NYT Columnist: Don't Test Olympians For Gender

The Cornell golf club championship is next weekend, and I had been planning [brag alert] to defend the senior men's title I won last year.  But now, I just might have to think about entering the women's division instead.  The field is much smaller, not nearly as tough, and playing from the red tees should give me quite an advantage.  But what if tournament organizers balk at my entry, you ask?  No problem.  I'd just toss down a copy of Jennifer Finney Boylan's New York Times op-ed column of today.  The thesis of The XY Games is that "gender is malleable and elusive," and that since "most efforts to rigidly quantify the sexes are bound to fail," the Olympic authorities [and surely the Cornell golf club] shouldn't really bother to try.

Finney Boylan goes so far as to assert that the Olympic medals Stella Walsh won in women's sprint events shouldn't be stripped posthumously despite an autopsy revealing that Walsh had male sex organs [and an ambiguous set of chromosomes.]

Writes Finney Boylan of Walsh [emphasis added throughout]:

She should be celebrated for her accomplishments as an athlete, not turned into an asterisk because of a condition beyond her control.

The triumphant fact of a life lived as a woman made Walsh female, and the inexact measurements performed by strangers cannot render her life untrue.

Finney Boylan would apply that same self-selection test to the current Olympics:

The only dependable test for gender is the truth of a person’s life, the lives we live each day. Surely the best judge of a person’s gender is not a degrading, questionable examination. The best judge of a person’s gender is what lies within her, or his, heart.

How do we weed out "outright frauds," asks the author? "A quick look at the reality of an athlete’s life ought to settle the question," says she.  

Well, like the candy-bar commercial went, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.  I just might feel a Mounds coming on.

Sidenote:  arguments should stand or fall on their own merits, not on the identity of their author.  Still, should either the Times or Finney Boylan have informed readers that she is herself a male-to-female transsexual?  Let's imagine, for example, that the Times had run an op-ed by someone arguing that sexual orientation is a choice, and that homosexuals can through therapy be transformed into heterosexuals.  Would the paper have permitted such a column to appear without it being noted that the author was someone claiming to have undergone just such a transformation?

Note: Photo of Finney Boylan © 2007 James Bowdoin.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.