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I found the following news article from http://twentyclub.org in Jan 2003  

Switching Gears

By Susan Reifer,

Sports Illustrated Women, Jan 2003

Michelle Dumaresq, 32, is a newcomer to the international downhill  mountain-biking circuit. Even so, the Canadian’s 24th-place  finish at the 2002 World Championship in Kaprun, Austria, on  Aug. 31 was a hotter topic of conversation than Frenchwoman  Anne-Caroline Chausson’s seventh-straight world downhill victory.  You see, Dumaresq -- who finished 54.7 seconds off the lead  mark -- used to be a man.  

"I don’t go around waving a flag, but people talk, and I don’t  really blame them for it," says Dumaresq, who suffered from  gender dysphoria (a condition in which a person feels he or she  is the wrong gender) until initiating hormone treatment at the  age of 21 and finalizing her sex change with surgery at 26. "It’s  not everyday kind of news, right?"  

If some of her Canadian teammates (all of whom she dusted  quite handily in Kaprun) had their way, she wouldn’t be in the  news at all -- at least not in the ranks of pro cycling.  "At my first race of the year I got third," says Dumaresq, a  Vancouver-area native who rode motocross as a boy named  Michael, then transitioned to free-riding the renowned singletrack  of British Columbia’s North Shore as a woman before taking  up downhill racing in 2001.  

"The next race I came in first by 10 seconds. It was my first win  as a pro. All of a sudden everyone freaked out."  Some other racers -- led by top Canadian downhillers Sylvie Allen  and Cassandra Boon, with whom Dumaresq had frequently ridden  over the preceding two years -- circulated a protest form at  the finish line, requesting that the event results be rendered null  and void due to Dumaresq’s involvement.  

"I was beside myself," says the soft-spoken, easy-smiling Dumaresq.  "Their complaints are the height of poor sportsmanship."  The race commissioner rejected the request. The reason was simple.  Even though the governing bodies of downhill bike racing  had suspended Dumaresq’s competitor’s license during the 2001  season pending further review, in April of this year her license  was reinstated with no restrictions.  

"She is legally a woman," says the Canadian Cycling Association’s  Pierre Hutsebaut, echoing the 1977 New York State Supreme  Court decision that granted transsexual Renée Richards the right  to play tennis in the women’s division at the U.S. Open.  

But Allen persisted. She drafted a petition asserting that  Dumaresq had an unfair advantage over "natural women" and  should be either banned from the professional racing circuit or  relegated to a new, "transgender" category. In late June some of  Dumaresq’s teammates took their protest to the World Cup at  Mount St. Anne, Que. -- but their complaints fell flat.  

In the meantime Dumaresq won an event in the Canada Cup  series, beating her nearest competitor by 17 seconds, which  secured her a spot on the national team that would compete in  the world championship in Austria.  

"The [World Cup] women are self-confident, they’re amazing  bike riders, and they were not intimidated by me at all," says  Dumaresq. "They took this opinion of, Bring it on, let’s see what  she’s got!"  

According to medical experts, Dumaresq has no more physical  advantage than any one female athlete might have over another.  "The advantage that males have comes from testosterone and  higher levels of hemoglobin," says Louis Gooren, M.D., one of the  world’s leading experts on endocrinology, gender and transsexuals.  

The testosterone generates larger muscle mass and greater  muscle strength; the hemoglobin allows the blood to carry more  oxygen. But after hormone treatment and removal of the male  sexual organs, testosterone and hemoglobin levels drop, and the  advantages diminish.  

As it happens, the International Olympic Committee recently  abandoned its long-standing policy of gender-testing women  athletes to verify their sex because scientists are so far unable to  find one single biological indicator that proves in all cases that a  woman is really a woman.  

As many as one in 500 women do not have standard XX chromosomes.  Women with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome,  for example, have the XY chromosomes of men but the identities,  bodies, external sexual organs (albeit infertile ones) and  athletic prowess of women. Then there are the women with  seemingly "normal" female bodies who have a mosaic chromosome  pattern: XXY.  

Women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia have a standard XX  chromosome pattern but adrenal glands that produce an excessive  amount of male hormones, which could give them a distinct  athletic advantage. At the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996  eight female athletes reportedly had this condition -- and were  approved for competition.  

"The idea of a natural woman is not a real category," says  Suzanne Kessler, Ph.D., and author of two books on sex and gender.  "These people who are saying they are ’natural women’ have  a naive view. What this issue forces us to grapple with is the  question of what it means to have a natural advantage or disadvantage.  And there are many reasons why someone could be advantaged.  

They could afford lessons. They could afford a better  bike. My guess is if [Dumaresq] has an advantage it’s because  she was raised as a male. Being treated as a male, even if you  never felt like one, leaves you with a higher level of confidence."  

"I am mentally capable of going fast," says Dumaresq, but she  doesn’t attribute that advantage to gender. Quite the opposite.  Beyond losing much of her testosterone, 30% of her muscle  mass, some bone density, three inches of height (through shrinkage  of her vertebral discs, she now stands 5’9") and lots of her  former endurance and strength, Dumaresq has found that her  approach to risky situations has changed.  

"I find myself thinking about things before I do them," she says.  "Guys have this unique risk-taking ability that comes with  testosterone. They deal with consequences after. Women always  examine the consequences beforehand, analyze them and then  take a calculated risk. I think that’s the biggest difference  between how I used to be and how I am now."  

That said, Dumaresq intends to stay in the game. "I love racing,  and I’m good at it," she says. "I never set out to change the world  or anything. I just want to race a bike."

 

 


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