20 February 2008

Sex change athletes

Mon, November 19 2007

By Mata Press Service

Santhi Soundarajan (photo) was born in poverty in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Today she is one of India’s top athletes holding records in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase, 800m, 1,500m and 3000m. Last December she ran for a silver medal in the 800 meter race at the 2006 Asian Games held in Doha, Qatar clocking 2 minutes, 3.16 seconds

But the Asian Games organizers have stripped her off her medal claiming she is more man than woman after Santhi failed a gender verification test. Now Canadian Olympic hopeful Kristen Worley a transsexual cyclist, has decided to fight for Santhi, who has been left to fend for herself by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Worley has taken up Santhi’s case, a victim of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, with International Olympic Council president Jacques Rogge.

Kristen-Worley_cmyk.jpgNormally, women have two X chromosomes (XX) and men have an X or Y chromosome (XY) in their cells. The presence of XX chromosomes confirms the person’s female gender.

However, some people born with a Y chromosome develop all the physical characteristics of a woman except internal female sex organs, a result of a genetic defect that does not produce testosterone.

A person with this condition - called androgen insensitivity syndrome or AIS - might be XY but she is not a man because her body never responds to the testosterone she’s producing.

Since testosterone helps in building muscle and strength, an AIS case would not give an XY female athlete any kind of competitive advantage.

Seven of the eight women who tested positive for Y chromosomes during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics had AIS. They were allowed to compete. Given the confusion and uncertainty over determining a person’s sex, the International Olympic Committee stopped gender testing in 1999. But the Olympic Council of Asia continues the practice.

Worley, a part of the Canadian Olympics team, herself underwent a sex change operation from male to female and believes that it was wrong on the part of the Olympic Council of Asia to take the medal back.

Worley has urged the Council to return the medal to the Indian runner. Worley said, ”the Santhi case should never have been handled in such a gross manner, amounting to public humiliation for the Indian runner because of their ignorance.”

While the Indian speed runner thanked the Canadian for taking up her cause and extending support to her and said, ”I was dejected when the Asian Games committee took back my medal.

I was worried whether I’d get my medal back. But now an international cyclist is supporting me, I feel very happy. I want to thank her.”

But Worley, according to a report in Gaywired, a netzine supporting the cause of gays, is fighting for the cause of Santhi and other victims of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), which results in the external physical characteristics typically associated with women despite having XY chromosomes, and wants the Indian athlete to get her Asian Games silver medal back.

Worley hopes to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has been accepted, despite a sex change from male to female, as a member of the Canadian women’s cycling team.

Santhi, on the other hand, is banished from athletics after failing a highly controversial gender test during the 2006 Doha Asian Games and was recently in the news for her alleged suicide attempt at her native Kattakurichi village in Podukotti last month.

Worley said not only should Soundararajan get her medal back, she should have her dignity returned. “This is not her problem, this is an IOC problem,” she said.

According to Gaywired.com, Worley won’t know if she will make it to the 2008 Olympics until the World Track & Field Championships in England next March.

In the meantime, when she’s not training or changing the world, Worley is a design engineer for a water ski boat manufacturer. Sharing her love for the water sport, this summer Worley hosted a ski day for transitioning teens.

Helen Carroll, sports project director at the San Francisco–based National Center for Lesbian Rights, says transgender athletes have yet to show up in the games, but notes that Worley, a male-to-female post-op transsexual, is hoping to make her nation’s team for the Beijing games.

“We’re thinking she’s going to be the first openly out trans person that’s competing in the Olympics,” Carroll says.

For athletes who changed sexes after puberty, there are stricter requirements: All surgical anatomical changes have to be completed; legal documentation, such as a driver’s license, has to be provided that reflects the new gender; and hormonal therapies have to have been administered for enough time to minimize gender-related advantages.

The IOC also recommends that the athlete wait at least two years after a gonadectomy—the removal of the testicles in men and the ovaries in women—before competing

1 comment:

  1. it feels good to see someone helping her. It is not their fault that they are born so. We all should accept them as they are. And for Shanti all the best.


Please leave your email address if you want me to reply to you