By Lisa J. Keating
This morning, I came across a petition on Change.org aiming to strip Caitlyn Jenner of her Olympic medals. The petitioner is a woman named Jennifer Brandford. There is no information about who this person is and what vested interest she has by starting this petition. I’m very curious what Ms. Bradford will gain if this campaign against Ms. Jenner is successful and who’s she’s actually representing.
By Bradford’s logic, because Caitlyn fully transitioned 39 years after winning a gold medal, and setting a world record in the process, it should disqualify her for keeping the medal. In the petition, Bradford congratulates and thanks Caitlyn for her courage. Just before that she “asks whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner retain her Olympic records.” Well, at least Jennifer has a “heavy heart” in doing so.
What is not mentioned in this petition is the practice of sex testing by the International Olympic Committee. Sex testing was regularly administered until the practice was banned 23 years after Jenner won the gold. The last recorded tests was done during the Atlanta Olympic games in 1996. According to Wikipedia, “The International Olympic Committee‘s board voted to discontinue the practice in June 1999. In individual cases the IOC stills holds on to the right to test on gender.”
Under this former practice, sex testing was looking only for the X or Y chromosomes. Science has since shown that there is far more to gender than identifying two specific chromosomes. Given that this testing was widely practiced when Jenner was a competitive Olympian, it’s possible that Ms. Jenner could have been tested and provided the evidence the IOC was searching for to qualify Ms. Jenner to compete in the men’s Decathlon. But that’s not really the point of this petition.
What’s disturbing is Bradford’s condescending tone in an effort to discredit and disgrace Caitlyn Jenner supposedly in support of transgender people . In doing so, it devalues the life history of Ms. Jenner. Bradford writes, “We urge Ms. Jenner to support the transgender community by giving up the medals earned by competing against the wrong gender.”
As the parent of a transgender child, I am wholeheartedly offended that Bradford is speaking on behalf of transgender people. It demonstrates this person’s ignorance about the history of trans rights, equality and the complexities of gender identity. Is she going to start tracking down decorated U.S. soldiers who have transitioned post military service to demand their metals are stripped, too?
This petition is a clever attempt to appear supportive and congratulatory but at the root is based in transphobia.
Lisa J. Keating runs a resource called My Purple Umbrella and lives in Washington with her family.