Bioethics News

Gender, genetic information and sport

Recently there has been significant debate surrounding the clash between societal norms and the interests of transgender individuals. One relevant area is that of sport –can a transgender man or woman compete in all-male or all-female teams?

De Paul University bioethicist Craig Klugman published a blog post recently exploring different approaches to the question. Klugman’s own university has a new anti-discrimination policy that includes “genetic information” among its various criteria. A policy like this, Klugman argues, “could force an institution to allow anyone to play on any team irrespective of it being a men’s or women’s team.” Someone could easily argue that a contrary policy is a form of genetic discrimination.

This approach involves identifying gender with chromosomes. Some argue this doesn’t address the proper function of sex-segregation in sport. As Klugman states, “the reason given for separating men and women in sports is supposedly fairness—in men, greater testosterone causes more muscle mass, and men tend to be taller, thus giving them an advantage in some sports.”

The International Olympic Committee used to define gender based on a person’s chromosomal identity – a female was defined as having two x chromosomes. But in 2012 the IOC scrapped their long-standing policy and replaced it with a test based on androgen levels in a competitor’s body. 

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.