Big Question: What is justice?

Bestowing gender upon an individual in cases of sexual ambiguity poses serious concerns about justice. How should we confront children born with both a penis and a vagina? Our strict two-gender system prevents us from dealing effectively with such cases. Whereas some contend that sexually ambiguous children ought to be “normalized,” others have suggested that transgender children ought to decide their own fate once they reach the age of maturity (even if that means remaining transgender). Yet others argue that the very notion of having to decide to become either male or female is demonstrative of a more fundamental issue: that our two-gender system fails to reflect the wide spectrum of sex.

However, in making the case against the prevailing system, we often lose sight of why humans are so prone to classification. Classifying simplifies complex situations such that we can better understand and respond. Although it may appear foreign to those who object to gender labels on a principled basis, labeling individuals as male or female is beneficial in ways. In Arthur Caplan’s piece on the case of Caster Semenya, he describes why sexual ambiguity poses a major challenge to eligibility determinations in sports. In certain sports, physical advantages that individuals with gender disorders might have over their competition creates both an unfair advantage and a serious safety risk.

How can we reconcile our desire to accommodate sexual ambiguity and tangible concerns like safety in sports? What do you consider a “just” solution?

Caplan, Arthur L. “Fairer Sex: The Ethics of Determining Gender for Athletic Eligibility: Commentary on ‘Beyond the Caster Semenya Controversy: The Case of the Use of Genetics for Gender Testing in Sport'” Editorial. National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 8 Sept. 2010: n. pag. Print.


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