Feb 19, 201005:25 PMPlaying for Our Team

Lesbian Sports blog

Brittney Griner May Push Gender Boundaries, But Not on Purpose

Feb 19, 2010 - 05:25 PM
Brittney Griner May Push Gender Boundaries, But Not on Purpose

Brittney Griner is sick. And I’m not talking about the, “I’ve got a cold” kind of sick. I’m talking about the, “I’m a woman, I’m 6′8″ and I can throw down” kind of sick.

As a freshman at Baylor University, Griner has surpassed every woman who has ever come before her in the dunking sphere. Sure, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker can dunk. But Griner can slam it home, hang on the rim and swing around with authority.

The world of women’s basketball has never seen a player like this before. Griner has the athletic skills and build of any budding male college basketball star, which has brought her “gender” into question. She has an 88-inch wingspan, almost unheard of for a woman athlete. Simply type in her name in on Google, and you’ll find such interesting search phrases as: “Brittney Griner man,” “Brittney Griner transgendered,” and “Brittney Griner lesbian.”

Why is it that whenever a female athlete breaks the mold in either athletic ability or physical build, her gender and sexuality are immediately scrutinized?

Back in August, South African track star Caster Semenya faced the same kind of scrutiny because of her uncanny speed. Semenya was forced to “prove” her female identity after tests showed that her testosterone levels were “unusually high.”

As a society, we should know by now that gender isn’t as black and white as everyone thinks. There are varying degrees of masculinity and femininity. Perhaps both Semenya and Griner have more masculine traits, but that doesn’t automatically make them lesbians or transgendered. The professional sports world needs to stop trying to keep athletes in a box, or expect them to fit a certain mold.

The bottom line is that Griner is an exceptional talent. Instead of questioning her gift, let’s use it to further the visibility of women’s basketball instead.  For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to see her play yet, you’re missing out. Not only can Griner dunk, she can also hit a short-range jumper and dominate the inside defensively. She’s a basketball force to be reckoned with, yet she is as humble as can be.

At 18 years old, Griner is focused on playing basketball and having fun. She’s not interested in pushing gender boundaries or discussing her sexuality. When she looks in the mirror, she sees the person she has always seen — manly build and all.

And all she can do is smile.

(Video clip of Griner dunking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYIS2p0n-MI&feature=fvw)

Blogger Bio: Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a versatile writer, having experience as a journalist, copywriter, author, freelancer and blogger. She is the author of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her recent novel, The Crabapple Tree, was published in May 2009. In addition to writing short stories and novels, Lyndsey also contributes regularly to a variety of national and local publications. Visit lyndseydarcangelo.com for more information.

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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Mar 4, 2010 03:07 pm
 Posted by  danryan

I think society understands that gender is not black and white. But athletes somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum can have a distinct advantage over those who are out-and-out female. People do not see extraordinary female performance and reflexively doubt the athlete's gender. It's when that extraordinary, pretty anomalous performance is coupled with what appear to be physical and facial features most commonly attributed to males. Caster Semenya was found to be a hermaphrodite and there have been several instances when males have attempted to compete in female contests.

To be suspicious does not necessarily speak to a bias against female athletes, lesbians or transexuals but rather an eye for authenticity and fair play. I have my suspicions about Brittney Griner because she inarguably possesses male facial and physical features and anomalous ability for a "female". But were it not for the integrity of female college basketball - or any sport for that matter - her position on the gender spectrum would not concern me at all.

Mar 6, 2010 11:39 am
 Posted by  Jamie E.

Trying to defame accomplished female athletes by calling them lesbians is one thing. The issue with Brittney Griner is something else. Her height, facial features, deep voice, and body type and strength don't just reflect a very tall 18-year-old girl. They raise suspicions that she may be transgendered. It may be a condition that Griner or her family are not even aware of. If it is true, as a competitive athlete, it creates an unfair playing field for the women against whom Griner is competing as much as if a man were competing among them.

Mar 28, 2010 12:52 pm
 Posted by  katt

Hi guys..Welp as a card carrying full time transgendered woman I would like to postulate some thoughts on Brittney. She probably is as far as the gene codes are concerned a true "female" but I am highly suspect that she also garnished some gifts at birth. More than likely, a couple of extra male chromosomes. This of course doesn't mean that she isn't a girl, it does mean that she is an anomaly.

These gene gifts are so very far outside of the normal "gift basket" God often diddles with, that in the court of fair play these gifts may not be "fair" to the other girls.

Lady GaGa has professed to be a hermaphrodite yet if you study humans you will find that her hands, body fat distribution and height and bone structure are nothing but female. Her brain however does possess a great deal of male architecture.

The internet has caused such instant access to all forms of human endeavors and the beauty of human specialties that all we can do is stand back had hold on tight because we ain't seen nothing yet!


Mar 29, 2010 09:07 pm
 Posted by  Meadowstream

Caster Semenya actually was shown to have internal testes (male organs) as well as ovaries...so actually the scrutiny in her case seems to have been warranted.

Apr 3, 2010 06:20 am
 Posted by  Stephanie Schroeder

Why is everyone so concerned about a supposed "unfair advantage" by these athletes under suspicion? What is unfair about being a strong woman? And why the assumption that women should look a certain way, or hold themselves a certain way. That strong facial features are not feminine or a muscular body is ugly, blah blah blah.

So many negative comments about our sisters, be they lesbian, intersexed, transgendered, straight or none of those at all make me cringe. I am so tired of woman-hating, especially from other women.

