She's Got Game

Women's professional tennis has cleared the way for an intersex player to compete on the tour. But with all of the questions her case raises about gender and biology, is women's tennis ready for Sarah Gronert?

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 09 2009 12:00 AM ET

For instance, a person
could be biologically male in terms of chromosomes, gonads, and
sex hormones but be completely androgen-resistant -- meaning
the body does not respond to male sex hormones -- so that the
child is born with female-looking external genitalia and at
puberty has little or no secondary hair and develops breasts.
The other extreme, says Meyer-Bahlburg, could be someone who is
internally female (with a uterus, ovaries,and vagina) but has
developed external genitalia that are male-like from exposure
to male sex hormones during fetal development. "Then you have
all kinds of conditions in between," he says.

Neither the ITF nor the
WTA say they have received any direct complaints about Gronert.
But her presence on the tour has stirred some controversy,
prompting at least one person to make disparaging comments.
Schlomo Tzoref, the coach of a player beaten by Gronert at an
event she won in Israel, said: "There is no girl who can hit
serves like that, not even Venus Williams," according to the
New York
Daily News

.

"When I heard her
story, I was in shock," he added. "I don't know if
it's fair that she can compete or not. She does have an
advantage, but if this is what the WTA have decided, they
probably know best. If she begins to play continuously, within
six months she will be within the top 50."

At the Sony Ericsson
Open last week in Key Biscayne, Fla., players grappled to put
the unusual situation in perspective. Most said it was hard to
comment since they had never seen or heard of Gronert and
weren't familiar with either intersex people or the
WTA's rules regarding gender verification. "It's hard
to judge," said third-ranked Elena Dementieva of Russia.

A few shared concerns
that they might be at a disadvantage against someone who
benefited from different muscular, hormonal, or skeletal
development. "If there is a big difference in the muscle
structure and the body structure and if you see she is dominant
over the rest of the girls, then we might have a little
issue," said 10th-ranked Nadia Petrova. "But I think we all
should have a chance to do what we do. I think it's fair
enough if she's been approved by the WTA and ITF. Why not
give her the green light?"

Others simply
empathized with her situation. "It's a difficult
situation as a human being," said former number 1 and out
lesbian Amélie Mauresmo of France. "Good for her
to make the choice about how she feels inside. For me
that's the main thing for me -- to feel good about
herself."

Tags: Sports

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