Document Type

Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Skewes

Abstract

This honors thesis project is opening up the discussion around issues of gender identity and how it intersects in a sports context. This project includes the voices from high-level athletes, sports professionals, advocacy organization leaders, medical professionals and researchers to illuminate the different perspectives surrounding this complex issue. Caster Semenya, an Olympic runner with hyperandrogenism, a condition that causes elevated levels of testosterone in females, challenged a new rule by the IAAF that was expected to be implemented in November 2018, but faced opposition. This rule set a maximum testosterone level for female athletes at five nanomoles per liter (nmol/L), which is higher than the average level for women but lower than the standard male testosterone level. This new potential rule has created controversy around the issue of eligibility, especially regarding athletes who identify outside of a man or woman and have physical characteristics that may disqualify them from competing with the gender they identify with.

For this honors thesis project, I examined the literature surrounding the Caster Semenya case as well as perspectives of scholars on issues with transgender and non-binary athletes and their eligibility in professional sports such as the Olympics. I produced a long-form journalism piece with multimedia aspects that focus on the perspectives of people affected by the problem of sports being binary and gender as otherwise. I interviewed high-level athletes, sports professionals, sports psychologists, researchers and LGBTQ+ advocacy leaders in an attempt to hear different stances on the issue. I implemented visual soundwaves throughout the website that I coded myself, to hear a glimpse of the athletes’ stories through their own voices. Through the creative project, I have improved my interviewing skills that will continue to be an asset in my future journalism career.

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