Intersexuality and the International Olympic Committee by Jane Hoppen

BSB_In_Between

Congratulations to justdar826! She (or he) won a signed paperback copy of In Between by Jane Hoppen.

Hi everyone! Jane Hoppen dropped by to tell us all about her debut novel, In Between. It’s available this month from Bold Strokes Books. I have to say, after reading the blog here today, I can’t wait to pick up the book. It’s officially on my must read list.

Here’s the hookup to find Jane online: Her website is HERE, be friends on facebook HERE, and buy her book HERE (paperback), and HERE (ebook).

To add to the bucketful of fun today, Jane is giving away a signed paperback copy of In Between. To enter, drop a comment in the comment section below. I’ll draw the winner on 12/13 (which, incidentally, is day two of the Hootenanny).

Intersexuality and the International Olympic Committee
by Jane Hoppen

What is your gender? Really? Can you prove it? How? Imagine spending the vast majority of your life preparing for the Olympics, and just when you are about to compete with the best of the best, your dream come true, you are told by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that, according to their testing, you do not qualify to compete as a woman. You, in fact, are not a woman by their standards. That scenario has been a reality for many female athletes since the 1960s. When I first started doing research for In Between, I made many startling discoveries, particularly when it came to the practices of the IOC in regards to female athletes. In the 1960s, when various countries suspected that the Soviet Union and other Communist countries were entering men in events for female athletes, the IOC decided to resolve the issue by requiring all female athletes to parade nude before a selected group of doctors who would verify their sex via examination of the genital area. From that point on, the type of testing the IOC uses has varied.

When the Olympics arrived in Mexico City in 1968, the Committee officials changed their tactics to chromosomal testing that determined that several female athletes were born with genetic defects that, according to the laboratory results, made them appear to be more male. A Polish sprinter, Ewa Klobukowska, was banned from events in the 1967 Olympics because she failed the chromosomal test. Klobukowska, however, had passed the nude test she was forced to undergo earlier in the year. In Beijing, in 2008, the Olympic organizers set up a sex-determination laboratory to evaluate female athletes whose gender was under question. At these same games, India’s middle-distance runner, Santhi Soundarajan, had her silver medal taken from her after failing a gender verification test and refusing a more thorough exam.

Though much of the medical and scientific community remain determined to insist that only two genders exist, evidence of a third gender, people often now referred to as intersexuals, is rather endless. All fetuses begin without differentiation, and what happens from that point is a matter of hormones and chromosomes, the creation of a male, a female, or, as in the case of Sophie Schmidt, the main character in In Between, a third gender being. To date a number of variations have been identified, to include Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which is Sophie’s variation; Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia; and Klinefelter Syndrome. Some variations are more common in certain ethnicities, such as 5-Alpha Reductase Deficiency, which is often found among babies born in the Dominican Republic.

In any case, society as a whole needs to make a push toward the acknowledgment of third genders so these individuals can be accepted rather than ostracized and, as in the case of so many female athletes, invasively scrutinized. Again we come full circle and return to that one simple question: What makes a man a man, and a woman a woman?

15 comments

  1. In Between is SUCH an amazing book, I absolutely loved it and it made me question everything… In a good way. I’d highly recommend you get over to BSB and get yourself a copy now!

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  2. Sounds interesting, how horrible to train all your life and then not be able to compete. Look forward to reading your book!

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  3. This book sounds really great. I can’t wait to read it. As someone who had an endocrinologist tell me I was definitely a woman, when I didn’t anticipate it even being under question, I find the notion of third gender very intriguing

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  4. I’ve already bought it- I do book readings for an online LGBTQetc group and this will be useful and interesting. I prefer e-books but have friends who’d love a copy of the paperback too.

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  5. Wow! I had no idea that this was the cause. I’ve heard of individuals being banned and that their sexuality was questioned but the spin that the media puts on these issues definitely says a lot about our society. This sounds like an excellent story and I would love to be entered to win a copy.

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  6. Having worked in the insurance industry where things tend to be black and white, I had several occasions where it became difficult for people to answer the gender question. This subject affects many people across cultures and industries alike. I would love to read this book.

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  7. “Though much of the medical and scientific community remain determined to insist that only two genders exist, evidence of a third gender, people often now referred to as intersexuals, is rather endless.”

    This sentence is not really accurate. First, many (but not all!) people with intersex conditions identify as one or the other binary gender, male or female. Second, not all people who identify as non-binary, as a third (or fourth or fifth) gender, or something similar have intersex conditions. Third, gender and physical sex, in people with or without intersex conditions, aren’t the same thing. Very very briefly, gender is what people identify as. It’s what gender one feels like, mediated by cultural construction of gender. Fourth, you won’t find many scientists or doctors who deny the existence of intersex conditions, but their beliefs about how people, especially babies, with intersex conditions should be treated unfortunately vary a lot, especially outside the developed world.

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