Gender issues

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NZ is still trying to decide what to do about people who change from being male to female or the reverse. Some schools are happy to provide unisex toilets and changing rooms but for transgender athletes, there are bigger issues.

One issue is participation in international sport. Laurel Hubbard, aged 39, is a weightlifter. She was originally called Gavin which is a male name. When she was 30 years old, she transitioned, or changed, to female. Does this give her an advantage when lifting weights?

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has ruled that an athlete transitioning from male to female must be female for at least four years before the competition, and must have a low level of testosterone for at least one year. There are no issues about competing in international competitions with female athletes transitioning to male.

Some doctors, however, say that a female competitor who used to be male before puberty will have more muscle. The lower level of testosterone will reduce the muscle but that takes time. On the other hand, others argue that the drugs these athletes have to take to block the hormone testosterone, can cause a decrease in oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This means they may have less energy.

Meanwhile Laurel Hubbard was placed 3rd in the female 90kg weightlifting competition so she could represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games next year.

Vocabulary

• an issue (n) – a matter for discussion
• unisex (adj) – for both male and female
• changing rooms – where people change their clothes before playing sports
• transgender (adj) – change from male to female or the opposite
• testosterone (n) – male hormone
• puberty (n) – the time when the body changes from a child to an adult
• to block (v) – stop something happening

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