MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

Mostly law professors, blogging on whatever we please since 2002 · Hosted by The Washington Post, 2014-2017 · Hosted by Reason 2017 · Sometimes contrarian · Often libertarian · Always independent

Who Is a “Woman” in Sport

The battle between biology and identity is engaged.

Who would have thought that in the midst of the #MeToo moment, just as a film on menstruation gets an Oscar and we're celebrating RBG's jurisprudential legacy—including the part about celebrating inherent differences, we'd also be debating whether biological sex is a real thing or just a social construct, and whether, if it's real – if there is a "female body" and a "male body" with variations on the themes – it's ok to talk about it and to take it into account in the defense and development of law and policy. But here we are. And what a drama it is, especially in this period in the elite sports space. Martina Navratilova playing doubles with Rich Lowry against Rachel McKinnon and Scott Shackford. The LGBTQI coalition splintering, (I)ntersex versus (T)ransgender. Feminists of one stripe against feminists of another. Conservatives about sex and sexuality actively enjoying our civil war. Sex clearly gets us all exercised.

Using sports as a lens, I've been working to understand whether biological sex continues to be salient as a basis for classification in the institutional settings in which it is used, either as "sex" or by its synonym "gender." Or, was the Obama Administration right that "sex" should be erased from sex discrimination law and replaced by "gender", which it defined non-synonymously: "An individual's internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual's sex assigned at birth."

The development of a really good answer to this question has broad societal significance, but it is most immediately important to two groups. The first is biological females, because we are the intended beneficiaries of the remaining positive sex classifications; and, as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary. The second is biological males who identify as girls and women and so understandably want to be recognized in life and in law as they self-define, rather than according to the ambiguous or incongruent bodies they inhabit.

This is what's on the table:

Who is a woman for purposes of women's only spaces and set asides like women's sport, women's health, women's education, and women's prisons?

Should these spaces and set asides – originally designed "on the basis of sex" or else to remedy the effects of exclusions and subordinations on the basis of stereotypes about sex – continue to privilege female-bodied people, or should they be sex neutral so as not to exclude male-bodied people who identify as women or as gender fluid?

Is there even a winning argument under existing doctrine for a women's only space or set-aside that is not either directly or indirectly based in inherent differences, i.e., that is female sex blind?

If there isn't one, what does the winning argument under a new, gender identity-based doctrine look like, and can it (also) satisfy the goals of the original, i.e., can it protect and empower female-bodied persons who are and probably always will be subject to different treatment precisely because of their reproductive biology, regardless of how they identify?

I have five days to give you a sense of how these issues play out in the conversation about eligibility for the women's category in elite sport. I'll mostly be excerpting from my article Sex in Sport which allows for a deep dive if you're so inclined.

On Tuesday, I'll focus on inherent differences, i.e., on the relevant biology and on arguments about that biology. This includes the process of sex differentiation and arguments about whether sex is binary; and the physiology that drives the performance gap and arguments about whether it's really all about T (testosterone). Here, I'll dismiss the weirdly popular but baseless argument that testes and male T levels are no different than other superior body parts and socioeconomic advantages.

On Wednesday, I'll summarize the case for retaining sex or at least sex-linked traits as the basis for classification into girls' and women's elite sport. I'll focus on defending Title IX, but its goals and the ways it has developed to achieve them have analogues across sport.

On Thursday, I'll tackle sex testing, with a focus on the current iteration which uses testosterone as a way both to distinguish males from females, and to include male-bodied athletes who identify as girls and women into the female category. This approach, which is reflected in the eligibility rule that Caster Semenya has challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, has been subject to a years-long, extraordinarily aggressive public assault by academics and advocates who disdain the physical sciences and have deconstructed sex to the point where nothing remains except identity. And yet it actually represents an extraordinary compromise between complete exclusion—which is anathema to progressives, and unconditional inclusion—which would be category defeating.

On Friday, I'll return to the issues I introduced above, with some concluding thoughts on: who is a woman for purposes of women's only spaces beyond sport; whether the classification should be based on identity and not biology; and whether existing doctrine can accommodate female sex blind claims.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "The development of a really good answer to this question has broad societal significance, but it is most immediately important to two groups. The first is biological females, ..

    The second is biological males who identify as girls and women..."

    So, you have to be a woman, or at least claim to be one, to even matter? Am I actually reading that right?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Neato editing, Brett. Your '...' left out some important reasoning there: , because we are the intended beneficiaries of the remaining positive sex classifications; and, as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary.

    If you want to start arguing that males are oppressed, include the given context at least.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yeah, it's right up there, and nothing you added back changes the fundamental tenor of the essay: Either you're a woman, or you have no interests that need to be considered.

    The only question is whether men who think they're women count, and it's pretty clear where that is going, too.

    This is straight up matriarchy, Sarcastro.

  • Sarcastr0||

    What does the intended beneficiaries of the remaining positive sex classifications mean to you? The reason why women are being considered is the laws in question trigger regarding women the vast majority of the time.
    After all, as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary.

    Now, matriarchy is actually a pretty good dig. And I agree the 77% of every dollar stat is BS. But looking at whose in charge, and what so many men in charge use their power to do, I don't think we're out of the sexism woods just yet.

    I've been invited to career-relevant booze and cigar events where women were not included for 'fear of looking improper.'

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "I've been invited to career-relevant booze and cigar events where women were not included for 'fear of looking improper."

    The inevitable result when you make everything into "harassment". Best way to avoid the charge is to avoid the situations.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Women get invited to stuff like that all the time without a problem so that seems overdetermined to me.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "What does the intended beneficiaries of the remaining positive sex classifications mean to you? "

    It means to me that they've stopped even pretending that non-discrimination is the goal, anymore.

    Look, it isn't just women who benefit from sex segregated sports. It's men, too. Don't those benefits count, too?

  • Sarcastr0||

    as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary. That's some pretty good pretending non-discrimination is the goal.

    You can have sex segregated sports. I'm not arguing against that, neither is the OP. The OP explained why women were a more logical focal point in this examination than men.
    Your seizing on that as indicator of oppression is as dumb as any screeching SJW stereotype.

  • Lee Moore||

    You don't have to think that men are oppressed to appreciate that laws for whom the intended beneficiaries are women do not affect women alone.

    If :

    1. you employ a lot of folk to tend tills in your supermarket, and another lot of folk to shift things around your warehouse, and the first lot happen to be mostly women and the second lot happen to be mostly men (though you don't care who minds your tills or works in your warehouse, so long as they do their jobs competently)

    2. you pay the first lot X and the second lot 120% of X, because that's what the market will bear

    3. some court decides that till minding and warehouse shifting are jobs of "equal value", so that you need to pay your (female) till workers 20% of X backdated for 20 years, plus interest

    it's hard to argue that you haven't been impacted by the said law. And may have an opinion on it.

  • David Nieporent||

    Look, it isn't just women who benefit from sex segregated sports. It's men, too. Don't those benefits count, too?

    I'll bite: what's your argument about the benefit to men?

  • Lee Moore||

    Not all men, some men. Particularly those men who profitably lawyer in class actions for groups of women who have been "discrinminated against."

  • Sarcastr0||

    For pure variety of experience having some time in a single-gendered activity can be useful. There is a different sort of group-bond in such bands.

  • David Bremer||

    I've been invited to career-relevant booze and cigar events where women were not included for 'fear of looking improper.'

    Really? I've not. In fact, I've never even heard of such a thing. But there have been plenty of women lawyer, lawyer mom, "women in [industry]," or other women-focused events.

    I'm not saying that women don't get slighted with invitations. Not at all. Trust me; my wife is an engineer, a very male-dominated industry. We talk about how the default invitations at various events, such as golf (which she plays, thought not as well as the average male), almost invariably go to men. I also know several female colleagues or peers who talk about general counsel reluctant of hiring female lawyers.

    But we keep hearing stories about old-boy's clubs and expressly male-only events. I've never seen these things exist. This means some men get accused of being parts of these non-existent groups, while we overlook the much more subtle and pervasive areas where women can get excluded.

