Sports Gender Controversy – Bonus Scene | Gender Revolution

Sports Gender Controversy – Bonus Scene | Gender Revolution


NARRATOR: Intersex. Even if you’ve heard the word,
you may not know what it is. And that’s not surprising
because intersex doesn’t mean just one thing. It refers to a variety
of different conditions in which a child is born with
anatomy that doesn’t completely conform to what’s
traditionally understood to be male or female. By one estimate,
one in 1,500 babies is born intersex, which
would make it about as common as being born with red hair. If that number
is true, then we certainly all know
somebody who is intersex, even if we don’t know it. NARRATOR: And while
intersex isn’t exactly a household word, last summer
it got global attention at the Rio Olympics. Caster Semenya, the lightning
fast runner from South Africa. She took gold in the 800
meter but she almost didn’t make it to the starting blocks. She was nearly banned
from competing at all after allegations that she
is intersex, reportedly born with a condition that causes
her body to produce extremely high levels of testosterone,
something critics, and the women who have
to compete against her, say is an unfair advantage. High testosterone is the most
important factor that separates male and female athletes. If you allow intersex women
to compete against other women with their naturally-produced
high testosterone, it creates a very
un-level playing field. NARRATOR: Not everyone agrees
that testosterone gives elite athletes the gold medal edge. Some sports
scientists argue it’s no more of an unfair
advantage than good nutrition or good genes. So the task that policymakers
have been given is to basically prove that testosterone
is jet fuel that’s propelling
them and giving them male-typical advantage. And so it’s not borne
out by their times, but it’s also not borne
out by the science. NARRATOR: But in 2011,
the governing body in track and field instituted a
controversial new rule banning any female runner with
testosterone levels higher than 10 nanomoles per
liter, considered by experts to be in the male range. It’s not saying you
are a man or a woman. It’s saying you can compete. It’s a matter of
eligibility to participate in certain competitions. So it places a ceiling or
a threshold limit on women’s natural testosterone. And if you exceed that,
even though you’ve always competed in
the women’s category, you’re no longer eligible. NARRATOR: The ruling meant
Caster Semenya was sidelined unless she was willing
to artificially lower her testosterone
levels with drugs, which she presumably did. And her performance suffered. But the pressure on her,
demanding public answers to intimate questions,
never let up. Yeah they can make
their own decisions. But don’t forget, what I can do
I can just help other athletes like me, you know? NARRATOR: And some
asked, was Semenya singled out not just because
of her speed on the track? I think what
happened was really based on her
appearance that crosses some sort of invisible
threshold of femininity. She didn’t fit what people would
expect from a female athlete. NARRATOR: Caster seemed
destined to miss the Rio games. But in 2015, the ban was lifted
when a runner from India, Dutee Chand, also barred because
of high testosterone levels, sued the international track
and field governing authority and won after sports
officials failed to produce scientific data to
back up their theory that testosterone
gives female athletes an insurmountable advantage. The scientific
evidence wasn’t there, which is underlying
the rationale for the entire policy. Higher testosterone gives
you male typical advantage. And that wasn’t borne out. NARRATOR: With the
ban lifted, Semenya went on to win gold in Rio. But in at least one
way, Semenya’s victory was bittersweet,
exposing the raw emotions and deep sense of injustice
some of her fellow runners felt. There’s a really sad, I
think, and heartbreaking photograph that sticks with me. So after Caster Semenya
had won her race she went over to greet
competitors who had not medaled, reaching out
to try to greet them and they remain in the embrace. What it points to,
really, is a very sad, heartbreaking ending
about who’s really harmed by these policies. NARRATOR: And Semenya
may have another hurdle to clear before she
crosses the finish line. The track and field
governing authority has until July of
2017 to provide scientific evidence
about the role of testosterone in athletes. If they meet the deadline,
the ban could be reinstated and Caster Semenya could
be stripped of her medals and sidelined forever.

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