Sunday, September 13, 2009

Caster Semenya

The tragedy in which that young lady is featuring is still ongoing.

Imagine the embarassment. She has been examined, and her private information has been 'leaked' to the media. And of course now it is in the public domain. She is a neither woman nor man. Or she is both a man and woman. And we all know it.

How would you feel if this was public knowledge?

How does the IAAF feel about it? They have effectively destroyed the life of a young person, because they have to prove that she is not 'cheating'. As a sop, they are leaving her with the medal that she won. So, is she a man or woman? Will she be allowed to compete anymore?

I was talking to Julius, and he told me something horrible. That traditionally, children born with ambiguous genitalia are killed soon after birth. His story tells of the trials he went through. What about Castor...

Yeah, our unbending world can be very, very cruel.

My prayers to Castor Semenya as she passes through this time of shame. Hope South Africans can still find the strength to stand by her. Just as she is.



AfroGay said...

You posted a most educative piece about the inter-sexual phenomenon recently.

Though the issue of Semenya's gender needs to be treated with sensitivity, don't you think it is legitimate for the IAAF to search its soul over whether or not she can compete against women when she has such an inbuilt advantage on account of her genetic makeup?

A hermaphrodite like Semenya who clearly has such predominant male hormones surely can't be expected to compete at the same level with women who don't have equivalent male traits, can she?

Sandy said...

All elite runners have natural advantages over the rest of us. But if she had big hamstrings or long legs that gave her a natural advantage, that would be ok. To me, if you have high levels of testosterone naturally, that shouldn't disqualify you. If you use artificial means to create that level, then I think you should be disqualified. This is just who she is.


Unknown said...

I feel so awful for Caster; I've been following her story for a few weeks now on various blogs and other on-line communities, and it's been incredibly heartbreaking thinking of her, and what she must be going through at this moment. The only silver lining I've been able to find in the situation is the awareness this has raised for intersex people in the public conscious – for certainly they seem to be an under-looked and misunderstood group, even in the realms of the gay rights community, let alone the more general public. Still, I hate that such a learning opportunity had to come at the expense of a teenage girl's privacy and her life as she's known it; that's not an experience I would wish on anyone. As far as I've read though, it seems like South Africa is still supporting her, which is also a small bright spot (if you can apply a phrase like “bright spot” to a situation like this). Actually, I believe the South African government filed a complaint about her treatment to the UN, and I know she had a huge victory homecoming.

To AfroGay, if I may, I've read a lot of discussion about whether Caster's “advantage” is a legitimate cause for disqualifying her from running, and I certainly think the combination of intersex people and the division of gendered athletics make for a thorny issue. What strikes me though is that in the leaked Australian reports of the results of Caster's testing it's claimed she has no ovaries or uterus and internal testes that produce large amounts of testosterone. I was actually just reading a book about human sexuality (Sexual Fluidity by Lisa Diamond, if anyone out there is interested), and in the text it described people, like Caster, who were born genetically male, but due to a genetic mutation, are either completely or entirely insensitive to the masculinizing effects of prenatal androgens; people with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) have undescended testes, lack ovaries, fallopian tubes, and a uterus, but otherwise develop female external genitalia. So, basically, it sort of sounds to me like Caster is a textbook AIS case. So many people, like you, are claiming she should be banned with competing with other women because she has the advantage of male hormones, but if the reports are right, and she is AIS, she'd actually not respond to the very testosterone it's claimed gives her an advantage athletically. Of course, I'm just some chick on the internet, with a textbook and skimming knowledge of AIS from a few Google searches, so I wouldn't take my diagnosis as worth, well, anything, really, but it makes for interesting speculation.

Of course, even in the event that she was AIS, and didn't have any testosterone-charged advantage on her side, that likely wouldn't matter to the IAAF given the precedent for this sort of thing. In my Googling I read about Maria Martinez-Patino, a track and field athlete from, I believe, Finland who, at the World University Games in Kobe, Japan, had her test came back with an XY and she was not allowed to compete. Martinez-Patino had androgen insensitivity, meaning that meant she also didn't have a competitive advantage from having an XY chromosome. So basically, the whole situation for Caster – and intersex athletes in general - is really sort of depressing.

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