  • Sarcastr0||

    You have something of a point. It was notable because it was so stereotypical and yet rare. The cigars sure didn't help! (It was military/engineering fwiw)

    The reason why it's okay to have womens' clubs and not mens' is because society doesn't perceive men as needing a leg up.

    But beyond the anecdote, a group needn't be formal to be existant. The old boy's club itself is about people giving a leg up to people they know, and that being naturally a somewhat gendered a sample.

    Or like that...I think it was Google? had a hiring bot that learned not to hire women just because women were anti-correlated to so many traits that were being asked for. But were women actually less able? Unexamined social bias.

    Not that I don't envy women at times, but net-net? Damn, it's good to be a dude.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "The reason why it's okay to have womens' clubs and not mens' is because society doesn't perceive men as needing a leg up."

    It's because feminists were successful enough at pushing a, "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine, too." agenda that the US blew right past equal rights into matriarchy. Where men do better than women it's a crisis in desperate need of intervention, and where women do better than men it's meh, don't be a cry baby.

    The OP reflects that.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Wait, you were serious about the matriarchy bit?
    The matriarchy seems to have a suspicious number of men at the top.

    Men are net-net doing better than women, and have done for a long time in almost any area men cared to enter. So any man crying about how it's not as much as it yusta be is indeed being a crybaby.

    OTOH, I'll talk about child custody - that seems an area of legit long-time discrepancy on behalf of women.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Of course I was serious about the matriarchy bit.

    Men "do better" than women in a financial sense, before you adjust for work history, because men tend to go into jobs that pay well because they're rather unpleasant and dangerous.

    Like I said, "Where men do better than women it's a crisis in desperate need of intervention, and where women do better than men it's meh, don't be a cry baby."

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "Men "do better" than women in a financial sense, before you adjust for work history, because men tend to go into jobs that pay well because they're rather unpleasant and dangerous."

    Well, men earn more money. But women drive spending decisions.

  • DjDiverDan||

    "Men are net-net doing better than women, and have done for a long time in almost any area men cared to enter."

    If you are talking about higher education, that is simply false. For nearly a decade now, women have outnumbered men, by a significant margin now, in terms of obtaining both bachelors degrees and graduate degrees from American colleges and universities. When the numbers were reversed, feminists viewed it as a catastrophe, but now that females are getting the benefits, men are "just being crybabies"? Yet, even though women outnumber men at nearly every coeducational institution of higher education in America, it is apparently still OK to have scholarship funds set aside for women only, while a male-only scholarship fund would be immediately challenged as a violation of Title IX of the Civil Right Act. That's a pretty Orwellian view of equality - where "some pigs are more equal than others,"

  • ByteRot||

    At what point do we stop and examine whether men are succeeding DESPITE legislated obstacles (or a lack of expressly legislated benefits), rather than as beneficiaries of hazily defined institutional benefits?

    I'm not saying we're there yet, but how will we know if we don't look for that line? That we're not even allowed to look is probably a major motivating factor and recruiting tool for the outraged and reactionary male crowd.

  • JesseAz||

    Why did you bring up Google when we literally had a study last week showing they overpaid women? Women have higher degree counts as well.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Because it's a telling story about societal bias.

  • David Bremer||

    The reason why it's okay to have womens' clubs and not mens' is because society doesn't perceive men as needing a leg up.

    I agree, and I'm not saying that they should be banned. I'm not one of these "why isn't there a White Entertainment Television" station.

    But what if the perception is wrong? Or at least too generic? These programs assume the existence of a "old boys" network that doesn't exist. So plenty of young men can get excluded, since there's an assumption they'll be part of a network that isn't there. That's unfair to them. Meanwhile, these programs may not even be as useful as the members think since it really wasn't an "old boys" network that previously gave men a leg up. That's unfair to women. The result is that lots of men feel excluded, women get frustrated with a lack of results, and nothing much changes. Which is kind of what's happening.

    If we were more honest about what's going on, versus making broad assumptions, maybe we'd be more effective at combating the effects of unfair social networks and not manage to disadvantage males for no reason other than their sex/gender.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Could be the perception is wrong. Society has changed it's perception of who is up and who is up a lot over the years.
    That's something to advocate for, with facts and figures and a bit less spite than many on here get up to when the subject comes up.

  • HMI||

    Me, I found myself excluded from one event that turned out to be for women only (unadvertised as such) and told that I could not be admitted as my presence would make women "uncomfortable." It's unfortunate what women use their power to do when they are in charge, n.est-ce pas?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Because women aren't generally the ones in the drivers seat of society, I (and society generally) find it less of an exclusion issue when they curate women-only areas.

    Plus, you can still do male-only stuff. It's just kinda rough to do that regarding career advancement events.

    From the male side, I certainly am aware of the different dynamics in a single-gender group versus a coed group.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "less of an exclusion issue when they curate women-only areas"

    I can say that about male only things too.

    Either its bad both ways or un-objectionable both ways.

  • HMI||

    If only I had a place to go to find out the opinion of "society."

  • Lee Moore||

    What does "the intended beneficiaries of the remaining positive sex classifications" mean to you? "

    It means that if the law is intended to benefit Xs, we should define what is meant by X.

    I sense from Prof Coleman's remarks so far that she is going to be quite comfortable with different definitions of X for different purposes, according to the purpose of the law or rule in question. Which seems fine to me, though liable to become confusing.

    as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary.

    Ugh ! But I suppose if you spend your life in academia, there's a danger that you're going to finish up writing like that. I suspect it means that various laws positively favoring women remain necessary because women suffer from various disadvantages as against men.

    Which for sport (or at least most sports) and X = biological females, is hard to argue with. Though abc was having a crack at it in the earlier thread. In other fields, and for other values of X, of course, it's much easier to argue against. Though not necessarily professionally wise for an academic.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Well, for the purposes of sport, we have a problem.

    Men are stronger, bigger, and faster than women. The strongest, fastest woman who ever lived would be a middling Olympian man. This is an objective fact that you can tell by looking at any record book.

    This has led to a trend of trans-women dominating natural women in sports. Despite being a tiny fraction of a percent of the population, a substantial number of "women's" events and records are being claimed by trans-women. This has led to obvious accusations of unfairness.

    Men don't have this problem. Trans-men have no chance of out-competing top athletic men. Therefore, this is a women's problem.

  • Lee Moore||

    Sarcastro : If you want to start arguing that males are oppressed, include the given context at least.

    You have a singular talent for obscurity. What does "include the given context at least" mean ?

    1. Take as stipulated that there are continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex which make discrimination in favor of women necessary ?

    or

    2. If you wish to argue that en are oppressed, state the context in which you think that applies ?

    or

    3. something else ?

  • Lee Moore||

    en = men

  • Ben of Houston||

    He quoted the exact line, stating that there was explicit legal discrimination against men. Discriminating against women will get you either sued or a jail sentence. Discriminating against men is legally mandated in many areas.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    So you interpret "It is most immediately important to two groups" to mean that it isn't important to anyone else? Where in the post is it stated who "even matters?"

  • jaydubyou||

    I'd love it if the author could also address the value and practicality of elevating and favoring a "subjective, internal 'sense'" ("gender identity") over a longstanding, scientifically testable (and largely observable via chromosomes, etc.) characteristic ("biological sex").

    From the government's perspective, how is it feasible to use a transitory, internal, subjective "sense" as a tool of identification (M, F, or X), etc?

  • Sarcastr0||

    Look up Caster Semenya. Science ain't what it used to be. Thursday's sex-testing segment should be interesting.

  • lucia_l||

    Does Caster have internal testes? I've read some articles claim she does and others that it hasn't been reported.

    I was fairly sympathetic to the view she should be allowed to compete as she is until I read internal testes. (If they exist, these would be the source of the extra testosterone.) I tend to think a fairly black/white rule to determine qualifications needs to exist and high testosterone *due to* the presence of testes strikes me as a fairly decent one.

