Transgender activist Niki Sever thinks that gender division in sports is superfluous, even in sports that require physical effort. Because this division outright rejects transgender, genderqueer and intersex people- they are forced to retire from competitions.
Mac Beggs, professional boxer.
From leisure groups in community centers, through professional leagues, to international competitions, in every sport there is a division between men and women, where men compete against men and women against women. Society explains that men and women have different physical characteristics and in order for the competition to be fair there’s a need to separate.
This explanation reminds me a bit of the division in hair salons for women and men, when women’s haircuts are more expensive because women have longer hair and therefore there’s more work. Sounds fair, no?!
Recently we were exposed to the case of the transgender wrestler Mack Beggs, who was forced to compete against women wrestlers even though he preferred, and even wanted, to compete with men. Beggs’ victory in the competition also failed to make him happy, after being “accused” of having an advantage over his rivals.
Last summer, the subject came up with the story of the intersex athlete at the Rio Olympics. Many articles and posts have discussed whether it is acceptable or unacceptable that she competes against women despite high levels of testosterone in her blood.
For the sake of clarity, Intersex people are people whose biological sex is nor male or female but rather some combination of the two. These discussions brought me to the question, which is also required in every other area of life but for some reason is almost never asked: Why is there a gender division?
Yes, it’s totally not clear to me why there is a “women” and “men” category in every sport that exists. True, this is acceptable and it is an arrangement that has existed for many years, but why is it a logical arrangement?
The common explanation we hear from most people is that the athletic abilities of biological males are higher than those of biological females, due to different hormonal levels. If this is indeed the reason, then why is there a gender division in chess? Do testosterone levels also affect this sport, where all the physical effort comes from moving pieces on a board? And what are transgender and gender-queer people supposed to do? Compete according to their biological sex and not take hormones? Or compete according to their true gender and then get criticized left and right? Or maybe not compete at all? And what about intersex, really?
The world is not really binary. It’s true that the percentage of people born intersex is relatively small, but it still exists, and the gender division in sports, designed to cause equal competition, simply skips them.
One idea suggested as a solution is to add a third category to gender, in which freaks like us who can’t compete in the “natural” and “so obvious” distribution of the categories of men and women, will be able to compete. Another solution is to get us into the Paralympic Games, because if we do not fit into the “natural” gender distribution, there seems to be something wrong with us.
But apparently something is wrong with society and not with us. It’s hard for society to give up the concepts that are convenient to it and the divisions that have worked for many years, simply because of the fact that the exceptional people didn’t have enough political power to influence, and unfortunately there’s still none yet.
If you asked me, I would suggest changing the categories and assigning variables to assign people to the same sports category, such as age and weight categories in boxing, adding a category such as Testosterone Level, for example, and dividing athletes by consistent metrics, regardless of sex, gender, or anything else.
You say it’s complicated, hard and cumbersome? True, it’s really easier to check what sex organ a person has and determine accordingly who they’ll compete against, but that’s not the answer. Athletes already undergo blood tests even before competitions, so it’s not impossible, it takes effort and as long as no one really cares about equal opportunities in sports it will not change. Only here and there there will be a story about a controversial athlete which will raise a discussion on whether they’re allowed to compete and against whom. But the discussion should be about discontinuing the binary divisions that do not reflect reality, in which there are only two groups of the population – male men and female women.