What is Discrimination?

 Discrimination is defined as treating someone differently on the basis of their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category such as race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. Discrimination has and probably always will exist due to the extreme fear people have of the “other”.

Although it might be the case that people fear the “other” or general uncertainty, it should not interfere with one’s health and/or bodily rights. This is the case for intersexual and “genderless” children. The discrimination that society has for these individuals is so extreme that radical steps are taken to “normalize” and classify them after birth. What should be considered normal (i.e. a healthy baby) is transformed into a “life-threatening” issue. This is due to society’s inability to fit outliers into its rigid two-gender system. Even after efforts are taken to “normalize” these individuals, society still doesn’t react to them properly, thus creating discrimination.

In Arthur Caplan’s article on the case of Caster Semenya, he describes how sexual ambiguity presents a great challenge in determining playing eligibility in sports. This shows how even in the arena of sports there is discrimination towards the “other”. Sports officials simply do not know how to react towards those with gender disorders and as a result, discriminate against them (whether intentional or not). It is true that gender disorders may give advantages in competition, but the fact that biological sex is on a continuum needs to be taken into account so that discrimination diminishes and cases like that of Caster Semenya are handled differently.

The ultimate question is: how do we diminish discrimination against what society fears the most: the unknown or the other?

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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