    If she was disqualified, I'd feel a bit bad for her. But OTOH, lots of people have disabling traits that makes them unable to win at various sports. My husband is small and slim. That pretty well disables him from football and basket ball. It's not a rule, but nevertheless, no amount of training would make him win. So it's a path in life that excludes him. Some people aren't going to get something they might want. Sometimes that's going to be due to their physical and mental make up. Sometimes it won't be "fair". That's just the way things are.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Your line drawing is arbitrary and for the sake of having a line. Which may be a fine policy, but then don't claim you speak for science.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    The presence of testes in determining whether someone is male or female is about as non-arbitrary as it gets.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Internal testes now? We gonna take someone that looks like a woman and has all the privates and genetics and draw the line at testes.

    Seems arbitrary to me.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    You're talking about outward looks, and we're concerned with functional biology.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    Even "functional biology" cannot make a bright line distinction between male and female. Read about the effort of the IOC to come up with a test to determine gender of the athlete.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    They've got conflicting goals: They want a bright line test, but they don't want it to tell them the "wrong" things.

    The simplest bright line test would be to just look for a Y chromosome. Almost trivially easy to do these days.

    But it wouldn't say what they want it to.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    Nope, that's not true. We now know that other things need to happen in the womb to create a male baby besides the presence of a Y chromosome. And there you go again, making assumptions about the motives of others. The IOC want a bright line test because of cases like Dutee Chand. They would like a simple test to resolve these issues, but so far none exist.

  • jaydubyou||

    Far less arbitrary than accepting someone's word that they're "identifying" as a Male or Female (or some other entirely undefinable "gender).

    XX=Female. XY=Male. Let's start with that, and hammer out the exceptions one-by-one, like we do everything else. But let's start with chromosomes.

  • Zoe Brain||

    Some quotes from an amicus curiae submission to the SCOTUS

    Petitioner's simplistic view of "physiological" sex is demonstrably inaccurate as a matter of human biology. Moreover, it demeans many thousands of intersex youth by erasing their bodies and lives and placing them outside the recognition of the law. Physicians who treat individuals with intersex traits recognize that the key determinant of how individuals navigate sex designations in their lives is their gender identity—their internal sense of belonging to a particular gender.
    ..
    Notably, the legal system has struggled for decades to answer the definitional question that Petitioner simply begs. By the time Title IX was enacted, courts well recognized that "(t)here are several criteria or standards which may be relevant in determining the sex of an individual."
    M.T. v. J.T., 355 A.2d 204, 206–08 (N.J. App. Div. 1976) (listing chromosomes, external genitalia, gonads, secondary sex characteristics, and hormones, as well as gender identity).

  • Zoe Brain||

    "XX=Female. XY=Male. Let's start with that.."

    J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9

    "A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis."

    1 in 300 men aren't 46,XY. Some women are - 1 in 600 aren't 46,XX.

    So we've fallen at the first hurdle.

  • Ragnarredbeard||

    I think you're missing something with this XY woman. She had two unassisted pregnancies. She's Mary. Kinda unfair to use Mary as an example.

  • Lee Moore||

    You're hopping from science to policy here.

    There's nothing remotely arbitrary about sex identfication using the gonads. Scientifically.
    The gonads - which produce the strictly binary sex cells - sperm (male) or eggs (female) - are from a scientific classification point of view even more fundamental than the genotype. Because there are some animals which don't determine sex genetically. As it happens, mammals do, and so an SRY gene (almost always on the Y chromosome) determines whether a human gets testes or ovaries (or very very occasionally a muddled mixture of the two.)

    Once you've got testes (say) all other sexual differentation in other body parts derives from the extra testosterone they generate. Certainly things can go awry developmentally, and human testes possesors can finish up with a female habitus (body shape) if they have complete androgen insensitivity. But we can be sure that Caster Semenya doesn't suffer from that, because (s)he doesn't have a female habitus.

    As to policy on women's sports, it's hard to see that a male with complete androgen insensitivity has any athletic advantage over normal women (except the avoidance of periods) so it may be perfectly reasonable to allow such folk to compete in the women's competition. But that's policy, not science.

    As far as science is concerned, identification by gonads is not arbitrary.

  • Lee Moore||

    You = sarcastro

  • lucia_l||

    If they really have androgen insensitivity, then a rule requiring them to take drugs to suppress their level of testosterone should have no effect other than to lower their levels of Testosterone. I don't mean just not affecting their athletic performance, but nothing at all. It wouldn't affect energy, personality, bupkiss.

    So such a rule ought to be the way forward. They could take those drugs, find it affected nothing other than blood level of a hormone their body doesn't respond to and go on to compete. It seems a rather small thing to ask as rules go.

  • HMI||

    Enough line-drawing.
    If it's a non-binary world, then we need a non-binary response. So, let biological males compete with biological males and biological females with biological females, and then let transgender fems compete with their like and transgender males with theirs. And what the heck, why not throw in a league for trans non-identified?
    Problem solved.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    That would be a sensible thing to do, but is obstructed by the ideological push to force people to humor the "transgender" insistence that they're the sex they aren't.

  • Sarcastr0||

    And by, you know, numbers. There aren't enough transgenders to viable compete like that, which I presume you both know.

  • Absaroka||

    Disclaimer: not my lane, but I always like to check quantitative claims (because sometimes I'm surprised and learn something), and my 47 seconds of googling suggests that the percentage of the population in wheelchairs and that are transgender is about the same (0.6% each).

    Another 14 seconds of googling says the world wheelchair marathon record is 1:18, vs the old fashioned legged version at 2:01.

    I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the thesis 'Using wheelchairs in a normal marathon and letting XY genotypes compete as women in some sports can give an unfair advantage relative to runners and XX genotypes respectively', and to the extent that's true is forcing the 0.6% wheelchair users into a separate class different from forcing the 0.6% of transgenders into their own class, numbers wise?

  • HMI||

    The fact that there are not yet great numbers of transgenders available for competition is of no interest to the discussion of principle. It's right on up there with the fact that there don't seem to be enough movie-goers interested in seeing Ghost Busters with a female cast or Captain Marvel with tits.

  • lucia_l||

    I didn't claim to speak for science.

    Please define "arbitrary". After you have, we can discuss whether there is anything wrong with the arbitrary nature of the line. Right now, I think there isn't. I see similar "arbitrary" rules in individual sports and I'm not the least bit troubled by them.

    In boxing and wrestling there are arbitrary bright lines dividing weight classes. Bantam weight is evidently 115 lbs-118 lbs. The rule could have been 117lbs, or 119 lbs. They picked 118lbs. That's arbitrary. Or they could have subjected each boxer to a panel who did a multifactorial analysis of arm span, oxygen uptake, muscle mass (estimated by weight out of water and immersed in water) and so on. Then do some detailed "scientific" analysis of what all those factors meant and deciding who was in the Bantam class.

    The picked the simple weight cut-off with the "arbitrary" 118 lb cut off. I'm not seeing the "arbitrary" nature of that cut-off as a bad thing.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Sorry, jaydubyou was speaking for science. If you are looking for a workable and fair policy, you have more of an argument.

    But as noted above, internal testes as your litmus test for gender seems arbitrary to me compared to all the stuff we use for gender usually.
    And it may or may not be fair. Certainly telling people who were women all their lives they aren't really because their internals make them too good is kind of unfair seeming to some.

  • lucia_l||

    Yes. And as I said, 118 lbs for bantam weight seems arbitrary to me. Arbitrary doesn't mean "wrong".

    Saying you can't compete in women's Olympic sports is not saying you aren't "really" a woman. It means you don't qualify to enter a particular sporting event. Certainly, one can view it as "unfair". But it is unfair in the same way that it is "unfair" that a 6'7" woman can beat a 5'2" woman at basketball. Perhaps one might try to make the playing field "fair" by requiring tall women to wear a weighted belt carrying 5 lbs for every inch height above 5 ft. But likely, there is no set of rules that will make sports outcomes entirely "fair".

    So I am rather unpersuaded by the argument that "some" people will think a particular rule is "unfair" since I know that other people think the opposite rule is "unfair".

