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Science

How To Prove Someone Is Female? 1091

Posted by kdawson
from the who-can-replace-a-man dept.
krou writes "Caster Semenya won the 800m at the World Athletics Championship in blistering style, leaving her competitors in the dust, but she has been thrown into the midst of a scandal amidst claims that she's not really a woman. According to the many press reports, she's believed to shave, is flat chested, has a very masculine physique, previously preferred playing physical games with boys, and shunned traditional female activities and clothing. Questions about her gender have dogged her entire career. Previously, acceptance that she is a women relied on simple inspection of female genitals. But now the IAAF claim that they want to conduct further tests to see if 'she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.' An IAAF spokesmen noted that 'The [testing] process was started after Semenya made her startling breakthroughs — a 25-second improvement at 1500m and eight seconds at 800m, just some weeks ago.' I'm curious what the Slashdot community thinks: what can be considered proof of someone being male or female? Is it simply a case of having the right genitals, or are there other criteria that should be used? Is the IAAF right in claiming that someone should be prevented from competing because they have a rare medical or genetic advantage?"
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How To Prove Someone Is Female?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:01PM (#29158007)

    ... and see how it pans out.

  • Easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wamoc (1263324) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:02PM (#29158009)
    To test if someone is female or not, just ask them to go out with a geek. If she says yes, then she can't be a female.
  • This is /. (Score:3, Funny)

    by desertfool (21262) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:02PM (#29158011) Homepage

    I doubt most people here would have experience with that.

    (sorry, just a bad joke.)

  • Genetic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cob666 (656740) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:02PM (#29158013) Homepage
    I would think that a genetic test would prove whether or not she was.. well... a she.
    • Bloody difficult. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by El Jynx (548908) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:14PM (#29158147)

      Considering that there are plenty of creatures which can be hermaphrodites, and that there are rare genetic variations (YXYY, for example) where one is born with e.g. male characteristics while the sexual organs may be female, this is a difficult point. Where do you draw the line? I know of a few lesbians who, except for the chest, could easily pass for male: large arms and hands, low voice, etc.

      The sexual differences are fairly pronounced for "normal" men and women, but there are plenty of in-betweens. Methinks the only thing they can do is make an extensive study of all the differences between men and women, and say that if more than an x number of variables lean towards the one or the other, the person in question must be considered as being of the opposite sex. Either that, or you have to create the Hermaphrodite Olympics. They'll probably still have to investigate each case separately either way.

      • by cob666 (656740) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:23PM (#29158263) Homepage
        I somewhat agree with you but a 'rare genetic variation' is simply that, RARE. Under normal circumstances, there are genetic markers that distinguish a male from a female and if this particular athlete has a rare variation or abnormality in his/her DNA then that bridge should be crossed when it's come to.
        • by tsm_sf (545316) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:57PM (#29158609) Journal
          You know, from my point of view, all of these world-class athletes are genetic abnormalities. It's a little rich for them to point to the best of themselves and yell "SHE'S the freak!"
        • by SupremoMan (912191) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:14PM (#29158757)

          So she has a rare genetic makeup, doesn't every world class athlete have a rare genetic makeup? I consider myself ordinary male and I can't do most of the stuff even a female Olympic athlete can.

      • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:29PM (#29158327)

        Considering that there are plenty of creatures which can be hermaphrodites

        We aren't talking about clown fish here. That would be a red herring. (Sorry couldn't resist the pun.)

        there are rare genetic variations ... this is a difficult point. Where do you draw the line?

        An interesting question, but probably not relevant to this particular case. We know we want to draw the line between XX and XY. Test her. If she is XX, then female. If XY, then male. It only needs to be an issue if she turns up as XXY or XYY something else.

      • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:39PM (#29158421)
        I think they would have to define a man as someone that is XY and a woman as someone that is XX, anything else doesn't qualify or gets removed based on medical grounds. After all people with medical conditions that require them to take drugs to stay healthy aren't allowed to compete because they are "doping" so why not someone that has a medical condition that makes them not normal as far as their genetics go. Sure athletes tend to be genetically odd a bit anyways, but I think there is a difference from having an unusually quick fast twitch response and having an extra chromosome.

