Separate categories for men and women in sports will become a relic of the early 21st century. Here is why we will go backwards to go forwards:
In much of the world, we have become accustomed to having gender segregated categories for competition in sports. But the past 50 years mark a bubble which is popping as we speak. The past half century will be looked back on as the golden era of women’s sport, where segregated categories gave women a chance to compete on a playing field that excludes men, transgender people and intersex people.
Generally, men are not allowed to compete in women’s categories, but women ARE allowed to compete in mens. We have for decades allowed men, transgender people and intersex people to be discriminated against when it comes to sports. And this discrimination is now being highlighted as the discussions surrounding the inclusion of transwomen and intersex people intensifies.
This gendered bias is highlighted by the embarrassing “gender checks” of the previous century where genitals were inspected and/or genetic testing done. The IOC (International Olympic Comitee) stopped using that policy in 1999, recognizing its inherent ineffectiveness and discriminatory nature. In 2004, the IOC also made new provisions for transwomen to compete in womens categories at the Olympics. Those regulations were lightened in 2015, but recently tightend a bit for the 2020 games. (I will be talking more about these regulations later in this article). Either way, we see a very powerful regulatory body forced to publicly contend with the fairness and legality of the 20th century gender discrimination practices.