Law & Politics

Sex, gender and identity: It’s complicated

In this era of a greater focus on individual human rights, many minorities and oppressed or ignored sections of society are standing up and demanding that the law of the land reflect and support their newly acquired equal status.

For over two centuries, this has been occurring with the larger minorities – slaves, women, ‘sinister’ left-handed people, racial underclasses, homosexuals, the disabled, and so on.

But smaller minorities have also become a part of this social and legislative shift in who may or  may not be discriminated against. For example, transgender and intersex people have agitated to be able to alter their birth certificates, to be referred to as she/her, he/him or they/them as they request, to enter women-only sports competitions, and to use the bathrooms or changerooms that match their internal psychological gender identity.

As with almost every new social issue, the initial positions of many on both sides of these policy arguments have been emotion based and extreme. At one extreme, someone like Caster Semenya, the South African winner of the last two Olympic gold medals in the women’s 800 metres athletics, refused to abide by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling that an entrant in the Tokyo competition must have been found to have less than 10 nanomoles of testosterone in their blood for 12 months at least.

Semenya argued she would not “let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am”.  The very same argument could be adv...

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