        Also I think you have to define it genetically otherwise people that have a sex change could compete as the sex they want to.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by El Jynx (548908)

          From an evolutionary standpoint, it would be wise to banish gender differences altogether, allow doping, and reward the winners with a show to find 20 women willing to bear their children. It would cause plenty of havoc along the way, but that seems to be the way it works.

          From a more pragmatic standpoint, I think you have to define male and female and discuss each exception separately. There's an inherent problem in questions like this: how far until you cross the line? Each person has an average of 200 mut

        • by Frater 219 (1455) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:29PM (#29158879) Journal

          I think they would have to define a man as someone that is XY and a woman as someone that is XX, anything else doesn't qualify or gets removed based on medical grounds.

          Go read about androgen insensitivity syndrome [wikipedia.org]. A person with complete androgen insensitivity has the external appearance (including external genitals) of a normal female, and usually has been raised with a female identity, and so identifies as a girl or woman. But she has no menstrual period because she has no ovaries or uterus -- she has an XY genotype and undescended internal testes. Androgens (male hormones) create the male external appearance; in the absence of androgens, a fetus develops a female appearance -- and parents and society assign a female identity.

          It seems to me that a reasonable approach to dealing fairly with intersexed people in sports would be to replace sex separation with weight-class separation. Human sex and gender turn out to be complex and fraught with both social and technical problems, and it is unreasonable to deny an athlete the chance to compete just because their genetic curiosity happens to be on the 23rd chromosome.

        • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:33PM (#29158921)

          Shouldn't these track and field events be a place where we humans can come together and show how far we're able to push our natural limitations without body modification?

          Without body modification, I mean without introducing drugs or mechanical advantages into our bodies. To show how far we can go "naturally".

          Rules are rules, and the sport has their own governing authority deciding what is and isn't okay.

          1. Logically, if she had a sex change, this would be a modification to her body. How is this any different from doping?

          2. Logically, if she was born that way, without any drug inducements, the question is, is she considered male or female?

          As someone pointed out, males tend to be thought of producing sperm, and females producing ova. But, where does that leave those who don't fit that definition?

          Look at one's chromosomes, and whether one's body is producing the hormones that tend to make one male or female. Is she an underdeveloped male, or is she an underveloped female? This may be an oversimplification, but don't males have more testosterone that estrogen, and females more estrogen than testosterone?

          All in all, it comes down to how the governing authority of the sport defines it.

        • Re:Bloody difficult. (Score:5, Informative)

          by this great guy (922511) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:53PM (#29159109)

          "Someone who is XY or XX" is also not well-defined. Mosaicism [wikipedia.org] is a condition where an individual has some XY cells, and others XX. Where do you draw the line for the individual to be a male? Does "he" have to have 50+% XY cells, 90+%, 99+% ?

          And what about the XYY syndrome [wikipedia.org]? Some question whether the term "syndrome" is even appropriate because most individuals with XYY cells don't even know it as they appear to be regular healthy males. They don't have to take drugs, which defeats your first argument. Given that 1 in 1000 boys have this syndrome, it is probable that some athletes who won "male" competition have this syndrome. If we were to have these persons genetically tested today, would you retroactively strip them from their titles?

          This whole male/female question is not as trivial as it looks like.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by INT_QRK (1043164)
        Why obsess over it in the first place? What, in the grad scheme of things, difference does it make? So, what if one or two hermaphrodites, or for that matter impostors, do get away with it? It's just freaking sports. I'd recommend standard diligence and then take any later revelations as and if they come.
    • Re:Genetic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:15PM (#29158165) Journal
      That.
      I would also use this occasion to state my amusement to see these sports officials embarrassed about someone having a clear advantage that can not be put on special training, drugs, equipment or techniques. At a high level, performances in sports like athletics will show differences that can have a clear genetic cause (that's okay. That is, after all, a feature of evolution, that some individual will outperform others on specific tasks) yet refuse to acknowledge it and emphasize on the training and work of athletes.

