In 2012, Ugandan runner Annet Negesa was forced by her athletics federation into a no-win choice: Either give up her professional running career or undergo an irreversible and unnecessary surgery to make her body more “feminine.”
Born with differences in sex development (DSD), World Athletics mandated an invasive surgery to lower Negesa’s natural testosterone levels. Yet while the surgery was supposed to be the one avenue that would allow Negesa to continue competing, instead it was the very thing she says ended her budding career. Since her operation, she has struggled with headaches, joint pain and depression that have derailed the Olympic dreams of the African Junior Champion.
In a piece for The Telegraph published on Thursday, Negesa shares her thoughts on how the IOC’s new Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations sets a meaningful precedent for the future of sports participation. She hopes World Athletics will take the framework into account going forward.
World Athletics’ current policies and testosterone caps have overwhelmingly had an impact on women from the Global South, in part because medical interventions on intersex children at birth are less common. Also, women athletes of color are often judged by white standards of femininity as having more masculine characteristics.
Olympic champion Caster Semenya of South Africa, as well as Olympian Dutee Chand of India, are two other high-profile athletes who have been targeted by IAAF/World Athletics for their natural testosterone levels.
“World Athletics’ current DSD regulations are harmful,” Annet Negesa writes for The Telegraph. “My body is the site where harm was caused, and I can’t forget that. No matter how much I try, I cannot undo what happened in 2012, I cannot go back to the body I had before I was operated on. But I can try to stop other brown and black women going through what I did.”
She reveals that the IOC spoke with her directly during the consultation process for their new inclusion guidelines. Much like the new trans-inclusion policy in the women’s Premier Hockey Federation, governing bodies are putting greater importance on mitigating harm and taking the lived experiences of athletes into account when shaping policies.
For years athletes like Negesa, Semenya and others have had to publicly bare their deeply personal stories for this change to occur. Much is owed to them for continuing to lead the call for an end to the dehumanizing treatment of people who don’t conform to a binary system of sport that creates existential issues for those who don’t fit said binary and questions the fundamental bodily autonomy and human dignity of the athletes World Athletics purports to serve.
“In a competition between competitive aspirations and one’s right to health and bodily autonomy, the latter should be prioritized,” Negesa writes. “I feel vindicated because IOC have upheld that and have advised federations to prioritize these values. World Athletics have flouted these principles in my case, and I hope that we can all come together to ensure that their discriminatory DSD regulations are revoked now.”
Negesa currently resides in Germany and remains an outspoken advocate on issues of inclusion in sport. She has recently contributed to the Human Rights Watch report on ending the inhumane sex testing of elite women athletes.
For full context on the new IOC policies, Outsports’ Karleigh Webb has the complete breakdown of all the changes and how it will impact trans inclusion.