Man Or Woman? Revisited

Semenya on the cover of You Magazine. Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk

Semenya on the cover of You Magazine. Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk

A few weeks back, I wrote about South African athlete Caster Semenya, the track runner who had to undergo gender verification tests despite winning the World Championships in Berlin last month due to speculations that she may in fact be a man. The tests caused protests all around South Africa–many complaining that such tests treaded on her human rights. Currently, the intersex community has become one of the most out-spoken protesting group, trying to educate people about intersex and trying to rally support for those who don’t exactly have the XX and XY chromosomes that we tend to identify for the female and male sex. But in the world of sports, such gender verification tests are needed, especially when an extra boost of testosterone  makes a split second difference. And again, these kinds of allegations are nothing new in the world of sports.

The results of early tests are in! According to the Daily Telegraph, a UK paper, Semenya has elevated testosterone levels. However, the testosterone level is still low enough to be accepted under IAAF standards. Keep in mind that these are just preliminary medical tests, and NOT the full test. Those results will come in a couple weeks.

Meanwhile, Semenya is living it up as the cover model for You Magazine. She had a “glam makeover.” How you want to define that or read into that is up to you. I was thinking of doing a poll to learn what others think about Semenya on the cover, but then I realized that would be quite rude of me. Anyway, I think she looks beautiful on the cover.

Regarding the question of gender, Semenya says, “God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I’m proud.”

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 14, 2009:

Just yesterday, The Guardian, a UK paper, has reported that Semenya is receiving counseling for the results of the gender verification tests. The tests revealed that she is indeed a hermaphrodite, a person who is born with both male and female sexual characteristics and organs. But the saga is not over. International athletics officials will deliver a verdict around late November and will not likely take away the medal Semenya won in August at Berlin.

Perhaps Semenya can finally have some peace after having her life become so public so fast. She will definitely need support as she rediscovers her own sense of identity.

Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “Man Or Woman? Revisited

  1. blissbait

    With the way she runs, they should have done checked to see if she’s part giselle!

    May All Beings Be Happy!

  2. theprettyproject

    I’m interested in knowing what different things can lead to elevated testosterone levels.

    http://www.theprettyproject.com

  3. SHE’S A WOMAN FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!!

  4. But it is unfair for the other players to run with caster, she has an advantage i mean… to avoid all this they should do the test before the games and not after when a person had already won and is already happy about it.

  5. Has anyone said that she did or did not know of her condition before racing?

    It’s an interesting situation and a hard call, I think. The fact of the matter is that it was a WOMAN’s race and if she had the testosterone levels of a man, she shouldn’t receive the medal. But if the levels are below that of a man, there’s no reason for her not to keep her medal.

    • girlinhat42

      From everything I’ve heard, her testosterone levels are much closer to male than female, I think about 3x the female normal? However, no one was aware of any medical conditions before she entered the compitition, and for that reason she’s being allowed to keep the medal. This was not a case of cheating, where she was aware of her advantage but did it anyways. There were no bad intentions or desire to cheat, no drugs or anything. Since she wasn’t aware and didn’t mean to have an advantage, and the officials allowed her to compete, they can’t just take it away. The officials make her qualify, put her through the trials, and made her compete. They’re owning up to the fact that they allowed this, and letting her keep the medal.

      I have heard that they may release a second gold, for the second place, and I assume a silver for the third, ect.

  6. Daniel

    gender is not polar. Science has disproven this socially created paradigm.

  7. I think we all need to wait for the final test results before passing judgement.

  8. girlinhat42

    @milena: The issue with that, is that most professional atheletes who are in doubt are quickly given gender tests, and I think all olympic atheletes are before they can compete. Caster was overdue for a test just like this, but the issue was that she became very quickly, very good. She was rushed into the compitition, and they had to postpone the tests for later. After all, an athelete has a relatively short professional career at this level, and they wanted her to get her full time on the field, not skip the compitition because of a test that could be done later.

    I actually commented on the previous post about this, and at the time believed Caster would be proven to be fully female (which would have been funny to see how everyone responded, given how masculine she appears) but now I’m actually worried for her. Not because of the social hype, although that’s sure to be an issue. The problem is, this is someone who’s had their sex medically disproven. That’s something that for the most part, no one has to deal with, and I’m sure anyone can imagine, would be a difficult thing to go through. I’m glad she’s getting counseling.

    On another note, I’m going to attempt to predict that she ends up changing to male. Another couple of articles that talked about her cover shoot recognized that she normally doesn’t dress and look like that. Normally, when she’s just being herself, she wears very boyish clothes and keeps her hair in cornrows. Just given what I’ve observed (which could be very wrong) I think she’ll end up taking the male role. She does have a vagina, and because of that the deliver doctor said she was female, and she was raised as such. However, all of her actions and appearances have been on the male side, which makes it look like she’s male at heart, despite what the doctors told her at birth.

    With that said, I hope that she finds hapiness in whatever she does, and that the world will mind its own business for once.

  9. Dimmulain

    I’d suggest organizing races for men, women.. and hermaphrodite…. I think that will be quite fair… especially for those who were not born with BOTH men and women organs and characteristics…. (oh dios mio, how creepy it is)

  10. The way the runners dress is unfeminine anyway. I can see it now, but had mixed feelings about the tests myself. She’s a teen right? Kind of hard on a teen’s self-esteem to be told you look like man. Sheesh.

  11. I don’t understand why this is so taboo for so many people. Even if, for religious or cultural reasons, one has a problem with homosexuality or transexuals, (which I personally think is no one’s business) – this is a completely different situation. She was born this way. What is she supposed to do about it?

