set for demolition

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)