Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gender in Sports

For my research paper, I wrote about "Transgender & Competitive Policy." Basically, how different sporting arenas handle transgender athletes. One of the stories that lead me to writing this paper was the story of Sarah Gronert, an intersex woman climbing in the ranks on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

An opposing coach complained because Gronert beat his player in a recent tournament. 'There is no girl who can hit serves like that, not even Venus Williams,' said Schlomo Tzoref, the coach of Julia Glushko, who Gronert recently beat on her way to winning the Raanana tournament in Israel in early March." First off, what did he mean by "not even Venus Williams? Is she the limit to how hard a woman can hit and if someone goes over, then she must be a he?

Gronert was born with ambiguous genitalia and had surgery when she was just a baby to "fix" it. She has lived her entire life as a woman, but that is not good enough for some. Tzoref continues, "This can not be. This is not a woman, it's a man. She does not have the power of a woman and no woman has such a technique. She serves like a man. It's very strange."

People are not upset about this because she is intersex. People are upset because she is beating everybody. Players are complaining and her wikipedia page was even deleted because of "abuse" from users. What would happen if she wasn't winning so many tournaments?

In the end, the WTA cleared her and she is allowed to play in the WTA and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Unfortunately, she had to undergo a "gender verification." "Sarah Gronert is legally and biologically a woman," somebody with the ITF said, "and as such perfectly entitled to compete in ITF Pro Circuit events and, at some point if her ranking warrants it, in WTA Tour events."

The world of athletes is a tough one for transgender and intersex individuals. Not only growing up having to worry about tight uniforms, locker rooms and puberty, but the division for boys and girls sports creates more confusion. In my research, I have found that the majority of sports don't have a policy regarding this issue. One is created when one is needed. And mostly, it happens in woman's sports. In my research, I have yet to find a single case with a professional male athlete. One could wonder if there would be as much cries of "unfair."

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