What happens when a female athlete doesn’t ‘look feminine’?


(NewsNation) — A Utah high school athletics association official told lawmakers about a secret investigation regarding a female athlete who received complaints about whether or not she was transgender.

The investigation was prompted by other parents of the second and third place finishers in a state-level competition for girls. The parents apparently complained that the athlete who took home first place might actually have been born a boy.

Investigators looked up the winning girl’s school records, without notifying her or her parents, and they discovered that she was in fact a female.

“It blows my mind that this was even legal to examine the medical records, or records of a child back to kindergarten, without the knowledge of the parents,” women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider said during an appearance Tuesday night on NewsNation’s “Banfield.” “I don’t think this would ever occur in men and men’s sports, ever. I think that because of these issues, integrity of women’s sports really has has eroded, essentially.”

What’s the measure of femininity in sports? Is it hormones, birth certificates, or is it how “girly” you look?  

Caster Semenya, a two-time-Olympic gold medal runner from South Africa,  developed a medical condition at puberty called hyperandrogenism, meaning she has naturally elevated testosterone levels.  

In 2009, she won the women’s 800-meter world title by a mile. Soon after, Semenya was forced to undergo verification tests. She also offered to show World Athletics officials her vagina, but they decided to ban her anyway.

They told her the only way they’d let her run is if she underwent a medical regimen of pills to suppress her natural level of testosterone. Semenya went on to sue for human rights violations but so far has been unsuccessful.  

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, a female athlete who feels cheated for having to compete against a trans woman, also weighed in on “Banfield” and said that Semenya “should not be competing with females.”

“While it is unfortunate that this was kind of the God-given ability. What you’re working with there, it is biologically male,” Gaines said.

Wider disagreed, saying that Semenya’s bodily integrity and right to her dignity was violated.

“When you look at biological men and biological women, hormones are really just one piece of the puzzle. With Caster Semenya, even though they measured her testosterone, physiologically, if you compare her to a biological male, there are going to be differences,” Wider said. “If someone has high testosterone, it doesn’t really tell the entire picture of the integrity of the athlete.”

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