      Athletes keep talking about sports' spirit, about how it is all about fairness and balance. I am happy to see some reminders that top competitions are mostly about unfair genetic advantage. This focus on the top 1st, the gold medal, the world champion, is a bit insane. The most respectable difference I see in sport is between amateur and well-trained. Between these two levels, the difference is clear and is mostly about efforts. But it is not very convenient or spectacular to build a mediafest around.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Trepidity (597)

        Indeed, some more organized and large countries (China being the most effective current example) have programs to try to find people with particular genetic variants to recruit into sports. Want to dope people with testosterone but it's illegal? Find someone with abnormally high levels of testosterone naturally! Thinking of competing in a sport where HGH would help? Find a guy who naturally produces really high levels. Etc.

        I guess I don't find that process that interesting. Is there really anything better o

        • Re:Genetic (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:07PM (#29158689)

          Genetic variants? By many accounts, China outright fabricated passports for some of their prepubescent gymnasts in the last olympics. After an initial hand flapping, that got ignored. But some poor girl who (apparently through no fault of her own) has some natural advantage is being punished. That is simply crazy.

  • Medical advantage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:03PM (#29158025) Journal

    "she may have a rare medical condition that gives her an unfair advantage.' "

    What kind of bullshit is this? Your genetics are 80% of the winning. Personally, I was born with messed up feet so I have always known that I wouldn't be the sprinting world champion. The fact that this woman(because that's what she is) has the better genetic profile to win these kinds of races is to her advantage and the people who didn't win are to accept that or play another game.

    • Re:Medical advantage (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NoobixCube (1133473) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:13PM (#29158139) Journal

      To expand on what you said, if she's banned or pulled back because of her genetic condition, then you can probably expect your gold medal in the mail any day now. Treating people differently for their genetics has a very bad history so far, and sets a bad precedent for the future. Wake me up when the question is about whether someone genetically engineered to be better should compete in the same league as naturals. That's an interesting topic since genetic engineering could be construed as a performance enhancement.

  • Genetic Advantage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:03PM (#29158027)
    Everyone competing in IAAF competitions should be fat, lazy, nonathletic, slobs. Otherwise its unfair to all the fat, lazy, nonathletic slobs who just cant compete.
  • Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:04PM (#29158033)
    One reason I would never hope to be rich and in the spot light is stuff like this. Ask Richard Gere how long shit like this can follow you. If it its true it is a pretty personal outting.
  • by oldhack (1037484) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:06PM (#29158053)

    If you ever posted here, you know you are not a REAL female. You may even look like one, but you know, deep inside, you have big question mark lingering. Don't you!

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:06PM (#29158059) Homepage Journal

    Kick them in the nuts really hard. If they don't fold over in pain and whimper an octave higher, they're female.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BlueParrot (965239)

      Kick them in the nuts really hard. If they don't fold over in pain and whimper an octave higher, they're female.

      As a transsexual I can inform you that destroying/removing the the testicles does not result in your voice going higher in pitch once it has dropped. The larynx grow bigger under influence by testosterone, but it does not shrink again when testosterone is removed, nor does it do so under influence of oestrogen. Furthermore the difference in pitch between men and women is less than a full octave, w

  • Gender isn't sex. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:07PM (#29158067)

    I think slashdot should start with the correct definitions, being a technical community and all: Sex is, Gender does. Second, Slashdot of all places should know that the two are correlations, not causations. And lastly, I'd like to believe that as a community that espouses scientific values and intelligent discourse, the answer should be obvious:

    You can't.

    Life is full of delicious ambiguity, and people assume that two polar opposites (male and female) have nothing in between. But life isn't like that. Life is a spectrum, and any place we draw the line is arbitrary -- not natural. Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.

    • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@castl e s t e e l s t o ne.us> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:24PM (#29158277) Homepage Journal

      And lastly, I'd like to believe that as a community that espouses scientific values and intelligent discourse, the answer should be obvious:...

      Bad girlintrainig! You never, ever, EVER presume that just because someone is smart and intelligent they should agree with you -- or that, just because someone disagrees with you, they're either not smart or not intelligent.

      I'd say it's far more scientific to brand gender and sex as immutable based on your genetics than to relegate it to subjective measurements And on that note...

