The Olympic Rainbow Rings and a Raspberry

by Mary Griggs

Like people all over the globe, I’ve been watching many, many hours of Olympic coverage on my television and computer (stupid NBC Olympics app is not compatible with my phone!). I’ve watched in awe the pageantry from London and have gotten teary eyed at the pure joy in the faces of the medal winners.

We all have our favorite moments. Mine include the Queen parachuting, British people cheering, the outstanding medal haul of Michael Phelps, the young winners, the older performers, the first African-American woman to win individual all around in gymnastics and the incredible sportsmanship.

Part of my favorite things include watching the number of openly LGBT athletes. This year, there are 23 openly gay and lesbian Olympians at the London games, as well as two coaches (Pia Sundhage, U.S. women’s soccer head coach and Hope Powell, Great Britain’s women’s soccer coach). This compares with 11 out athletes in Athens and 10 in Beijing.

Outsports has prepared a list of the openly gay and lesbians Olympic athletes at this year’s games:

*Péon and Harrison are a couple.

Tony Scupham-Bilton produced a pretty comprehensive list of LGBT Olympians. As you can see (click here for it: lgbtolympians), there a quite of number of medal winners in the bunch!

But it isn’t all good for non-gender conforming athletes. The International Olympic Committee recently released a new sex-testing policy that could prevent women athletes with hyperandrogenism, determined by natural testosterone level, from competing in London on the basis that they have an unfair advantage over their competitors.

According to Rebecca Jordan-Young, who researches gender studies at Barnard College, “based on the data we have, you can’t make any kinds of predictions of athletic performance by knowing an athlete’s testosterone levels.” In any other scientific or medical forum, she added, such a test would never pass muster.

A little-mentioned part of the new rule is that athletes who fail the test may compete as men or they are required to get their hormone levels down below the male range — something newspaper reports have said Caster Semenya has been doing.

According to Hida Viloria, director of the Organisation Intersex International the new rules amount to “bullying against butch women.” She said, “It’s forcing women who are not stereotypical to feminize their bodies.”

You can read a critical report on the IOC rules here: Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes

Banning women with naturally high testosterone levels from competing is the wrong decision. Cheaters, users of performance enhancing drugs and anyone who knowingly deceives the officials should definitely be kept from sullying the sport. Those with genetic conditions but whose gender identity is female should not be punished for hormone imbalances.

Olympic athletes are not like most humans – should Michael Phelps not be allowed to compete because his arm span is much longer than his competitors? If you answered of course not, then neither should an athlete like Caster Semenya be disqualified!


Any and all posts, views and opinions are solely my own and are not endorsed by nor representative of any organizations with which I may be affiliated, including the Forum For Equality.

About Forum For Equality

The Forum For Equality is a statewide human rights organization dedicated to the establishment of a society free from discrimination and to the support of good government. We believe that the fastest and most efficient way to achieve these goals is to educate our communities and to constructively participate in the political process.
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