Indeed we live in a misogynistic society that wants to force us (women) into delicate little boxes and pretty litte categories so we are easily dealt with and not complicated like Brittney Griner and Caster Semenya. That is what is unfair - categorizing and judging women based on a sexist set of assumed and presumed physical (and other) characteristics. How horrible!

Apr 4, 2010 09:41 pm
 Posted by  Meadowstream

Stephanie, I think the issue is that massively higher testosterone levels deliver a real (not just supposed) advantage to a female athlete.

If the contests were not limited to a specific sex then there would (or should) be no scrutiny.

Caster Semenya does not belong in an event where all the other athletes are women if she has male testes. It would not matter how much any other woman trained, she could never catch up with Caster without having massive artificial injections of male hormones. And that is just not fair.

But, if Caster were to compete in an "open" even then she would deserve no special scrutiny.

Apr 27, 2010 01:44 pm
 Posted by  Knowledge

The unfair advantage kick always gets me. You never hear of this crap in male athletics. I don't care if Brittney Geiner was born with a little bit extra or not, what I care about is that she is a female competing at a level with other female athletes. When I compete against an awesome female athlete I know that not only has she probably worked very hard to have gotten where she is, I know that she's going to make me want to be a better athlete. If nothing else, these girls benefit every time Brittney steps on the court and competes against them.

What people need to realize is that there is absolutely no reason to scrutinize every female athlete with a deep voice or masculine figure just because you think she has a real advantage over others.

Every time I step on the court or on the football field I am aware that there are women who may or may not have a huge advantage over me based on their work ethic in practice, family genetics, physical attributes, muscular build, and so on.

How often have you, as a woman, checked your testosterone levels in your lifetime?

Did you know that not all men have the same levels and SOME men must take testosterone shots weekly/bi-weekly/monthly just to maintain average levels. Some women do not have enough testosterone either and use hormone therapy to fix the problem.

There are so many gray areas in the whole "unfrair advantage" debate that it's simply stupid to scrutinize without reasonable cause.

P.S. Semenya Caster didn't win every race, and just because a man has more testosterone than you doesn't mean you can't beat him in a race, nor does it mean he's inherently, physically superior to you. Like I said before, testosterone is half the battle. A serious work ethic, in sports and athletics, simply reinforces to physicalities of what hormones are supposed to do.

Mar 14, 2011 07:10 pm
 Posted by  txtigger

If 'people' accepted that our world is mostly controlled by MEN they would understand the issue here. If you are born crossed-sexed or hermaphrodite families are forced to make a decision early on as to the "sex" of the child and 99% of those they raise as female because they are told the child 'will never be a functional male" as if their penis size or function is the only thing that makes them Male. There is a well documented case of twin boys being raised as 1 male and 1 female during a botched circumcision. Causing YEARS of mental trauma until ‘she’ found out he was born male. Why does the world revolve around a lump of tissue - or lack of it?

Brittney is who she is - and she is awesome! We have followed her here in Houston and on to Baylor. If she does have some gene 'issues' - then you need to look at our society and how they view want makes someone male or female. I prefer to think for whatever reason - she has been female her entire life. And now that she excels in a sport and can play as well as most any other college male - people want to say "hold up a sec". That's not fair. Why is it a boy can be male his whole life - and the second he becomes good at Ballet or Dance...we MAY question if he is gay/straight - but not if he is male or female? Why is it that for most Doctor's a baby without a functional penis has to be a girl?

Britney has done nothing more than live her life as it was handed to her and used God's gifts to her in the best possible way....and do it with the grace and humility I can only hope for in my own grandchildren. It amazes me we call ourselves 'Civilized' and then react to a human being with such animosity - for nothing more than her ability to play a GAME. If she were to join the Military....what would she be classified as...FEMALE. So she can fight for her country as a female - but not play a game as one. PLEASE - She's NOT the one with the problem folks!

Mar 28, 2011 02:07 pm
 Posted by  lapidus48

Nonsense, DanRyan and Meadow, Most athletes in contact or team sports, I believe have higher testosterone levels than their average gender counterparts.

On a scale of 1 toI 10, I, a pretty fair athlete in high school and college, probably rate a 5 on the testosterone scale--now rate me alongside a Lebron James. What do you think he would score? Probably a 12. I "could train forever"& and there is no way I'm going to match him or come close in performance or appearance. Griner was born a girl and classified as such--if she has certain advantageous gifts than it behooves WBB coaches to get out there and find similarly gifted athletes to continue evolving women's hoops---just like their male counterparts started doing in the late fifties, sixties, seventies and onward.

The body type of male college and pro BB athletes changed between say, 1955 and 1995 and so did their performance. The athletes who led the charge for change were called freaks or worse but their gender wasn't questioned and the sport benefitted from their presence. Leave Griner and similarly gifted female athletes alone.

Mar 24, 2012 12:35 am
 Posted by  Jak

I could careless what an individual looks like, as long as the individual competing is the same "gender" as the individual that was born. i can appreciate individual who feel the need to "correct" their outward appearance to match how they are inward, but once efforts are made (male or female) to change (chemically and/or surgically), I strongly feel that they should not be able to complete in school aged (to include the NCAAs) competitive sports.

in the world of say...figure skating...ballroom dancing...we don't make males submit to gene testing when they exhibit physical traits that may give him a perceived unfair advantage. when a male is clearly preforming well beyond that of his peers, okay, we make him submit to drug testing, but do we check to see if he has extra male chromosomes...no! we give him a signing bonus and the keys to the city!!!

by the way....your sexual identity has nothing to do with your physical capability!

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