      Life is full of delicious ambiguity, and people assume that two polar opposites (male and female) have nothing in between. But life isn't like that. Life is a spectrum, and any place we draw the line is arbitrary -- not natural. Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.,

      A female is an organism that can produce an ova to create young during its lifespan. A male is an organism that can create sperm to fertilize said Ova during its lfiespan. This is not arbitrary -- this is the scientific definition from biology. Any organism that can do neither of those two during its lifespan is neuter, and any that can do both is hemaphroditic (sic). ANY OTHER DEFINITION is cultural, subjective, non-scientific crap.

    • by TeknoHog (164938) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:25PM (#29158295) Homepage Journal

      Nature has its own laws, which are not the laws of men.

      Exactly, they are the laws of women.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597)

      I agree with most of that, but in:

      Sex is, Gender does. Second, Slashdot of all places should know that the two are correlations, not causations.

      I think it would be hard to argue that there isn't at least some causal effect between sex and gender. Surely it's not merely a coincidental correlation that, in animals having the XY sex-determination system [wikipedia.org] (incl. all mammals), the vast majority of individuals with XX configuration turn out to have primary and secondary sexual characteristics grouped as "female" a

  • easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:10PM (#29158095)

    just ask "asl?"

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:10PM (#29158099)

    Most people have an okay time with "male" and "female" as unproblematic concepts, because for the majority of people all the things that might go into the concepts correlate at least reasonably well. Most females are genetically XX, and have both primary and secondary sexual characteristics typical of females. Most males are XY, and have primary/secondary characteristics typical of males.

    If those things aren't all correlated nicely, though, it makes clear that there isn't really a solid definition that covers all aspects of what we mean. A genetic test for XX vs. XY? (And then what do you do about XXY?) Just an issue of primary sexual traits? (Do secondary sexual traits matter?) A combination of all the above? (And then what do you do if they don't all match up?)

    At some point the distinctions become somewhat arbitrary, and to me at least not all that interesting: there isn't actually any magical "right" answer to the question. Perhaps to get an answer that makes sense in this context we might first answer: what is the purpose of having separate male/female sporting competitions, and which definition of sex or gender would contribute towards that purpose best?

  • Two words: (Score:5, Funny)

    by olsmeister (1488789) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:13PM (#29158141)
    Driving test.
  • Distance Racers (Score:3, Informative)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:29PM (#29158329)

    I watched the women's 1500m race today and saw not one woman who wasn't flat chested or nearly so.

    I believe (from Mary Decker Slayne) that this is typical of women who train hard and as this young lass is just now 18 it would make sense that her hormonal changes were or are going to happen latter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:38PM (#29158413)

    If you haven't looked in to the -how- of a sex change, you probably should. It's fascinating.

    Turns out its almost all about the action of estrogen and testosterone on the body. Here's how it works:

    Before birth: genetics (not the action of testosterone or estrogen) drive the construction of male or female genitalia along with testicles, prostate, uterus and ovaries. The bodies otherwise develop pretty much exactly the same.

    Before puberty: still nothing. Get a boy and a girl both five years old, cut their hair the same and dress them in the same clothes. You won't be able to tell which is which. Except for the genitalia, their bodies are virtually identical.

    Puberty: Boys and girls begin producing significant quantities of testosterone or estrogen. Under the action of testosterone, boys gain an extra several inches of height.

    Any time: under the action of testosterone, the voice deepens, facial hair appears, body hair becomes coarse and soft tissues redistribute and redevelop towards the abdomen in particular and towards what's considered to be the male figure in general. Under the action of estrogen, the mammaries develop, body hair becomes soft and soft tissue redistributes towards the thighs and the so-called "hourglass figure." And of course if she actually has a uterus then she begins to menstruate.

    Note that if you artificially introduce testosterone and estrogen before puberty, the changes start early, typically to the detriment of the girl or boy whose body isn't yet ready.

    The appearance of facial hair, the voice drop and the development of the mammaries are permanent features. Skeletal height is also permanent after puberty; you won't add inches by introducing testosterone in your 30s. Once developed these characteristics can only be surgically altered. The soft tissue distribution and body hair character alters under the effect of the two chemicals, so if you change the chemical balance those features will alter.

    Post menopause/ed: in the absence of significant amounts of testosterone and estrogen, body hair and figure tend towards a neutral configuration. That's why grandma and grandpa start to look alike.

    So, someone undergoing a sex change takes two daily pills: one to block the action of the undesired chemical (estrogen or testosterone) and one which provides the missing chemical. Do this for about a year and 90% of the change is accomplished... From a fully clothed perspective you generally can't tell the difference except that the woman is oddly tall or the man oddly short. In fact, given the expense and risk of the final SRS surgery (versus the sub-$50/month cost of the pills), more than a few trans simply stop there, satisfied with an outward appearance and lifestyle that matches their self-image.

    Now apparently the sports officials suspect something more unusual than just tampering with body chemistry is going on here. There's a very rare birth defect in which an individual who is genetically male incorrectly grows female genitalia. They lack ovaries and a uterus. The testicles are still connected but they're up in the abdomen and mostly non-functional. Generally the first time anyone even suspects the individual isn't genetically female is when they reach puberty and the testicles start putting out testosterone. The girl adds 6 inches in a growth spurt, spouts fuzz on her face, loses an octave in her voice and pads her bra. Very embarrassing.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:46PM (#29158511)
    *IF* they insist on dividing the competitions between males and females (and I admit that they usually have good reason for doing so), THEN they should strictly stick to their categories. XY for male, XX for female, with no significant genital "abnormalities" that may affect the outcome.

    At the same time, however, maybe they should consider an "other" category. Just so the minority is not left out. The "really special" Olympics, shall we say.
  • by Katchu (1036242) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:47PM (#29158521)
    If Caster stops and asks for directions to the track arena, Caster is a female. If Caster continues to drive around, crossing bridges, running into cul-de-sacs, on and off the freeway, then Caster is a male.
  • by smcevilly (1623065) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:51PM (#29158555)
    Reminds me of a futurama episode. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bend_Her [wikipedia.org] Bender a robot sex change is a complex and dangerous procedure. Replacing your testosteroil with Fembot lubricants can cause wild mood swings. And the effects may be irreversible. Well let's get started!
  • by Reemi (142518) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @06:56PM (#29158597)

    From wiki:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foekje_Dillema [wikipedia.org]

    "In 1950 Dillema was expelled for life by the Dutch National Athletics Federations. A gynaecologist concluded that Dillema was an intersex."

    "In 2008, a controversial DNA-test on dead cells from her clothing found that she may have been a Genetic Mosaic, having both 46XX (female) and 46XY (male) chromosomes in approximately a 3 to 1 ratio. "

  • Welcome to numbers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by holophrastic (221104) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:01PM (#29158643)

    This is pretty rediculous. This is what happens when silly people organize silly things, then orchestrate silly rules to keep the silly things from becoming too silly, then those silly rules forget the initial point.

    The reason men and women don't compete together is because "there will be a disparity between men and women". So they have been seperated. Now someone's saying that this person isn't slow enough to fall into the women's category. Well good news, your whole "split them up by speed" still works.

    There are many "marathons" these days. Just general fitness or charity "start here, move yourself across/around the city, end there". Often, you can walk, jog, or run. Obviously the ones walking don't beat the ones running. No one expects them to -- they are simply slower. But still all three "speeds" compete in the event.

    What's even more rediculous is that the entire concept of the split is purely for the observer. The woman still scored a 6, and the man still scored a 5. It really doesn't matter how the other women and men scored. That women is better than that man. Why is this a problem.

    Throw them all into the same pool. Let the faster ones finish first, and let the slower ones finish last. When all ten women are slower than all ten men, every observer watching from the stands or on TV will say that the best women came "first in her class" -- just like in auto-racing with multiple classes of cars. Hell, put stock cars, formula-1 cars, bicycles, men, women, teenagers, toddlers, infants, and embryos on the same track. I'll expect the formula-1 cars to be faster tha the embryos, it's ok, I can split them up into classes all on my own -- from the results.

    It's like I always say to servers in a restaurant who ask my party if we want seperate bills: "thanks, but I can divide a $20 lunch all by myself".

    So quit the grouping for no reason -- it's not like they're competing with each-other directly, it's only their scores that compete. When there's a large gap between number 6 and number 7 in the standings, I'll put my group seperation there. And when there isn't, I won't.

  • WTF? Sour grapes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:02PM (#29158647)

    For fook sake...if someone is born with a vagina and they haven't taken drugs or gotten surgery to get there, they are a woman.

    To try to weed someone out of the athletic process because God (or whatever you believe in) has given them "a little extra" is absurd.

    Are we going to treat the Olympics like a dog show and start delving into genetics and "quality of their coat" and all the other BS nitpicks that people use to judge dogs in order to allow people to compete in sports? Absent an obvious attempt at cheating, I find this whole line of "testing" to be repulsive.

  • Not so damn easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:10PM (#29158713)

    I suspect there will be a bunch of posts suggesting a simple genetic test will determine somebody's gender, but these tests were abandoned precisely because there are numerous cases where they fail. To mention a few examples:

    Complete Androgen Insensitivity:
    There's a number of people with XY chromosome genotype for which teh cells don't respond to testosterone. These individuals develop as women, and because they don't even respond to the very slight amount of testosterone women have they can actually be more feminine in physical terms than XX women. Many don't even know about their condition especially sicne the sign that usually reveals it ( lack of menstruation ) is easily mistaken as being caused by the exercise many athletes undergo.

    Chromosome variations:
    Not all peopel are XY or XX in chromosomes. There's Klinefelter ( XXY ) , Mosaics ( where some cells have one chromosome setup and some another ), and chimeras ( where different cells not only had different chromosome setups but the entire genotype can vary from cell to cell ).

    Hormonal Variation:
    Genetics is only part of what determines your sex. Even if you have XY chromosomes that only really affects the pre-puberty development of your genitals. The other sex differences ( secondary sex characteristics ) are down to hormonal influences. This is why transsexuals that go on hormone replacement therapy and have their gonads removed through sex reassignment surgery develop characteristics similar to tehri desired sex ( breast development in Male-to-female transsexuals, facial hair and muscle growth in Female-to-male transsexuals etc... ). This of course brings me to the next point...

    Transsexualism:
    Just like people can develop ambiguous genitals or chromosomes, some people develop a psychological gender similar to the opposite biological sex. It's not known exactly why this occurs, but it is currently believed to be neurological in origin ( i.e you could have people with a male brain in a female body or the other way around ). Often these individuals will undergo hormone replacement therapy in order to make their bodies more congruent with their psychological gender ( the only known effective treatment, attempting to resolve the situation with psychotherapy typically fails and has frequently resulted in suicides ). Male to female transsexuals tend to lose upper body strength while on hormones, female to male ones gain it. Thus classifying these individuals on the basis of genetics rather than their hormonal status would stick people with male muscle development among female competitors and vice versa.

    Essentially your performance in sports is more closely linked to hormonal factors ( and how your body respond to them ) than genetics, and thus a karyotype test is a rally poor way to classify competitors. Believe it or not but you get people with XX chromosomes that have more testosterone than the average man, and conversely XY individuals with female Oestrogen and progesterone levels. What is more is that in some cases the individual in question is not even aware of their genotype and it has happened before that female athletes have been shocked to find out they have Y chromosomes.

  • by atli_04 (778163) on Saturday August 22, 2009 @07:37PM (#29158975)
    What does her car look like after backing in to a parking slot?

    Does she go to the bathroom alone or with two friends?

    How much time does she spend in the shoe store?

    Does the battery of her mobile phone last more than a day?

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet@got.nERDOSet minus math_god> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @03:58AM (#29161807) Journal

    As a number of folks here have already made it abundantly clear that sex is bugger-all hard to define. There's genetic sex (of which there are nearly a dozen), there's congenital development (we all start out female and then it's pretty much a crap shoot), there're even a fair number of folks without any secondary sexual characteristics at all.

    Even if the young lady does or does not have perfectly normal genes, there are dozens of both natural and artificial processes that could give her an unfair advantage. The cost of eliminating all possible ways of cheating (including the unintentional cheating of atypical sexual development) would be prohibitive, and in of itself a form of unfair pandering to vested interests and religious bigots. If you think about it, the extraordinary athlete is often gifted with unusual physical traits (several of the best swimmers had unusual knee joints allowing them to hyper-extend at the knee and get a larger swing in their kicks, and a basketball player under 6 feet is for all intents unheard of.)

    I would simply leave it at, if the person lives as their declared sex, functions socially as that sex, and isn't engaging in the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs... get over it.

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