If A Child’s Sex Is Disputed …

@polevaultpower is an athlete who is dealing with her son’s brain tumor. Nonetheless, she took the time on Twitter to write a long thread picking apart the new Ohio law about girls’ sports, and exactly what the law means. That’s how important she thinks it is, and we agree.

Here’s the key excerpt from the law.

(C) If a participant’s sex is disputed, the participant shall establish the participant’s sex by presenting a signed physician’s statement indicating the participant’s sex based
upon only the following:

(1) The participant’s internal and external reproductive anatomy;
(2) The participant’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone;
(3) An analysis of the participant’s genetic makeup.

So, to quote polevaultpower:

This law allows ANYONE to dispute the sex of an athlete on a school team. There are no safeguards in place to ensure that this is not used maliciously. Girls who do not look feminine enough, girls of color, girls who are “too good” are likely to be the biggest targets.
But any girl could be targeted. Maybe someone doesn’t like her parents or maybe someone wants to make sure the opposing team doesn’t have enough eligible players.

Note the way the law language is passive voice: “a participant’s sex is disputed.” So yes, ANYONE can dispute a girl’s sex (and let’s face it, no one is going to dispute a boy’s sex under this law). Just like ANYONE can accuse someone in Texas of abetting an abortion. At least in Ohio, you don’t make money on the accusation: small comfort. The accuser is, of course, protected from retaliation if he’s wrong, whether or not his accusation was malicious.

To polevaultpower’s list above, we would add maybe she’s not pretty, or maybe she is pretty and she told an accuser to take his hands off her. Maybe she’s “too” smart, or worse, smart and aggressive. Or maybe she said something rude about someone else’s kid. Maybe she’s human.

Then we get to the three points:

Step one to proving your correct sex is female: A doctor will need to spread open your labia and examine the size of your clitoris. A clitoris that is “too large” could be a sign that you are intersex and not female enough for sports.

Step two to proving your correct sex is female: A doctor will then insert one or two gloved fingers inside your vagina, while pressing against your abdomen with their other hand, so they can feel your uterus and ovaries.

There can be genuine medical reasons for a 10- or 11-year-old girl to need a vaginal exam. This isn’t one of them.

And, again from polevaultpower, this is the United States. Medical exams are not free, and may not be covered by insurance. Her best guess is that the physical exam would be, but the remaining two might not:

Step three to proving your correct sex is female: Your blood will be drawn and your testosterone levels measured. How much testosterone is too much? Unclear. Does having “high T” give girls an advantage? No, not always. But this bill leaves no room for nuance.

As we’ve written about before, the correlations between testosterone and athletic skill are not just unclear, they’re nonexistent.

Step four to proving your correct sex is female: Your blood will also be tested to see if you are XX or XY.

Except not everyone is XX or XY and there are XY women who have no advantage in sports because of the nuances of their genetics, but that won’t matter here.

So there you are. This girl has just been subjected to traumatic medical invasion, for information that doesn’t matter in any scientific sense, but can be used against her, while the person who accused her is completely safe. And, most particularly if the accusation was because she’s a good athlete, and she “fails” one of these spurious standards, then she and her team pay the price, and someone gets to gloat because they got a “threat” removed. But was it a threat to gender, or a threat to winning?

These vigilante laws are not about what they claim to be about. This one is not about trans kids in sports, and Texas’s SB 8 is not about abortion. It’s all about keeping women small, quiet, and docile (and either white or invisible).

So we thought we’d shout about it.


Thanks to @lisairontongue for calling our attention to this thread.

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