Manif pour le 'mariage pour tous', Paris, 27 janvier 2013 IMG_7424 by krytofr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 1985, Martínez-Patiño, an internationally accomplished twenty-four-year-old sprint hurdler, arrived at the World University Games in Kobe, Japan. Shortly after, she realized that it was required to take the customary pre-competition cheek swab to confirm that she was a woman. As she grew up as a normal girl, she has never doubted her womanhood. Hence, she didn’t worry about testing swabs of cheek tissue for chromosomes. However, late on that August day in ’85, she was told that she is not qualified to compete. It turned out that she had XY chromosomes, which are male chromosomes, while Women have XX sex chromosomes.

Since she was sure of her gender, she kept fighting to be allowed to compete. She found out that a Finnish geneticist named Albert de la Chapelle proved that chromosomes do not necessarily make the man or woman. Thus, she paid doctors to examine her sex, and they discovered that she had testes, hidden from sight inside her labia, and that she had neither a uterus nor ovaries. Nevertheless, the doctors also discovered that Martínez-Patiño had androgen insensitivity, which means that her body was deaf to the call of testosterone, and in turn, she was able to prove herself as a woman.

Today, 31 years later, LGBT people like Martínez-Patiño still suffer from discrimination. What is more, 75 countries around the globe still criminalize homosexuality today and LGBT people are mentally and physically assaulted.

I believe one of the main reasons why people discriminate LGBT people is the ignorance about sexuality. As the story of Martínez-Patiño illustrates, our sexuality is complex. She was lucky to be able to prove herself as a woman, but human sex is commonly a blur.

Our society divides sex into distinct two categories: male and female, but sex is not binary. Male and female just represent two sides of a broad spectrum of type. It’s a lot more complex than you might imagine. Martínez-Patiño was a woman with both a vagina and internal testes, with breasts, but no ovaries or uterus, and male doses of testosterone circulated inertly through her body.

There are five main factors when determining sex. Initially, doctors look at the chromosomes, then consider reproductive cells (do they have ovaries or testes), organs such as a womb, and finally examine what hormones are produced, and this will affect the development of the genitals.

We are all plotted somewhere in a spectrum of two types. You could be 80% women, and 20% men in the spectrum of two types, whereas there are also those who fall in the middle of a range.

You know immigrants feel that they don’t belong to their new country? On top of this, they could realize that they don’t belong to their home country anymore when they go back there after a while. That’s because they change, and they end up feeling like they belong nowhere.

We have to understand that LGBT people probably feel this way on a daily basis. They don’t know whom they can befriend with. They don’t know what to circle in the questionnaire regarding their sex. Neither they know which public restroom they should use.


Epstein, David. (2013). The Sports Gene. Penguin Books.
Me My Sex and I. Giles Harrison. Tina Fletcher-Hill. BBC Documentary. Oct 2011.