Greer shows her transphobic colours

From the Fword.org via Cara at Feministe

http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/08/greer_shows_her

By Laura Woodhouse | 21 August 2009, 08:58

Germaine Greer has written a frankly rather incoherent piece for The Guardian on the Semenya story, which seems to me little more than an excuse for a bit of trans women bashing. She uses the case to ask ‘What makes a woman?’, complaining that:

Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.

How Greer can think that trans women living as men make the decision to transition to living as women based on a penchant for dresses and eye shadow when that transition will most probably involve putting oneself at further risk of harassment, discrimination, violence and even murder – due to both sexism and transphobia – is beyond me. She seems to think that because she’s Germaine Greer, it’s okay for her to call other people ‘ghastly parodies’ and refer to their lived experiences as ‘delusions’. And quite apart from her cruelty and transphobia, to refer to trans women’s appearance as a ‘parody’ of womanhood is to accept that there is a ‘true’ female appearance, which undermines any argument that femininity is a social construct.

Greer does make the salient point that employing the services of a psychologist as part of a sex test is illogical, as sex is a physical characteristic, but she uses this to reinforce the validity of cis women’s gender identity over trans women’s, claiming that ‘We [for which read “real, cis women” - trans women are excluded from Greer’s first person plural] don’t know if we think like women or not. We just think.’ Exactly, that’s what makes us cis: cis women do not experience any dissonance between the way we experience or feel gender in our heads and the sex assigned to us at birth according to our physical characteristics, and that lack of dissonance allows us to claim that gender isn’t something you ‘think’ or ‘feel’ at all. This gives us the privilege of being able to claim that gender doesn’t matter, that we’re above gender, all the while ignoring the experiences of trans people who have to deal with this dissonance, in a cissexist* and transphobic society no less.

Greer also enters into the waters of straight-out sexism in the piece, claiming that ‘People who don’t ovulate or menstruate will probably always physically outperform people who do’. While this may be true for human beings at the very peak of their physical abilities, such as top professional athletes, the vast majority of non-athlete men would clearly be outstripped by the women competing in the World Athletics Championships this week. And as Joshua Goldstein points out, the performance of individuals who work hard on their physical fitness does not bear out the assertion that men physically outperform women either:

[In the 1997 NY Marathon], although the median woman ran 11 percent slower than the median man, the great majority of men finish well behind the fastest women, and the great majority of women finish well ahead of the slowest men.

Germaine Greer has written a lot of intelligent, genuinely radical and helpful work, but that does not give her a pass to perpetuate hateful stereotypes of trans women, reinforce cissexist values and deny trans people’s identities and experiences, and I think it’s important that we counteract this rubbish whenever she’s given a platform – as a feminist – to spout it. She doesn’t speak for this feminist.

*Julia Serano defines cissexism as The belief that transsexual genders are less legitimate than, and mere imitations of, cissexual genders.

Woman who posed as man to become judo champ finally gets gold – 50 years after being stripped of it

(For all the BS about the runner from south Africa….)

BY Jeff Wilkins and Christina Boyle
DAILY NEWS WRITERS

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2009/08/22/2009-08-22_judo_medals_a_kick_ymca_finally_does_right_by_first_female_champ_stripped_of_gol.html

Saturday, August 22nd 2009, 4:00 AM

Gabel for News

It took 50 years, but she finally got gold.

A Brooklyn judo champ stripped of her first place medal when judges realized she was a woman competing in a contest against men secured her place in the history books Friday.

It was a sweet moment for Rena (Rusty) Kanokogi, who became a pioneer for her sport – and a champion for equal rights – after her 1959 victory turned sour because she was the wrong gender.

“[The medal] should have never been taken away from me,” the 74-year-old said.

“But we’re righting a wrong, that’s what counts.”

Kanokogi is now frail, battling cancer, and walks with a cane. But she vividly recalls the moment she took on her opponent in the New York State YMCA judo championships.

She was an alternate, and had to step in when a male team member was injured.

Although women were not explicity barred from the YMCA contests, no female had ever tried to take part. Because her hair was as short as a boy’s and she had an athletic build and tape around her breasts, Kanokogi’s gender wasn’t questioned until she won her fight – and her team won the contest.

She was pulled aside and forced to admit she was a woman or else her teammates would have been stripped of the title.

“It was very demeaning, painful,” she said.

“It was a horrible feeling – like I did something wrong by being a woman.”

The event changed Kanokogi’s life.

She later mortgaged her home to fund the first female judo world championships in 1980 and almost single-handedly got women’s judo into the 1988 Olympics after threatening to sue the International Olympic Committee.

The New York State YMCA presented Kanokogi with a gold medal Friday to honor her lifetime’s work.

“She was like a mother to me,” said 1983 Pan Am Games judo gold medalist Heidi Bauersachs-Trstensky, 55, who was trained by Kanokogi.

“She’s the only one who pulled for us.”