    I think she is a beautiful person with an amazing talent. I do not know what should be done as far as making the races fair, but I wish her the best of luck and think she has handled the controversy and embarrassment of this situation with so much grace.

  12. Smiley

    To begin with, she speaks like a man, sits like a man, can grow a beard almost and looks quite like any other South African male. So what is she? The fact is she also looked more like a transvestite on the cover of you than a dressed up woman. And look at her chest muscles – man.

    The politicians in SA are making such a huge scene in this regard. Blamed the west of being racist, as well as the IAAF because they don’t want to see a black athlete perform… Bolt, what color is he??

    The goverment even gave her family a house.

    Who is to blame? Athletics SA. They should have known that there is something up with this “girl” who looks and talk like a man. And did she know? SA politicians are also to blame for making such a scene. Oprah Winfrey wanted her on her show, but ASA said no, because they wanted Oprah to pay Semenya…. South African greed.

    As her name says. Caster – semen – YA!!!

  13. hidingundertheduvet

    I’m impressed with the way she’s dealt with this – I’m not sure I’d’ve been so calm about it, especially the way the media handled it!

    In respect to making the races fair, these tests should be done before a person even takes part in qualifiers – what happens after that, I don’t know, it’d obviously depend how many people were affected – but, at least that way, you avoid precisely this situation.

    It’d be interesting to know, though, if they discovered a male runner had very LOW levels of testosterone, would they do something to compensate him for the “advantage” the other runners had over him? Or do they only care about people who do well?

    On a different note to the Caster Semenya issue, but kind of related, society needs to accept that there isn’t a strict polarity, and take steps to deal with it. I have a friend (and NOT a “hypothetical friend”, before anyone gets any ideas!) who is a male-female transsexual – had “the op”, so has no male organs, thus nothing producing testosterone, looks like a woman, albeit a “sporty type”, is always taken for a woman in the big wide world, but is not allowed to play women’s football, because she would have “an unfair advantage”. As I said, she’s got no testes, is taking estrogen, is no bigger in build than most female sports people, and, as for height, is 5’9″, so it’s not like they can even say she’d be better at headers! (I’m 5’10”, and I can’t take a header to save my life. But, then, I play rugby, so I don’t have to.)

    The problem is society is way too slow in catching on to things like intersex, which is something you can’t do anything about, unless you know you have it, and still, despite all the yelling against religious types, bound by the limited, religious idea of gender – that it’s strictly polar, you’re either completely male or completely female. In reality, since everyone has both testosterone and estrogen, it’s never going to be that black and white.

    Good on Caster, though – whatever is decided about her as a runner, whatever choices she makes in the future, in my eyes she’s proved herself a total success as a decent human being.

  14. exxlibris

    I like her comment : that she is proud of what she is, hermaphrodite or not.

  15. GeaVox

    If I may contribute…. Surely, the baseline is: What are the RULES of the competition? Has Caster knowingly broken them and can produce evidence to that effect?

    The comments on this debate are most enlightening, they mirror the spectrum of responses, ranging from Cello’s comment:

    “gross”

    – No, Cello, YOU are gross! Repulsive , in fact! Caster Semenya is beautiful, dedicated and courageous –

    To slightly puzzling comments like Nikki Han’s:

    “The way the runners dress is unfeminine anyway”

    – With all due respect, I am not sure who decides what is “feminine”, other than debunked myths.

    To Daniel’s more enlightened:

    “gender is not polar. Science has disproven this socially created paradigm”.

    – Quite!

    For my ha’penny’s worth, I would say that, while Caster Semenya is an athlete, at the same time, as Nikki Han compassionately points out:

    “Kind of hard on a teen’s self-esteem to be told you look like man.”

    I too applaud the counselling, but view it as “too little too late”, agreeing with those who call for more stringent entry tests. The argument fielded by girlinhat42 :

    “they wanted her to get her full time on the field, not skip the compitition because of a test that could be done later”

    … illustrates the *need* for a review of the regulations to perhaps tighten the current ‘elasticity’ that allows judges’ discretion on the subject of gender-testing.

    I accept that:

    – race officials may have wanted to be inclusive and applaud it
    – they may have been keenly aware of Daniel’s argument, vis-a-vis the breadth of the human gender spectrum
    – they may therefore have been willing to give Ms Semenya the benefit of the doubt, in allowing her to race

    … but what this episode has illustrated is that, potentially at least, the outcome of such tests is nothing short of traumatic for the subject and so should be done upfront, sensitively, fully explaining to the subject the reason and carried out in the strictest confidentiality, with counselling standing by and on offer, should they reveal such earth-shattering results.

    They cast a shadow on more than just a medal; Caster’s very *identity* has been brought into question. Whatever her circle of close family, relatives, friends and acquaintances privately felt and thought about her ‘masculinity’ before, has now been publicly “established” by tests.

    Caster’s own feelings about who she is have been swept aside by medical “expertise” and she has now been placed in the unenviable position of having to *justify* who she is, poor love!

    I agree with La Senora Lopez, that Caster Semenya has exhibited great grace and poise, I wish I could stand outside her window with a thousand others who admire her for this and sing to her that she is beautiful, valid and brave and that she has our love and support.

  16. Mag

    For God’s sake leave Semenya alone. It is God’s will for her to be born like that. Provided she has life!

  17. She won fair and square, and from all accounts she was raised as a girl. So why trash her, although I’m sure with science the way it is today this question will definitely come up for other athletes.

  18. Pingback: The Definition of Mind Escape « 'OMGitsHur' Creative Voice Blog

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