Opinion by Elise Van Dorssen
Gender in sport is like my eggs for breakfast, they don’t need to be scrambled.
The push for gender equality is becoming stronger. People want to be respected and treated fairly without experiencing sex discrimination. However, gender segregation in sports provides a platform where both males and females can participate in a fair playing field. Closing the gap would drastically affect female athletes across the world as they would be disadvantaged due to genetic differences.
Gender is more a sociological and physiological term rather than a scientific or biological term. However, in sport it’s a no brainer that biological sex genetics impacts physical performance.
Males have a biological advantage as they have a higher concentrate of testosterone providing them with a natural androgenic-anabolic substance enhancing their speed, strength and endurance.
Dr Ann Parkinson, senior lecturer in physiology and anatomy at University of the Sunshine Coast, says higher levels of testosterone can lead to a higher oxygen carrying capacity and will also influence the growth rate of tissues such as muscle and bone.
Consequently, males have a higher oxygen carrying capacity meaning they can increase strength and muscle mass easily and have a quicker recovery time.
This is a natural advantage. Females and males are different. It’s a biological fact and females don’t have to make everything a competition against men.
I don’t understand why gender equality in this realm has become an issue, to point where volunteers at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games are banned from using the terms “ladies and gentlemen” and “boys and girls”; they must only use gender-neutral terms. The rule has been put in place to avoid offending people. However, all competitions are either a men’s or women’s event. Is it offensive to have a female winner and call her a woman?
Roslyn Kerr, senior lecturer in the sociology of sport at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, says we should remove gender from sport and “replace it with categories based on the ability of bodies to move in that particular sport”.
As an athlete I have been inspired by ultra-trail marathon runner Shona Stephenson who has placed first in multiple races and broken records as a female athlete competing against females. Shona is now my running coach and is training me to increase my speed, strength and endurance. Since training my body’s ability to move has changed, however, I don’t want to be categorised by this and made to run against others who are comparable. I want to work on my abilities and compete as a female.
Shona also trains male athletes, but she doesn’t compete against them. She accepts they have the biological advantage.
Female inspirational ultra-marathon runner, Shona Stephenson.
The conversation about categorising people on their testosterone levels has become a reality in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Laurel Hubbard, 39, transitioned into a female at the age of 35. She has made the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team as a woman. Officials say she has met all requirements because her testosterone levels are lower than a normal female. So, can I transition into a man and inject myself with copious amounts of testosterone and compete in the male category? All males have various levels of testosterone, so how much synthetic testosterone would I be allowed to inject?
Gender equality has met stupidity when it comes to sport. We don’t want to take away the chance of a female earning a podium place at sporting events. Athletes are inspirational and have positive effects on the community. Gender segregation is important for the future of the sporting world.