The Right to Our Bodies
In a case where the “facts” are both complex and yet also the question at hand, let us start with one that should be undisputed: Pinki Pramanik says she is a woman. She has lived as one, competed as one, and identifies as one. She and no other person or institution – particularly the law or medical science – has the right to decide what her gender identity is regardless of her anatomy, her chromosomes or her hormones. As the investigations against her began, her claim to be a woman should have been accepted at face value regardless of whether narrow judgments of her appearance, manner, physicality or dress led some to believe otherwise.
To add to Nivedita’s post below and track what the Pinki Pramanik case continues to tell us, here is a link to the rest of the Times of India piece cited above that appeared on Monday. The argument I make in that piece has taken a new turn. The gender test results, as reported by the media currently, now say that Pinki is “male” because she has XY chromosome. Yet the report says at the same time that she has “female genital ducts and female external genitalia.” What indeed, then, are we to make of a “conclusive” report that finds Pink to be “male”? The terms and words of the test undo themselves and the underlying assumptions and pathways to the conclusion are far from apparent. If Pink is indeed intersex, then all of these results can stand without the conclusion the report draws of her being “male.” Worth reading are a Journal of American Medical Association article here on Gender Testing and the Olympics, Alice Dreger on sex and gender testing in sports here.
In a national daily this morning, there is a photograph of Pinki. She is taking cooking lessons with her mother in her village. The performance of her gender has begun as her sex is questioned. The only strategy open to her is to now constantly claim all that is uncontestably “woman”: a saree, a pallu over the head, in the kitchen, learning from her mother. Yet again the binaries and essentialisms of our gender identities are reproduced as Pinki tries to erase signs of the apparent “masculinity” of her appearance and behaviour that has driven much of the outrage against her thus far.