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Stop the Humiliating ‘Sex-Testing’ of Champion Runner Caster Semenya

From Alternet

By Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf, The Nation
http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/142124/stop_the_humiliating_%27sex-testing%27_of_champion_runner_caster_semenya_/
Posted on August 22, 2009, Printed on August 22, 2009

World-class South African athlete Caster Semenya, age 18, won the 800 meters in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships on August 19. But her victory was all the more remarkable in that she was forced to run amid a controversy that reveals the twisted way international track and field views gender.

The sports world has been buzzing for some time over the rumor that Semenya may be a man, or more specifically, not “entirely female.” According to the newspaper The Age, her “physique and powerful style have sparked speculation in recent months that she may not be entirely female.” From all accounts an arduous process of “gender testing” on Semenya has already begun. The idea that an 18-year-old who has just experienced the greatest athletic victory of her life is being subjecting to this very public humiliation is shameful to say the least.

Her own coach Michael Seme contributed to the disgrace when he said, “We understand that people will ask questions because she looks like a man. It’s a natural reaction and it’s only human to be curious. People probably have the right to ask such questions if they are in doubt. But I can give you the telephone numbers of her roommates in Berlin. They have already seen her naked in the showers and she has nothing to hide.”

The people with something to hide are the powers that be in track and field, as well as in international sport. As long as there have been womens’ sports, the characterization of the best female athletes as “looking like men” or “mannish” has consistently been used to degrade them. When Martina Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and proudly exposed her chiseled biceps years before Hollywood gave its imprimatur to gals with “guns,” players complained that she “must have a chromosome loose somewhere.”

This minefield of sexism and homophobia has long pushed female athletes into magazines like Maxim to prove their “hotness” — and implicitly their heterosexuality. Track and field in particular has always had this preoccupation with gender, particularly when it crosses paths with racism. Fifty years ago, Olympic official Norman Cox proposed that in the case of black women, “the International Olympic Committee should create a special category of competition for them — the unfairly advantaged ‘hermaphrodites.’”

For years, women athletes had to parade naked in front of Olympic officials. This has now given way to more “sophisticated” “gender testing” to determine if athletes like Semenya have what officials still perceive as the ultimate advantage — being a man. Let’s leave aside that being male is not the be-all, end-all of athletic success. A country’s wealth, coaching facilities, nutrition and opportunity determine the creation of a world-class athlete far more than a Y chromosome or a penis ever could.

What these officials still don’t understand, or will not confront, is that gender — that is, how we comport and conceive of ourselves — is a remarkably fluid social construction. Even our physical sex is far more ambiguous and fluid than is often imagined or taught. Medical science has long acknowledged the existence of millions of people whose bodies combine anatomical features that are conventionally associated with either men or women and/or have chromosomal variations from the XX or XY of women or men. Many of these “intersex” individuals, estimated at one birth in every 1,666 in the United States alone, are legally operated on by surgeons who force traditional norms of genitalia on newborn infants. In what some doctors consider a psychosocial emergency, thousands of healthy babies are effectively subject to clitorectomies if a clitoris is “too large” or castrations if a penis is “too small” (evidently penises are never considered “too big”).

The physical reality of intersex people calls into question the fixed notions we are taught to accept about men and women in general, and men and women athletes in sex-segregated sports like track and field in particular. The heretical bodies of intersex people challenge the traditional understanding of gender as a strict male/female phenomenon. While we are never encouraged to conceive of bodies this way, male and female bodies are more similar than they are distinguishable from each other. When training and nutrition are equal, it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between some of the best-trained male and female Olympic swimmers wearing state-of-the-art one-piece speed suits. Title IX, the 1972 law imposing equal funding for girls’ and boys’ sports in schools, has radically altered not only women’s fitness and emotional well-being, but their bodies as well. Obviously, there are some physical differences between men and women, but it is largely our culture and not biology that gives them their meaning.

In 1986 Spanish hurdler Maria José Martínez-Patiño was stripped of her first-place winnings when discovered to have an XY chromosome, instead of the female’s XX, which shattered her athletic career and upended her personal life. “I lost friends, my fiancé, hope and energy,” said Martínez-Patiño in a 2005 editorial in the journal The Lancet.

Whatever track and field tells us Caster Semenya’s gender is — and as of this writing there is zero evidence she is intersex — it’s time we all break free from the notion that you are either “one or the other.” It’s antiquated, stigmatizing and says far more about those doing the testing than about the athletes tested. The only thing suspicious is the gender and sex bias in professional sports. We should continue to debate the pros and cons of gender segregation in sport. But right here, right now, we must end sex testing and acknowledge the fluidity of gender and sex in sports and beyond.

Dave Zirin is The Nation’s sports editor. He is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). Sherry Wolf is an independent journalist the author of the new critically praised book Sexuality and Socialism (Haymarket Books). She is currently organizing for the LGBT National Equality March for full civil rights in October.

© 2009 The Nation All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/142124/
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