Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



In her chapter, the Author examines the impact of both past and present policies enacted by many sport organizations, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on intersex and transsexual athletes. At the root of many of these policies, and therefore the issues, are the binary gender system and the concern that fraudulent competitors could gain an advantage relative to the rest of the field. While no longer mandatory, women athletes are still subject to varying degrees of sex verification testing on a case-by-case basis, as evidenced by the 2009 testing of South African runner, Caster Semenya.

Recent policies point to a growing awareness of the significance of gender identity in determining an athlete’s sex classification. The IOC’s current policy was designed to allow participation by transsexual athletes consistent with their transitioned sex and has been adopted by many sport organizations, including those at the high school level. While a move in the right direction, critics point out a number of deficiencies, such as requiring legal recognition of the athlete’s assigned sex. Perhaps a better policy would be one similar to that of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which does not impose any surgical or legal requirements on students to play in accordance with their identified sex rather than their birth sex. Since 2007, Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) has allowed students to compete in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on that student’s records.

The Author concludes that by recognizing the right of athletes to self-define based on their gender identity in at least some cases, policies affecting transgender and intersex athletes’ eligibility for sport are reducing the stigma caused by exclusion. However, the limits that remain should still be examined as remaining sources of stigma. Policies that allow athletes to define themselves based on their gender identity, as well as policies that add coed options to the menu of sporting opportunities, have the greatest potential to reduce the stigmatization of affected athletes, as well as of women and girls as a whole.

Recommended Citation

Erin E. Buzuvis, Transsexual and Intersex Athletes, in Sexual Minorities in Sports: Prejudice at Play (Melanie L. Sartore-Baldwin, ed., Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2013).