From Emma Laughton
Sir, — Susannah Cornwall (Comment, 18 September) provides valuable information about intersex conditions, and rightly points out that they raise important questions for Christian theology and ethics. But the patronising way she describes the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as “disturbed” by something that is “never simple” is less justified, even though the mishandling of Caster Semenya’s case gave the cruelty of the media a field day.
Sports were segregated by gender long before medical knowledge about intersex became widely available. They are segregated so that both women and men can participate and win. In many sports, if women were required to compete directly against men, very few would stand a chance, and women’s participation would collapse. This would be a grave injustice to women, and it would be wrong for this to happen just because some individuals’ bodies “push the demarcations”. Segregation may be undesirable in many social spheres, but in sport it does have a defensible rationale.
The IAAF is faced with a real and practical dilemma. In order to participate in segregated sports, a person must be classified male or female. If a person is “wrongly” classified, this is an injustice. What does Ms Cornwall suggest that the IAAF do with people whose “atypical or recalcitrant bodies” are “not unequivocally male [or female]”?
EMMA LAUGHTON (Reader)
Dolphin House, Dolphin Street
Devon EX24 6NA