    As far as I'm concerned, the purpose of the male-female divisions is to provide events that are interesting as entertainment. It is not entertaining to watch men race women in the 100m dash. Yet, some people would like to see the peak women perform. The only way to have additional sports entertainment beyond male events is to have women's divisions. To have the women's events, we create rules to create entertaining events. Some bright line rules are going to be required to make the division manageable.

    No testes, no male synthetic hormones are testable, inspectable bright line rules that match what audiences want in their sports entertainment.

  • ||

    Yet, some people would like to see the peak women perform.

    Do they? Isn't that inherently sexist?

    My understanding is that it's simply to give athletic women a platform ... a platform that the athletes want. There are then some who are entertained by the events conducted on said platform. But the entertainment is secondary. The size of the platform is a function of the number of entertained spectators. But the platform would likely exist to some degree regardless because it's a athlete driven platform.

  • lucia_l||

    I think people should be allowed preferences in choice of entertainment whether it's sexist or not. Some want to watch Chip and Dales, some want to listen to Opera (where women nearly always get the soprano part!), some want to watch the NBA some want to watch women doing field and track. If any of those are sexist, I don't object. If Chip and Dales insists on all the dancer having testes, I don't have a problem with that. If someone does object, they can watch something else.

    As for "giving" a platform....I don't even know what a "platform" is supposed to mean. Major sporting events are entertainment -- like the circuses in bread and circuses. People watch as entertainment. The entries are ultimately there to draw audiences.

    The idea that entertainment is secondary is nonesense. If it weren't entertaining, there would be no audience and consequently no money for these things. Everything would collapse.

    Of course some sorts of competitions would exist the same way ice carving competitions exist. Without an entertainment factor those are mostly just recreation. You don't end up with large governing bodies who need to spend lots of time on rules imposed at national and international levels.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    Part of the problem with your wrestling analogy is that weight is a measurable quantity, whereas gender is proving surprisingly hard to pin down in any objectively meassurable way. I'm hoping some of the coming posts address this.

  • lucia_l||

    Alpheus,

    I'm the one who made the wresting analogy. I haven't said anything about detecting gender nor measuring it. So what you say is a problem for my analogy is not a problem.

    I said detecting the presence of testes. Having or not having testes is "Yes/No" check mark just like "below 118 lbs". I say make the official division name the "no testes" division. Even those who think the rule is saying something about gender will then understand it's not. It's saying something about testes and hormones.

  • Dilan Esper||

    "Your line drawing is arbitrary and for the sake of having a line. Which may be a fine policy, but then don't claim you speak for science."

    This is a good comment and gets at a pet peeve of mine.

    Science can tell you a (provisional!) answer to scientific questions. It can't answer moral, budgetary, social policy, or other questions, even if they are related to a scientific one.

    Science, for instance, can tell you that humans are warming the planet. It can't tell you if a carbon tax is a good idea. It can INFORM that debate, but it can't answer it.

    That's a liberal example. Here's a conservative one. Science can tell you the stages of development from gamete to zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to born baby. Science cannot tell you the relative value of any of those life forms as compared to any competing interests. You have to figure that out and weigh it for yourself. You can be informed by science (specifically, all sorts of scientific milestones, including the formation of unique DNA, implantation, and fetal viability), but science doesn't "prove" the pro-life position (or the pro-choice position, for that matter).

    And clearly, in the end, we are going to have to make policy choices about women's sports. Science can, again, inform the choices, but it doesn't answer the question of what is the correct policy weighing the competing interests. That's up for us to do, using human judgment.

  • Lee Moore||

    Science can tell you a (provisional!) answer to scientific questions.

    Sure. And one of the answers it gives us is that a mammal with testes is male, not female.

    The question of policy as to "women's sports" is as you say, a different matter.

    Science can tell you the stages of development from gamete to zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to born baby. Science cannot tell you the relative value of any of those life forms as compared to any competing interests. You have to figure that out and weigh it for yourself. You can be informed by science (specifically, all sorts of scientific milestones, including the formation of unique DNA, implantation, and fetal viability)

    Just so. But science can also tell you that the gamete is not a biological organism, but that the zygote, blastocyst etc all the way to 80 year old grandmother are human organisms. Moreover, science can also tell you that it's the same human organism all the way from zygote to grandma. Whether that is relevant to the moral question is, of course, debatable. But the considerable efforts on the pro-choice side to deny that the organism pre-birth is not a "human being" hints that the relevance of the continuing organism scientific fact is uncomfortable to some pro-choicers.

  • Dilan Esper||

    1. A sperm is definitely a living organism. Non-living organisms can't move themselves around.

    2. Science actually can't tell you it is the same organism. If a zygote splits into identical twins, are all three (the zygote and the twins) the same organism?

    3. Pro-choicers do not depend on a particular definition of life. If you want to disagree with their position, at least characterize them accurately.

  • Lee Moore||

    1. No, a sperm is definitely not a living organism. It's a living cell. Not all living cells are living organisms. This is High School stuff.

    2. No, there are two organisms - each identical twin is a separate organism. But each twin can trace its continuing existence back to the zygote. The zygote, in such a case, was the beginning of both Joe and Bob. Then there was just one organism. It then split into two. Something similar can happen the other way - you can start with two zygotes and they can combine early in the lifecycle and you finish up with just one human. In that case you have two organisms at the start and finish up with one, without being able to say that one of then just died.

    3. No they don't. I merely note that the common argument from (some) pro-choicers that a human that has not yet been born is not a human being hints at an appreciation that the (rhetorical) fact that the zygote-embryo-fetus-baby-adult is a continuing single live human organism is inconvenient to the argument that it has no moral standing before birth. This is precisely the same rhetorical point on which the Nazis relied - it's much easier, rhetorically, to persuade people that there's nothing wrong with killing Xs if Xs are not human beings. (I am not of course saying that the moral arguments are identical - merely that the rhetorical appoach is the same.)

  • Lee Moore||

    Sorry - mucked that up.

    I merely note that the common argument from (some) pro-choicers that a human that has not yet been born is not a human being hints at an appreciation that the (rhetorical) fact that the zygote-embryo-fetus-baby-adult is a continuing single live human organism is inconvenient to the argument that it has no moral standing before birth.

    shoud read :

    "I merely note that the common argument from (some) pro-choicers that a human that has not yet been born is not a human being hints at an appreciation that the (scientific) fact that the zygote-embryo-fetus-baby-adult is a continuing single live human organism is rhetorically inconvenient to the argument that it has no moral standing before birth.

  • Dilan Esper||

    1. "Since it can have a life of its own outside the body, each sperm is really an independent single-celledorganism –"

    https://www.google.com
    /search?ie=UTF-8&client=ms-android-hms-tmobile-us&
    source=android-browser&q=sperm+living+organism

    2. You missed the point. Let's call the zygote Abe and the twins Bob and Charles.

    is Bob the same organism as Abe? If yes, how is he not also the same organism as Charles?

    Science doesn't answer this, because personal identity is PHILOSOPHICAL, not scientific.

    3. If you don't understand the difference between aborting a fetus in one's own body and murdering millions of Jews, no, you do not understand the pro-choice argument.

  • Lee Moore||

    1. That is a metaphorical use of "organism" indicated by "really." A sperm is not an organism - it cannot grow, it cannot maintain itself. A sperm is just the means by which a human - which is the actual organism - reproduces itself.

    2. The organism that is Bob began as the zygote, as did the organism that was Charles. An organism exists across time, so while the zygote was the zygote it was a single organism, which - at that time - you may call Bob-Charles if you wish. Later in time there were two organisms, which were separate, which you can call Bob and Charles. The fact that a single organism split into two does not prevent the organism called Bob being a continuing organism which began as Bob-Charles. And ditto for Charles. The point is that the organism's life is continuous. This is not a philosophical point it's a scientific one. Bob and Charles did not spring into new being when they split apart, any more than a non twin springs into new being at the identical stage of cell division. Your life as an organism traces back to the time you were a zygote. It doesn't matter whether your identical twin can trace himself back to the same starting point.

  • Lee Moore||

    If you don't understand the difference between aborting a fetus in one's own body and murdering millions of Jews, no, you do not understand the pro-choice argument.

