This week, the track world was shocked with allegations that perhaps South Africa’s running sensation and women’s world track champion in the 800 meters race may actually be a man! The International Association of Athletes Fedederation (IAAF) has requested that eighteen-year-old Caster Semenya undergo tests to verify her gender, however the results of the tests are not available for several weeks. According to one source, of the seven runners competing against Semenya, two believe she is a man. Standing at 5 feet 7 inches and weighing 140 pounds, Semenya may look masculine to some. I don’t know what is more tragic, that people think she’s a man or that she has to go through the embarrassing so-called gender verification tests.
And what exactly goes on in these tests? Semenya says she’s willing to prove she’s a woman by dropping her shorts. That’s like a “She’s The Man” moment (if you’ve watched the movie), thus suggesting that having a penis defines one’s gender. But what happens if one’s penis is accidentally chopped off, as in the case of David Reimer? Is one still a man? Do you have to be born with a penis to be called a man? Thus, I assume Semenya also had to undergo blood work and other tests to see if she is in fact, XY.
But for now, Semenya is still competing in the world championships despite these allegations, and she’s beating everyone! We’ll just have to see in a couple weeks if she is in fact a woman. I will feel sorry for Semenya if the reports end up saying that she really is a woman and she had to undergo all this to prove it to everyone. But perhaps it comes with the job of running, especially in the public eye.
Society places a huge importance of labeling and knowing what is what. We want to be sure. It’s important to be sure and to not make a mistake. But what does it mean to be a man or woman in today’s society? Has the definition changed?
This whole incident reminded me of an optical illusion I saw, in which your mind can constantly shift in visualizing a man or a woman. I’m sure that’s what the man was going through when he accused Semenya. But I do agree, she does look “manly” because society believes that men should be buff, which is why female bodybuilders get a lot of ridicule. Anyway, this certainly is some gender identity confusion.
But again, we’ll see and hear the results in a couple weeks. We’re all waiting.
For now, I’ll leave you entertained with this video of a man becoming a woman.
**I also had a follow up in one of the comments. These allegations aren’t new to the track racing world. The same thing happened to Zimbabwe racing star Samukeliso Sithole, who was a prominent runner in woman’s track. Unfortunately for Sithole, the allegations were proved to be true. Sithole was indeed a man.