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Speaking out on transgender issues


Our series on transgender female athletes has prompted more discussions emanating from a variety of sources. One sports columnist from a broadsheet called to exchange notes and to point out the Philippines’ own history of transgender and suspected trans female athletes even before the term and concept were coined.

I told our friend, who heads a prominent National Sports Association (NSA), that each sport seems to have come up with its own guidelines, We will tackle that development in another part of this column. One would think that allowing sports administrators to formulate their own policies on trans athletes would help satisfy the supporters and opponents of this fairly new phenomenon. We had also thought the loud call for a separate trans athlete category would help still the waters. But no, there’s now a call for standard guidelines and not a per-sport policy.

As expected, the debate over transgender matters has spread to other parts of society, with some of our friends commenting in our chat group on the issue as a larger societal concern.

One friend asked, “Sad to say this (SOGI) is being taught in schools. What does SOGI stand for? What does SOGI mean? SOGI stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Since we all have a sexual orientation and gender identity, it includes all of us. Every student understands and expresses their gender differently, with interests and choices that are common or less common for their biological sex.”

No one can disagree with my friend’s definition or understanding of SOGI — it is inclusive and therefore includes everyone regardless of how they identify themselves. What probably one can disagree with is the comment that “sad to say this SOGI is being taught in schools.”

I would think that the school is the best place for the youth to learn about this reality which makes life in the 21st century so different from the period when girls in so-called exclusive schools were prohibited from wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses. Would we rather that our youth become aware and be educated about SOGI on the street corners by people who were not trained to discuss such sensitive matters? Or should we just ignore them as if they don’t exist?

One colleague added that because of giving so much emphasis on SOGI and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) issues, “‘Gender dysphoria’ appears to be reaching epidemic proportions among American pre-adolescent girls in a number of states.” Although no data was given to back up the claim, the fear expressed by the same colleague is that Filipinos are “trying to be sophisticated” and are known copycats.

Gender dysphoria is, per Google, “a term that describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. The sense of unease or dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life.”

The county’s legal system and lawmakers were next on our colleagues’ agenda as they articulated what are really practical concerns. “We already have a law rejecting discrimination against LGBTQ. Also, there is a Supreme Court ruling that birth certificates cannot be altered unless there is manifest error.” Our colleagues warn that “the SOGI law hopes to change the law allowing gender amendments and possibly same sex marriage, etc.” As experienced businessmen, they add, “One area of potential major adjustments will be actuarials based on gender, i.e., insurance, pensions, etc. Another will be medical prescriptions some (dosages) based on gender. We are entering the complications of the ‘WOKE’ age.” Our colleagues could not resist lashing out at our lawmakers, when they ask, “Why is this (SOGI law) being given attention by our lawmakers? There are more pressing issues facing the country. Wrong model USA.” Another countered, “No, we have wrong lawmakers.” If one, however, brings up the concerns raised earlier, indeed there are so many consequences and problems that have to be addressed in order to respond to the interest and needs of a sector in society who has rights too.

The reference to “WOKE” is in reference to a way of thinking in America that cultivates a broader awareness of sexism, slavery, oppression of African Americans, white privilege, etc.

As mentioned earlier, sports bodies have come up with their own guidelines to respond to the needs and interests of the sports trans community.

Tennis produced the first high-profile trans athlete in the person of Renee Richards. According to reports, Richards underwent gender reassignment therapy in 1975 and started playing in women’s tournaments.

Richards’ reassignment was later discovered and sparked a massive wave of protest among cisgender tennis players. Twenty five out of 32 women who were to play in a warmup tournament to the US Open refused upon learning that Richards would take part. Wikipedia states that as a result, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) introduced the Barr Body Test which identifies a person’s sex chromosomes. Richards refused to take the test and was banned from the US Open. She filed a lawsuit in 1977 claiming that her civil rights were violated, and that the policy was unfair. The New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor saying that the Barr Body test as the sole determinant of sex was “grossly unfair” and ruled Richards legally a female.

At the Olympics, in 2014, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allowed transgender athletes to participate in the Olympic Games.

In 2015, the IOC changed its guidelines in acknowledgment that legal recognition of gender could be difficult in countries where gender transition is not legal, and requiring surgery may be a violation of the human rights of the athlete.

Debates on trans athletes will continue. We have a complex society which produces new ideas as new generations take over. We just have to conduct continuing dialogues and exercise patience and tolerance.

Philip Ella Juico’s areas of interest include the protection and promotion of democracy, free markets, sustainable development, social responsibility and sports as a tool for social development. He obtained his doctorate in business at De La Salle University. Dr. Juico served as secretary of Agrarian Reform during the Corazon C. Aquino administration.

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