    :)

    And if you don't understand the difference between a rhetorical technique to advance an argument, and the actual content of the argument, you don't know much about arguing.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    The lines you would draw are not the tinniest bit less arbitrary.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "Science ain't what it used to be."

    No, I have been told repeatedly that science is settled.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    It's not transitory. It remains despite heroic attempts to change it, in fact, and even in the face of Mengele-level "medical" interventions like shock therapy.

    It's not subjective, according to the brain science I've seen.

    It is internal. True that. It's not economical to check someone's hypothalamus before issuing a driver's license.

    Medical records of evaluations showing gender dysphoria might be a reasonable solution.

  • jaydubyou||

    The left regularly makes the claim that "gender identity" is on a spectrum, malleable, and transitory--not my claim.

    "Gender identity" is entirely subjective, if it's internal--and not observable. I study sexuality and neuropsychology, and the brain science is far, far, far from conclusive on anything that would relate to "gender identity." Even if there were studies that indicated it, the sample sizes are too small, and the research too new to make any suggestion of a conclusion.

    Your "hypothalamus" comment is misplaced. Any dispute or question can be performed by an observation of primary sex characteristics, or a chromosomal test--simple enough to do with any epithelial cell. 99.3% of the population looks like what we expect them to look like. Basing drivers license, etc. identification on an internal "sense" or claim is irresponsible.

    My vote is for chromosomal sex--XX=Female, XY=Male. Anything else can be sorted by the courts.

  • Zoe Brain||

    "My vote is for chromosomal sex--XX=Female, XY=Male. "

    J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9
    A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis.

    1 in 300 men aren't 46,XY. Some women are. Sometimes, so are the daughters they give birth to.

    Your definition has the advantage that it's pretty easy to measure - though of course there are many people with both XX and XY cell lines, and far more with neither - but height is even more easy to measure. Men tend to be taller than women, so simply define everyone of above average height as male, and those below as female. That makes as much sense as defining sex based on chromosomes.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    "female-bodied people"

    This is cant and philosophical nonsense. I understand what the author is doing, and I sympathize with the attempt to deal with this matter academically, but by using the terms and words preferred by the transgendered community, you are tacitly ceding ground and almost the entire argument to them.

    What, exactly, is a "female-bodied" person? I think we already know the answer: female sex. This biologically determined. It's called science.

    I really tire of the absurdities in dealing with the transgender social movement.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Insisting people use your chosen semantic ground or else they're biased is absurd.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    If "sex" is mere semantics, then we might as well toss our hands up and admit that there is no truth that we can apprehend. This is what I meant by philosophical nonsense. If everything is semantics, then nothing is, and this debate is an utter waste of time.

    But if there are truths worth finding and appreciating, then a semantic ground that is rooted in reason is necessary. (And spare me the current fashion of calling *reason* itself a white patriarchal construction."

  • Sarcastr0||

    I'm not arguing sex is mere semantics, I'm noting that your post above complaining that the OP using terms you don't like is doing nothing more than question begging.

    After all, if by using the terms and words preferred by the transgendered community, you are tacitly ceding ground and almost the entire argument to them, isn't using your preferred terms tacitly ceding almost the entire argument to you?

    Or, maybe, words stand for ideas more than they stand for themselves, and you should argue the merits and not complain about the refs.

    A semantic ground that is rooted in reason. Whenever someone claims the high-ground of reason versus all those irrationals down there, they almost always do not.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    You haven't convinced me to accept the terms pushed by the transgender activities. Nor have you convinced me to retract what I wrote up above. Thanks for engaging.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Is not your insistence that OP use your chosen semantic ground as distorting to the argument, if not worse (being an imposed choice versus a free one), than the OP doing the same?

  • Michael W. Towns||

    No. Thanks for engaging.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Your decision to stop engaging is telling.

    No one wins debates on the Internet, but you sure can lose them by taking your super-rational ball and going home.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    Lol. Sure, Sarcastr0. I'm still here, but I strongly suspect you have nothing more to teach me. After all, the Science Is Settled.

    Now, thanks for engaging, but I'm really done with chatting with you publicly. If you want to have an honest private debate, let me know.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Alright then, off you go.

    Debates on the Internet are not about teaching, though sometimes they are about learning.

    Saying something, and then saying to pushback you don't like 'you have failed to convince me, sir. Thanks for engaging' is just sophistry. You and I both know that's not how anything starts or ends on here.

    Which, if pretending to be of a higher class of debator your thing, I cannot stop you. But I, and I'd wager in this arena, are going to be quite unimpressed by such fedora-esque antics.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    From a psychological perspective, I find your last response to be utterly fascinating.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    I find your need to demonstrate your disgust with trans-gendered people to be fascinating, from a psychological perspective.

  • wreckinball||

    I plan on using the terms that match reality.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    You reality-fascist, you.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Question begging, then. See a lot of that around here. As well as invocations of common sense. And science, without citations.

  • awildseaking||

    Sex is as semantic as gravity. You're free to believe what you want, but reality affects you regardless.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Keep stomping your feet and saying that.

    Sounds just like what people said about marriage until recently.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    It remains true about marriage too.

    Letting men compete against women because they are "transgender" is not going to be as popular as you think.

    Feminists helped make the "intersectionality" bed so they should enjoy lying on it.

    Not that I care, its women's sports, which post puberty is inferior in every way.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    You remain the unchallenged champion of stating opinions as if they are facts.

  • posmoo||

    it's science, while your entire argument is based on using semantics to dissemble.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    Here's an example of a female bodied person.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer

    It's an example of someone destroyed by the conflict between who they were (call it brain or soul or whatever makes sense to you) and what body they were in.

    "Biologically determined"? Biology is really sloppy about determining things. The world we live in has Caster Semenya and the 46,XY person who gave live birth.

  • jaydubyou||

    Exceptions don't devalue the rule--in fact, they may reinforce the rule.

    The animal kingdom is almost exclusively divided by male and females of each species. Birds that "think" they're the opposite sex don't have offspring, because that's a mistake.

    Humans are binary in sexuality--it's fundamental. Chromosomal and hormonal mistakes happen--but that doesn't detract from the binary nature of sex in humans.

  • Lee Moore||

    Er - did you read the article on Reimer ? He wasn't female bodied, female gened, female gonaded or female anything. He was a normal male, whose penis was destroyed in a botched infant circumcision. On the advice of a social constructionist psychologist, he was brought up as a girl, including surgery to remove testes and fashion rudimentary female plumbing. Despite the efforts to socialise him into femaleness, he felt he was a boy, and in his teens he found out that that's exactly what he was. He attempted to reverse the sex change surgery, with obviously only limited success, and eventually committed suicide. So his life was destroyed by a circumcision accident, followed by falling into the hands of a social constructionist shrink. Reimer is pretty much the leading poster boy for the concluson that sex is biologically determined, and is not socially constructed.

    An 46, XY mother is not a refutation of biological determination of sex. It's a (very) unusual example of other bits of biology intervening in the normal SRY gene on Y chromosome process. Either the SRY gene crossing over to the X chromosome, or the SRY gene being inactivated by a mutation in itself or in other genes.

  • jaydubyou||

    All of these n=1 aberrations are very interesting--but really are not moving an argument either way.

    Humans have ten fingers and ten toes. A couple of people have eleven or twelve. That doesn't make 11 or 12 fingers the norm, nor how things are supposed to go, developmentally. Mistakes happen. Aberrations arise. Maybe someday we'll all have 12 fingers, and then it'll be normal, once evolution does her thingy.

    Nearly every exception to XX and XY is sexually sterile. That might suggest something... I wonder what that is....

    Until then, n=1 is not the foundation of an argument.

  • Zoe Brain||

    1 in 300 men aren't 46,XY.
    1 in 600 women aren't 46,XX

    It's not a matter of n=1.

    No one is talking about "norms". The norm for humans is to have black hair and brown skin., those who differ in either area are a minority, looking at humanity as a whole.

    When it comes to Intersex, rate is about 1.7%. That's rather more than the proportion of humans with red hair.

