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Race report and gender dilemma - the funcrunch files


Jan. 12th, 2014 11:21 am Race report and gender dilemma

This morning I ran the DSE Fort Mason 5K race. I was tempted to skip it because I felt a cold coming on, but at chorus this week I found out our rehearsal pianist Paul was running it as his first race ever, so I really wanted to support him. I dosed myself with NyQuil the night before and went to bed early, woke up still feeling crappy, took a dose of DayQuil then had overnight oats and tea, and dragged myself over the hill to Aquatic Park.

The weather was sunny, but I had a hard time staying warm between feeling ill and having a newly shorn head. As I did in November's 10K race, I registered as a self-timer so I didn't have to request a white tag for male or orange for female. But this time, before I said I was self-timing, they actually handed me a white tag! Was it an accident or did I actually read as male for once?

The race itself was uneventful. I didn't expect a fast time given my condition and lack of training. I finished in 33:03, a mile pace even slower than November's 10K. But this time they didn't ask for my tag, and said that I wasn't supposed to cross the finish line if I was self-timing. I asked to clarify as my name was still listed with the other self-timers at the last race, and they instructed me to turn my tag in at the registration desk.

I was confused and a bit annoyed, but after recovering enough to think I realized that it made sense. Since we don't have automatic chip timing for our inexpensive club races, the timers have to press a button every time someone crosses the line, and having someone not included in the official scores could screw that up. I don't want to be responsible for problems with assigning the correct times to finishers. But crossing the finish line is the highlight of a race for me; that adrenaline surge is the big payoff and a large part of why I race rather than running purely for fitness.

But I don't feel great about having to check the box that says "male" either. If male only meant sex then I'd be more willing to do it, especially now that I'm taking testosterone; while not everyone goes on hormone therapy for the purpose of attaining a "male" body (interesting discussion on that in this week's Tranifesto), that is the reason I'm doing it, because I see sex as entirely separate from gender. But the vast majority of people don't, and for them male=man, as illustrated by the race director who announced "make sure that if you're a woman you have an orange tag, and if you're a man you have a white tag." (Mine was green.) Trying to explain how I could be male but not a man is not something I really want to do in a racing environment. And when the weather is warmer, I'm going to have a much harder time reading as male, because I don't wear bras anymore and my breasts under a running shirt are rather obvious.

I haven't been on hormones long enough to have any real advantage over female runners, but I wouldn't want to check the "female" box regardless. If I were transitioning the other way, or competing at an elite/professional level, it would be a trickier issue at this stage. But for me, the choice is between registering as male or not racing at all. I'm leaning toward the former, because I really enjoy racing and don't want to have to stop until I've passed some legal or medical threshold that makes me more "fully" male. Dilemmas, dilemmas...

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Comments:

From:plymouth
Date:January 13th, 2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I wonder how much of an uphill battle it would be to get them to add a "non-binary" category. Probably about as much of an uphill battle as it is just about everywhere else, huh?
From:funcrunch
Date:January 13th, 2014 06:39 pm (UTC)
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I don't think it's worth my effort for a sporting event like this. There is some biological basis to separately scoring the sexes for most athletic competition, and I am admittedly binary when it comes to sex (only with regards to my own body; of course I acknowledge there are intersex people and people who don't see sex and gender the same way I do). At least the tag to fill out says "Male" and "Female" and not "Men" and "Women" (kids participate in our club races too, so that wouldn't work too well anyway). But the current race results pages say "Gender" rather than "Sex" which is incorrect.

Edited at 2014-01-13 06:40 pm (UTC)
From:plymouth
Date:January 13th, 2014 07:14 pm (UTC)
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I wasn't intending to imply that YOU personally should do something. "Pick your battles" is always an important thing to keep in mind.

But as you yourself pointed out you DON'T have the full advantage of a male body yet and won't for some time. If the point of the categories is to account for physical advantages it does a lousy job for most people since the standard deviations of strength/endurance within sex classifications are vastly larger than the difference between the two means. If the point of the categories is to reinforce identity then the physical advantage is a moot point, but they should allow for all identities.
From:funcrunch
Date:January 13th, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC)
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Well, for running specifically, especially for short distances, the differences between cis males and cis females is large enough that scoring everyone together would result in males taking the top spots virtually every time. I don't know how event organizers would account for someone who is nonbinary and transitioning in terms of their physical body without getting into pretty personal questions about hormone therapy, etc. Even at the Olympics level they've struggled with sex determination; I frequently point people to this essay to show why even chromosomes aren't a reliable indication of sex.

As far as having a separate nonbinary category for racing, I can't speak for others but I don't want to draw even more attention to myself; I just want to run and enjoy the same perks of racing as everyone else. I thought that choosing the self-timer option would allow me to do that in this case, but apparently not.

As a practical matter for amateur club races like this, there's no money involved and I don't expect to ever come close to winning anyway, though I did place as 3rd female once when there was a downpour and we had only 40 people show up. I race to beat myself, not other people, but "points" and annual trophies are awarded partly based on categories that are separated by sex and age group. Competing as male at this stage in my transition essentially means returning to the back of the pack, a position I crawled my way out of over a three year period, and my ego can handle that. But someone who was transitioning from M to F and had only been on estrogen for a short time would probably have a noticeable advantage over other females with similar physical conditioning. So it's a tricky issue.

Edited at 2014-01-13 07:39 pm (UTC)
From:gymx
Date:January 14th, 2014 02:33 pm (UTC)
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Age categories combined with ranges of submitted qualifying times would take care of it. But unlike swimming, I'm not sure amateur running requires time submissions.
From:funcrunch
Date:January 14th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)
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My club races definitely don't require time submissions. I've entered a few larger races that asked for estimating finishing time for starting wave placement, but none of them required proof (I wouldn't qualify for the Boston Marathon or similar event).