Caitlyn Jenner Will Keep Her Olympic Medals, International Olympic Committee Says

Jul 1976: Bruce Jenner of the USA celebrates during his record setting performance in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy/Allsport
Source: Tony Duffy/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

One of the more depressing and outrageous responses to Caitlyn Jenner's coming out is a petition asking the International Olympic Commission (IOC) to revoke Jenner's Olympic medals. But now the IOC has responded, saying Jenner's medals still stand. So take that, trolls!

Though the issue has thankfully been decided, the Change.org petition to strip Jenner of her medals is still live, and has dishearteningly received over 14,000  signatures. It attempts to claim that because Jenner competed in the men's events but now identifies as a woman, the medals should be revoked. 

"We congratulate Ms. Jenner on these new developments and wish her the best," the petition read. "However, this creates somewhat of a problem as Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men's sports and vice versa."

The petition even goes on to claim taking away Jenner's medals will somehow support the transgender community. Ugh. 

Since apparently this is difficult for some people, let me break a few things down. Caitlyn Jenner is a woman. Until very recently, Caitlyn Jenner lived her life as though she were a man. During that time, she did many impressive things, including winning several Olympic medals in men's events because that was the gender she was expressing at the time. The fact that Jenner now asserts she has always truly been a woman does not change the fact that she won her medals while competing as a man. The fact that she won the medals while competing as a man does not change her identity as a woman. (Nor does her transition alter, diminish, distort, or otherwise change any of her many accomplishments up to this point.)

This all makes a lot more sense if you remember that gender does not consist of absolute, essential categories, but is rather something people all experience differently, and something we each express, perform, and interpret in different, culturally patterned ways. 

Fortunately, the IOC has stated that they will not be revoking Jenner's medals, and her victories still stand (though they used her former name, Bruce, and male pronouns when making the announcement). 

The IOC has historically not been the most progressive when it comes to understandings of gender. The organization has reserved the right to perform "gender tests" on athletes for decades now, and several cases have raised controversy. Currently, the IOC's policy for verifying gender is to test female athletes for testosterone. If they happen to fall in the "male range" they may be banned from competing, or may have to lower their testosterone medically, both of which are pretty terrible options. Indeed, the whole thing is pretty terrible in that it reduces gender down to biology when of course gender is so much more complicated. 

So the Caitlyn Jenner decision could be a sign that the IOC is becoming more progressive around gender. Or it could be that they are actually lagging so far behind the times that they sincerely don't think that Jenner could be considered a woman as long as she was biologically male at the time of the event. Either way, Caitlyn Jenner's medals appear to be safe, so I'll take it. 

(Though really, we also should reform the IOC's policies on "gender testing" soon. It's 2015, guys.)

Trans people don't suddenly become different people after coming out or transitioning. Changing your gender expression certainly changes how people see you, but it doesn't mean that everything that happened in your life prior to that point is invalid. While some people may wish to break with their pasts, that is something people should be allowed to decide for themselves. It is not something anyone else gets to dictate. 

In other words, Caitlyn Jenner is still an Olympic gold medalist. And the haters will just have to deal. 

Image: Giphy; Vanity Fair

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