  • Lee Moore||

    When it comes to Intersex, rate is about 1.7%

    No, about a hundredth of that.

    http://www.leonardsax.com/how-.....-sterling/

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    The science is settled — a woman is any adult human who identifies as female. The presence or absence of arbitrary characteristics like a penis, a thick beard, or high testosterone levels should not enter the equation.

    It is completely dehumanizing to require transwomen to prove they're "female enough" before competing in sports.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    Female athletes beg to differ about your "dehumanization" claims.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Cisfemale athletes who refuse to compete against transfemales are no better than the racist white baseball players from last century who did not want to play against Jackie Robinson.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    "Cisfemale athletes who refuse to compete against [men claiming to be females] are no better than the racist white baseball players from last century who did not want to play against Jackie Robinson."

    There. Fixed it for ya.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    Once again. Psychologically fascinating.

  • wreckinball||

    You post such crazy crap that I have to wonder if its satire. Is this satire?

  • Libertymike||

    If you have to ask the question.....

    Go over to Hit & Run, take a gander, and you will have your answer.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yes, he's posting satire.

  • Rossami||

    I'll concede that he thinks he's posting satire. I don't think he's very good at it.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    More a case of having to push some really, really stupid positions, for the satire to get ahead of reality.

  • John Rohan||

    Are you being sarcastic? No scientific organization has ever said that a woman is any adult human who identifies as female.

    The secondary characteristics you describe are not the deciding factor. Ultimately, sex is about reproduction, and the factor is one's role in the reproductive process. Either you have the equipment to fertilize an egg, or you have the equipment to produce one.

  • Chest Rockwell||

    The science absolutely is not settled.

  • Joe_dallas||

    Openborders - "The science is settled — a woman is any adult human who identifies as female. The presence or absence of arbitrary characteristics like a penis, a thick beard, or high testosterone levels should not enter the equation."

    Not often we see commentators who flunked their basic biology classes from junior high school.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    My information on this comes from someone who gives classes to doctors. I've invited her to join us.

  • Sarcastr0||

    When you get so many biting at your satire, it does show how cartoonish the narrative on the right has become about what the left believes.

  • M.L.||

    No, the left actually believes these things. Women have penises too, bigot.

    Granted, they are getting very wacky and losing the center on this.

  • Sarcastr0||

    No, it doesn't. Where do you get that it does?

    I spotted it as satire right away.

  • M.L.||

    Of course they do. You're really not aware of what your trans activists, tumblr brigade, gender theorists and and so on actually think? Or you're just trying to pretend your left flank doesn't exist?

    This poster is a well known satirist on this site's comments. What gives it away here is "the science is settled" - a lib phrase from another context, whereas everyone knows this trans position has nothing to do with science and is anti-science.

  • David Nieporent||

    I spotted it as satire right away.

    Yeah, the username kind of gave it away.

  • Krayt||

    So long, 1960s feminists who fought the good fight for females getting equal treatment in sport.

    You are the Wrong ones now.

  • DjDiverDan||

    "The science is settled . . . ."

    Whenever I read or hear that phrase, I know for dead certain that whoever said it has no fricking clue at all about the nature of science.

  • 3021e68df9a7200135725c633||

    Here's a "biologically female" person: https://goo.gl/QM8PUv
    And that's a "biologically male" person: https://goo.gl/WUtnZs

    Now, go take a look into the mirror, then go hang yourself.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    Women sports? A multi part discussion?

    Its like caring about single A baseball.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Looks like a lotta people care.

    Proxy wars matter. Or are at least good fun.

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    We'll end up with one open championship and a bunch of more-or-less irrelevant handicap ones (e.g., things like the "Masters (40+) champion" or "Youth (under 21) champion")

    That, of course, means the end of woman sports as coequal champions.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "means the end of woman sports as coequal champions"

    No one actually considers women champs as equal to men post middle school.

    How many people can name the last WNBA champ or even one team? 1%?

  • wreckinball||

    Penis = male vagina =female.

    P= mens sports v= womens sports

    If you go to all the trouble of cutting off your P you are still biologically a male.

    Its simple

  • Sarcastr0||

    I look forwards to your reading the discussion Thursday.

    https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/gonads-xy

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    Some people are just going to cling to their preconceptions, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

  • awildseaking||

    Medically speaking, there is no basis for gender. Sex differences are real and it's incredibly dangerous to suggest otherwise. For instance, we're already in the middle of a transgender epidemic because they're getting cancer and dying before they're 30 from HRT. There will also inevitably be cases of transgendered people dying in hospitals because they mislead doctors about their biological sex or change the biological sex listed on their drivers' license. Doctors will fail to diagnose symptoms properly and it will lead to harm. For instance, women and men have completely different heart attack symptoms.

    At some point we have to recognize that acknowledging sex differences (men are taller, stronger, have denser bones, weigh more, have different hormones, reproductive cycle, etc.) is not a subjective valuation of someone's worth. Women aren't less of a person in any sense for being different and we can have legal equality while being different and complementary.

  • Joe_dallas||

    Valid point - There is a whole slew of diseases, that manifest differently in males vs females. Similar to different diseases that have higher prevelance and slightly different characteristics in different races. To ignore those differences is to ignore basic science.

  • jaydubyou||

    It boggles my mind that governments are allowing someone to assert their "gender" and then use that assertion on their identification card as proof of something.

    When these people die and are buried, archeologists will be able to unearth their bones, test the chromosomes in the cells, and will be able to tell us the ACTUAL sex of these people, factually--regardless of their assertion (delusion?) and the government's humoring of them.

  • John Rohan||

    Sex in the entire animal kingdom (which includes humans) is ultimately about reproduction, and men and women have different but complementary roles in the process. That doesn't change regardless of what gender a person identifies as. Intersex people are not an exception to this. Intersex people have a sex, even if it's complicated or not easily apparent (no human in all history has been fertile in both the male and female reproductive role).

    Rules by sports organizations as well as the law can recognize the biology of reproduction. Or it can deny it, or even pretend biology doesn't exist. The law can say anything it wants to. But if it denies basic biology (as is happening in some cases now), then it causes unneeded conflict and aggravation, and frankly isn't good law. Ironically, in the long run, these well-meaning but misguided "trans friendly" laws and sporting rules will probably do more damage to the cause of transgender rights, which is the exact opposite of their intention.

  • Michael W. Towns||

    You're making way too much sense, John. Can't have that.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    Very few sports require reproduction. Let's talk testosterone.

  • John Rohan||

    Reproduction goes back to the definition of sex in the first place. And you still can't get away from it in sports. For example, a woman's pelvis is a different shape than a man's because women have to accommodate the size of a baby's head during childbirth. But this negatively affects their running ability.

    Men can take female hormones and visa versa, but that does nothing to change the difference in skeletal structure.

  • Alpheus W Drinkwater||

    "The biology of reproduction" is proving an incredibly difficult property to measure or identify in an objective way. And the non-reproductive anatomical differences are not as clear cut in all cases as you describe.

  • Lee Moore||

    No, the biology of reproduction is proving an incredibly difficult property for some people to accept. It's very easy to measure, at least in the animal kingdom, as to sexual reproduction.

    You need a sperm and an egg. And consequently you need a sperm manufacturer and an egg manufacturer. Obviously, according to the species, you may need a lot more to bring the new organism to aduthood, but the sperm and the egg, and their respective manufacturers are necessary and unambiguous.

    In nature. Of course in the lab, you may be able to construct a workable pseudosperm from an egg, or a workable egg from a sperm (much harder) and do some funky stuff. But though nature does its own funky stuff, that doesn't include an alternative to a sperm and an egg when it comes to animal sexual reproduction.

  • jaydubyou||

    It might be instructive to note that the Intersex, nearly without exception, are sterile.

    Funny how the left believes in science, evolution, and that we're just animals--but the moment you add human culture or stereotypical sex roles, all of sudden that goes all out the window for that one trait, "sex."

    There's really no discussion about the binary nature of sex in the human species. The odd thing is that in the last five years we've decided to essentially ignore that entirely, and elevate someone's individual assertion of what sex they want to be, or believe themselves to be.

    It's so odd, and everyone's just going along with it. Up is down.

  • Chest Rockwell||

    There was the recent thing that happened in Connecticut. A high school female track team was in the state finals. The results of which determine who will go on to regionals. I think it was either the top 5 or top 8 that get to go.

    First and second place went to two transgenders. That's two girls who missed out on a chance to go compete in regionals, a chance to increase their odds of getting any sort of scholarship, etc. because adults have gone crazy and allowed some dudes to compete against women.

    When are people gonna wake up and see this is insane?

  • Chest Rockwell||

    One thing I've always found fascinating is the things feminists complain about. Or what they don't complain about. It shows they don't want true equality. They want it in any place they can benefit, but otherwise they want no change.

    You won't hear them complain about how men tend to get longer prison sentences than women for the same crime. You'll hear them complain there are too many male CEOs, but you won't hear a peep about how it's mostly men working construction or picking up garbage. Strange.

  • MKE||

    So, the Top Secret East German women's Olympic team is now a reality? Life imitating art or maybe those tide pods have done some real damage to the next generation as a whole?

  • Grand Moff Tarkin||

    How about if we abolish "men's sports" and "women's sports" and just have sports. It does not matter whether the contender is male, female, or transgender. Okay, I am not a sports fan and this would cut the number of events by half. I am okay with that.

  • jaydubyou||

    I think this is the only viable conclusion. Purely level playing field, and only one Gold medal.

    If women can't compete in some sports, are are doomed to never win, then they'll invent some sports that favor estrogen and fine motor skills (or something). And dudes will never win those. Fine with me.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Who Is a "Woman" in Sport

    Guys who throw underhand, or can't catch a ball.

  • E Blackadder||

    "Who would have thought that in the midst of the #MeToo moment, just as a film on menstruation gets an Oscar and we're celebrating RBG's jurisprudential legacy—including the part about celebrating inherent differences, we'd also be debating whether biological sex is a real thing or just a social construct, and whether, if it's real – if there is a "female body" and a "male body" with variations on the themes – it's ok to talk about it and to take it into account in the defense and development of law and policy. "

    Who would have thought that in the midst of the Volokh Conspiracy we would encounter such an ungrammatical, meandering, poorly punctuated, non sequitur-filed opening sentence like this? And what exactly does the #MeToo movement or Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy have to do with whether boys who identify as girls should be allowed to play on women's sports teams?

  • posmoo||

    "as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary."

    begging the question? citation please.

  • ||

    and unconditional inclusion—which would be category defeating

    It's hard to understand why "unconditional inclusion" is even on the table, yet it is. How is it rationalized? As Prof. Coleman implies, taking that path implies abandoning gender specific sports...which really means abandoning female sports at an elite level. In a gender free sports environment, you can always have JV teams, which would be a mix of elite women and more average males.

    On the flip side, if a transgender female kicks your ass, partially due to maturation as a male with higher T levels, is it really that big of a deal? Seems it would still be rare enough to not get worked up about it. I can't imagine that anyone is going to go through a sex change just so they can finally place first in the 100 yard dash. And elite athletes have to work very hard to be elite athletes, regardless of hormonal balance. So just accept that sometimes things might be unbalanced for more atypical reasons and move on.

  • Krayt||

    At any given school, perhaps not too common. But for the average state championship in sports 10 years from now?

  • A nerdy Fred||

    "The battle between biology and identity" elides the fact that brains are biological and that autopsy and MRI studies from the 90s onward have been showing that sex-specific brain structures match the gender that trans people have been trying to tell us they belong to.

    It's an important fact, but it's also clear that it leaves open the questions raised above.

  • John Rohan||

    No, they don't. Transgender people have tried to spin the studies that way, but all the MRI studies have shown is that transgender people have abnormal brain scans, which is not surprising. And there are no "sex specific" brain structures, you can read about that here.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    Start with Zhou et al Nature (1995) 378:68–70. I will be willing to supply more citations.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    Also from the New Scientist,
    https://tinyurl.com/q5c75qg
    With links to some peer reviewed journal articles.

    As promised.

    It's not just anatomy, but also details of other brain functions. Here's one about olfactory differences: https://tinyurl.com/yyo7pruv

    Another pace where men and women differ (on average!) is what happens when you play different sounds into each ear.
    https://tinyurl.com/y2tnu9kw

    That "on average" is critically important. When you say there's no such thing as a male or female brain, you're passing along the truth that it's overlapping distributions. Men have an average bstc size which varies among individuals. Women have an average bstc size which varies among individuals.

  • David Nieporent||

    The studies I have seen on this topic, aside from other problems, have ridiculously tiny sample sizes. (Not surprisingly, given how rare transgenderism is.)

  • ||

    One of the female inmates I can never forget from my jail guard career was Suzie, about 5'6" and 190 of Polish descent, thirtyish, She looked just a bit hairy and a bit more on the pudgy side, until you saw her in the yard out area jump up and knock out five one-arm pull ups on the chin-up bar.

    She wasn't butch. Suzie was in fact very feminine. The problem was she and her boyfriend drank over much and then they fought.

    Suzie was also a member of the Seattle hod carrier's union. Back before cement pumping became advanced, hod carriers packed wet buckets of concrete to difficult spots on construction sites. The trade lingers on because it isn't always possible still to reach some locations with the high tech pumping hoses. Her father totted hods, as his father before him.

    Suzie bet me once she could carry me fireman-style up the extra-tall two story stair case on the girl's wing of the unit at a full run. I didn't allow her to demonstrate but I don't doubt she could have.

    She claimed she'd never done steroids or anything, but everyone in her family was jumbo-size.

  • Harmon||

    "Gender" is not a synonym for "sex", except in political usage, although that usage seems to have infected our common vocabulary. Sex is grounded in biology, gender is a social construct, part of the Zeitgeist.

    People who perceive themselves as being in the wrong body have a biological problem, as do those whose biology is indeterminate. They may define it in terms of gender, but by doing so they confuse the issue, which I take to be "to what extent are we going to accept that society's gender perceptions should overrule sexual facts", and secondarily, "can medical technology change biological fact to conform to gender constructions".

    The Obama administration definition appears to understand this distinction, but it doesn't because it grounds its understanding in the perception of the individual rather than in the perception of society. Thus it actually conflates gender with sex, by confusing an individual's biological experience with society's social construction.

    It seems to me that any useful analysis of the present muddle has to rigorously avoid confusing biological fact with social constructions.

  • Bob from Ohio||

    "Gender" is not a synonym for "sex",

    Says who? Gender was merely a polite term to avoid the double meaning, sex as male/female and the sexual act.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Originally "sex" was the biological thing, and "gender" was the linguistic thing. The people who wanted to pretend that biological members of one sex were actually of the opposing sex appropriated gender to mean sex apart from biological reality.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    The wheel has already been invented by the way. The IOC put together a team of doctors and med school professors to develop a policy aimed at both fair competition and inclusion. It's at http://tinyurl.com/hkzhyax

  • A nerdy Fred||

    I doubt they are as well researched, but for information here are the policies of other sporting organizations: http://tinyurl.com/mf7spdh

  • phoqueue||

    So a giant 7-foot man could declare himself a woman, decrease his testosterone, and compete against women.

  • A nerdy Fred||

    Several commenters have taken the position, in my words not theirs, that there's a permanent dichotomy between male and female and that they can tell which is which by looking.

    How can I tell you that you're wrong when you'll be right more than 98% of the time?

    98+% being right would make your poker nights very short. You'd get spectacularly rich on Wall Street.

    The problem is that if you assume it's 100% then you risk mistreating human beings, whom the Categorical Imperative commands us to treat as ends in themselves.

  • Lee Moore||

    Several commenters have taken the position, in my words not theirs, that there's a permanent dichotomy between male and female and that they can tell which is which by looking.

    Depends what you mean by "looking."

