Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Op-ed on gender testing

I sure do like Jennifer Finney Boylan. So I am glad she weighed in on the recent news that the Beijing organizers are instituting a sex verification center to test "suspect" female athletes.
There was a lot of good stuff in her NYT op-ed Sunday. She spent a lot of time giving the history of the testing, which I mostly just skimmed. I thought she could have trimmed that down a bit, but the good stuff did come.
Here is some of it:
...gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than afraid of it.
Most efforts to rigidly quantify the sexes are bound to fail. For every supposedly unmovable gender marker, there is an exception. There are women with androgen insensitivity, who have Y chromosomes. There are women who have had hysterectomies, women who cannot become pregnant, women who hate makeup, women whose object of affection is other women.
So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it?
The only dependable test for gender is the truth of a person’s life, the lives we live each day. Surely the best judge of a person’s gender is not a degrading, questionable examination. The best judge of a person’s gender is what lies within her, or his, heart.

I wasn't too psyched that Boylan herself reified the gender binary with the her or his heart comment.
But she ends well:
...Olympic officials [may] have to learn to live with ambiguity, and make peace with a world in which things are not always quantifiable and clear.
That, if you ask me, would be a good thing, not just for Olympians, but for us all.


No comments: