His Thomas made a very good point about what makes a woman, whether you like it or not

Contrary to her criticism, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been largely silent since placing first in the 500-meter freestyle at the NCAA Women’s Swimming Championships in March. Earlier this week, however, she sat down with Juju Chang of Good Morning America to give her side of the story. Describing a childhood spent feeling confused and depressed by a body that had betrayed her, His told a story that resembled those of many passers-by – including my own. His discussed how swimming helped her cope, and how the fear of losing her ability to compete caused her to postpone a medical transition until her second year at UPenn.

Asked by Chang whether the controversial possibility that testosterone-fueled puberty may leave “hereditary effects” on a trans-woman’s body after a medical transition that should disqualify her from competing in elite sports, Lia replied: “I’m not a medical expert, but there’s a lot of variety among female athletes. “There are cis-women who are very tall and very muscular and have more testosterone than another cis-woman, and should that also disqualify them?”

And here lies the heart of the matter: What does a woman do, and who can decide that? Chromosomes? Hormones? Genitals? The ability to get pregnant?

Many of those who would like to see His lose his championship title argue that Title IX policies were intended to protect women and girls in college sports. They ignore the fact that Title IX protects all students from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. By implying that trans women are not “real” women, they are arming transphobia and widespread misconceptions about sex and gender to justify draconian and discriminatory policies. And, how the dark history of sex testing in women’s sports shows, this is a real concern. These policies not only encourage women to look at each other with unnecessary suspicion, but to pay attention to harmful and old-fashioned ideas about what femininity should look like.

Take it Ewa KlobukowskaPolish track star and the to fail first the International Association of Athletics Federations (the board now known as World Athletics) chromosome test. Three years after Ewa won gold and bronze medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the IAAF ruled that an extra chromosome disqualified her from competing as a female, publicly embarrassing her as a “male cheater” and stripping her of both medals and dignity. The next year, Ewa became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Medical journal later published the results of the test that turned her life upside down – XX / XXY – one result of a condition called mosaicism that occurs when a person has two or more genetically different sets of chromosomes. Ewa, now 76, has completely removed himself from the public eye after a failed suicide attempt. The IAAF never formally apologized or restored her medals.

Forty years later, the IAAF would administer another chromosome test to Santhi Soundarajan, a young Indian woman of the “untouchable” caste who has seen athletic success. Planned to represent her country at the upcoming Olympics after winning a silver medal at the 2006 Asian Games, her joy was turned upside down when she was sent home, confused, the very next day. Initially told that she had failed a routine doping test, Santhi learned several days later – via national news – that she had in fact failed a “sex test”. Born with complete androgenic insensitivity syndrome, Santhi has XY chromosomes, female genitals, and internal testicles that produce testosterone, but her body lacks the androgen receptors that would allow it to use any of that hormone. Even if she shows levels in the typically male range, so it expresses no physical effect on her body.

More recently, 18-year-old lesbian Dutee Chand was subjected to a series of tests after winning two gold medals at the 2014 Asian Junior Athletics Championships. Several athletes, she would later be told, thought she didn’t look feminine enough, so she suspected she might be male. IAAF doctors tested her testosterone levels and gave her an ultrasound, chromosome analysis, MRI and physical examination, which included “measuring and palpating the clitoris, vagina and lips, as well as assessing breast size and pubic hair.” The IAAF officially replaced chromosome testing with testosterone testing in 2011 after another lesbian runner, Caster Semenya, was found to have naturally high levels, a move that would later inform the NCAA’s own policy on transgender athletes. Dutee was later told she had “hyperandrogenism”, and would be disqualified from further competition if she did not want to undergo unnecessary medical therapies to lower her levels.

In 2013 issue of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, A group of French researchers is recording the IAAF-recommended “treatments” performed on four female athletes who, like Dutee Chand, were diagnosed with hyperandrogenism. Any internal gonads were removed, estrogen replacement therapy (like the one experienced by Lia Thomas) began, and a female genital mutation – including a clitoridectomy for size reduction and a “feminizing vaginoplasty” for labial fusion – was performed, although none of these conditions present any health. risk to women and the interventions themselves can cause many problems.

Assigned female at birth, I have lived more or less unsuccessfully as a woman for almost 30 years before making the decision to cross over. When I finally found the doctor who would prescribe my first rounds of hormone replacement therapy, she asked how long I had been “self-healing,” implying that I had been doping myself with anabolic steroids. I was confused – I never tried a drug stronger than dark beer – until she commented that my testosterone level was high enough for me to get rid of elite sports.

I had no PCOS, amenorrhea, hirsutism, or XY chromosomes (although, of course, many men do not). I gave birth and was not particularly athletic. Genetic testing, which I underwent while pregnant with my daughter, years later, suggested mosaicism, but accidentally testing the genetic material from the whole body would be prohibitively expensive without much reward. Those who would label me as a confused, mentally ill woman seemed unlikely to be swept away by such truths. However, according to IAAF policies, I would be classified as male, and many of those same people would support that.

While being transgender is not currently classified as a disorder of sexual developmentmany endocrinologists and biologists Those who work and research in the fields of sex, gender, and genetics believe that gender identity is at least partially – and possibly completely – biological, and studies seem to show that trans women have lagged behind cis men in physical strength and body mass even before undertaking hormone therapy. If this is the case, and Lia Thomas was never really or fully male at first, then we must confess that she is just one more victim of a harmful system that could force any accomplished athlete to lose his identity, hard-earned medals, and even part of her clitoris, based on measures of sex that seem increasingly arbitrary. And when we allow this to happen to any woman, all women lose.

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