    Looking at a fully clothed figure, ten feet away, dressed and made up as they prefer. Maybe 98%. Maybe only 95%. But if I get to look at and measure skeletal structure, musculature, bone density etc, I'm going to do better. Then if I'm allowed to examine genitals and gonads, I'll do even better. DNA analysis ? Better yet. In the end, if there are any I'm not sure about after all that, then they're genuinely intersex - eg they're mosaics. But even that's permanent, not socially conditioned or capable of adjustment in the surgery or lab.

  • Lee Moore||

    I should perhaps clarify that I'm talking about humans not clown fish. I fully accept that there are some creatures that can actually change sex. Humans are not among them.

  • Zoe Brain||

    "I fully accept that there are some creatures that can actually change sex. Humans are not among them."

    Science 1974 Dec 27; 186 (4170): 1213-5
    In an isolated village of the southwestern Dominican Republic, 2% of the live births were in the 1970's, guevedoces .... These children appeared to be girls at birth, but at puberty these 'girls' sprout muscles, testes, and a penis. For the rest of their lives they are men in nearly all respects. Their underlying pathology was found to be a deficiency of the enzyme, 5-alpha Reductase.

    17BHSD has similar effects. 3BHSD can cause a change in either direction.

    It can reasonably be asserted that going from having an innie to having an outie, or vice versa, isn't reall a "sex change", as reproductive function is almost always compromised.

    For those actually in this situation, from a legal and social viewpoint, it's close enough though. Most disorienting too.

  • Lee Moore||

    It can reasonably be asserted that going from having an innie to having an outie, or vice versa, isn't reall a "sex change", as reproductive function is almost always compromised.

    And as the fundamental determinants of sex - gonads - remain unchanged. What we have here is an unusual development of genitals and secondary sexual characteristics, not a sex change. Which is not to say that someone might somewhere and sometime find a real case of actual sex change in humans, in which case the pathway that nature has found will no doubt be fascinating. Until then "doesn't happen in humans" stands.

    Most disorienting too.

    No argument there.

  • jaydubyou||

    Almost nothing in the world is 100%. If it was, we'd have no need for judges.

    I do think that the odds of predicting someone's sex by looking at them and observing their primary and secondary sex characteristics is better than predicting someone's sex by trying to read their mind--and what "gender identity" they think they are.

    That's the absurdity we're arguing against. That you can't tell someone's sex by looking at them. Cannot. You have to be TOLD by them what they BELIEVE themselves to be. That's all that matters, according to the Left.

  • E Blackadder||

    "Conservatives about sex and sexuality actively enjoying our civil war."

    No, actually it is rational people with common sense watching with amusement as Identity Politics consumes itself in its own silliness and self-interest. After all, do you really think Coleman wants to be beaten out as a "diversity" hire by biological males who claim to identify as females?

  • phoqueue||

    I'll solve this. (1) Create two new divisions: Y and X. (2) Anyone can compete in Y, but if you have ever had testes or a Y chromosome, you must compete in Y. The others can compete in X.

    There we go. That should clean things up. No more "man" and "woman" baggage.

  • DjDiverDan||

    You are ignoring the (admittedly incredibly small) portion of the population which develops from a zygote with XY chromosomes, but a genetic resistance to testosterone. These zygotes develope into a fetus which, although genetically male, is physiologically female, except for the lack of ovaries and the presence of internal testes (which are usually non-functional because of the resistance to testosterone), with all external signs of being female, including a vagina and enlarged breasts after puberty, and all hormonal balances of a normal female. But requiring this person to compete only as a male because of her XY chromosomes ignores the reality of her situation; without the testosterone driven development in the womb, she'll never develop the size or upper body strength of a normal male. Line drawing becomes incredibly difficult unless you want to exclude some arbitrarily small portion of the population which, for reasons entirely beyond their control, doesn't fit neatly into the two "normal" categories.

  • DjDiverDan||

    BTW, if you wonder about this, it is called Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and occurs at a rate of about 2-5 per 100,000 male fetuses, or about 0.002-0.005% of all genetically male fetuses. Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, in which a genetically male zygote develops into a fetus which can have either male or female physical characteristics, or both, is more common.

  • lucia_l||

    Lots of men never develop lots of upper body strength for lots of reasons including being genetically small, being deprived of food as a child, being subject to a serious illness and so on. These men with low upper body strength are still not allowed go compete in the women's division; if they wish to compete, the compete in the men's division. They don't win because other men out compete them, but then most people don't win. So few people see this as some sort of fundamental injustice.

    I don't really see the fact that a particular person with XY genes fails to develop upper body strength for the particular reason of androgen insensitivity syndrome rather than some other reasons as necessarily being a reason to let them compete in the women's division.

    Mind you, I'm going with "no testes" as my preferred rule rather than XY. I don't see a problem with line drawing. As far as I can tell, even those who say it's "difficult" really only mean they want it draw to include those with testes in the "women's" category. They still seem happy with not allowing those with testes and who call themselves men from competing. That's still a line.

  • Lee Moore||

    I think it's a good rule, as it's the testes which give the advantageous extra testosterone.

    There's the hard case of males with testes but complete androgen insensitivity, but I don't know whether people can reliably measure the completeness of the "complete."

  • lucia_l||

    Lee,
    Early on when I'd read the controversy over Caster, articles merely said she had unusually high levels of Testosterone. They didn't mention any cause of the high levels. In some later articles a small fraction mentioned she supposedly has internal testes. I think this is an important point. If she has testes, she isn't just someone who is 4 sigma out on the distribution for no perceptible reason. I honestly think "has testes" is a bright line.

    I understand that some have suggested a rule that would require her to take drugs to suppress production of testosterone to compete. That then put her in the same boat as the trans-athletes. I'd prefer a "no testes" rule. But if they allow trans-athletes to compete provided their testosterone is low, and the testosterone can be supressed pharmacologically, I would understand not making her have surgery to compete.

    If she really is *completely* androgen insensitive, this shouldn't make one bit of difference to her athletic performance and possibly even any other part of her life. After all: complete insensitivity means her body doesn't responde to the testosterone present. Lack of presence should be equivalent as far as her body goes.

    If she is *incompletely* insensitivty, the testosterone surpressors could have a signicant impact on her life and athletic performance. But then, the fact the surpressers did affect her performance would kinda sorta justify the need for the rule!

  • phoqueue||

    Every policy will have victims and edge cases. My policy happens to be easy to administrate and hard to game. If you want to create an exception for the case you raise, I'm not necessarily opposed, but you'd have to convince me that the exception you seek wouldn't be swamped by cheaters and opportunists.

  • Gasman||

    When the stakes are great, large monetary purses, or a gold medal that one can parlay into millions of endorsement dollars, then vetting whether one is a legitimate participant is a valid concern. In some instances, unambiguous, collectively agreed upon, and reproducible assessments of sex matter a great deal to the participants, organizers, and sponsors.
    There will need to be a definition of male and female for sports where there are male and female categories. The alternative is to have the highest level of sport be grouped without sex as a criteria, and simply be 'open' category. If you want open category sport at the next Olympics, there will be exactly zero women medalling in objective measured sports. Maybe a few medals in the subjective assessed activities of gymnastics.

  • Jeff_Kleppe||

    Lots of hot takes from the "Party of Science" in this thread.

  • GK_121||

    In linguistics, 'sex' refers to biology, while 'gender' --- in its older sense of 'genre' --- refers to word class, eg, for languages like French or Spanish where all words are classed as masculine or feminine usually without any (obvious) relation to biological sex.

  • ||

    You have an x league, a y league, and an xy league, which will have to be world wide to come up with a dozen contestants. Problem solved, everybody treated fairly.

  • BrotherMovesOn||

    Blah Blah Blah...
    Who won the match, and how?

  • BrotherMovesOn||

    Blah Blah Blah...
    Who won the match, and how?

  • Ragnarredbeard||

    Honestly, if I was even a mediocre male athlete, I would seriously consider telling people I was a girl just so I could compete with - and handily beat - females. Growing my hair long and half-assing some makeup isn't terribly hard to manage. And you can claim to be a girl without taking any hormones, because people are so afraid of asking.

    Its a golden opportunity.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online