McNair Scholars Research Journal


For decades, female intersex athletes have been ostracized by professional sport organizations due to their androgynous or masculine physiques. These athletes have experienced backlash from sports fans and competitors due to the assumption that they are men masquerading as women, or that they have gained unfair advantages in competition through the use of testosterone (Schweinbenz & Cronk, 2010). Negative media coverage has led to some of these athletes being required to undergo sex verification tests and/or suspensions by the International Olympic Committee (IOC; Elsas et al., 2000). This study explores the rhetorical discourse surrounding female intersex athletes in professional athletic settings, using a case study analysis of a number of professional athletes. The study will examine the derogatory and harmful rhetoric used against female intersex athletes and discuss how these messages have affected their professional image and impacted the public’s perception of intersex athletes in international competition.