Intersex poster child Caster Semenya

I would hate to be in the International Association of Athletics Federations’ shoes right now, after it bungled up the gender testing of Caster Semenya. Worse yet, I’d hate to be in the shoes of Caster Semenya right now, which is unfortunate - a world-class runner should be someone who is admired for their abilities, not pitied. But, whether she likes it or not, Semenya has the opportunity to be the poster girl for intersexed people everywhere.
While nothing official has been said yet, it’s heavily suspected that Semenya’s tests showed her to be intersexed - that is, heavily female characteristics, with secondary male characteristics. The outdated term for intersexed people is hermaphrodite. This theory is further supported by the fact that the IAAF allowed Semenya to race in the 800 meters (the test was conducted prior, at the try-outs) – the results would have come back and if they were conclusively female, there would have been an apology immediately. If she were biologically all male, then she would have been automatically disqualified.
While I can really understand the harsh words thrown around by South Africans who want to support Semenya, who they’re calling their “golden girl,” it seems as though there is actual justification for the tests, as the rules are drawn now. There are no hard and fast guidelines about where intersexed athletes fit into sports, although I’m positive this is not the first time that an intersexed athlete has participated in a large sporting event. The IAAF and other groups are simply coming to terms with the fact that it does happen.
As well, unfortunately, the athletic community has every reason to suspect that men will try to pass themselves off as women to win. It’s happened a few times, most famously when the Nazis put in high-jumper ringer Dora Ratjen, who was biologically and psychologically male (the story is the plot of the new movie Berlin 36 - the timing is so ridiculous I can’t help think it was fixed).
This is not the first time Semenya’s been picked on for being masculine - in an interview with BBC Sports, her grandmother says that Semenya’s always been teased, since she was the only girl on the football team in her hometown.
Leonard Chuene, head of Athletics South Africa, indirectly acknowledges that Semenya is intersexed, stating "Her crime was to be born the way she is born,” prefaced by saying that he will go as far as getting kicked out of Germany to protect and support her.
A week after her manager quit, Semenya was dolled up for the cover of South Africa’s YOU Magazine. Instead of her usual track suits and pulled back hair, she wore gold jewellery, a sleeveless black dress, and makeup. Around the same time, Semenya told the BBC “I'd like to dress up more often and wear dresses but I never get the chance. I am who I am and I'm proud of myself." The cover and the statement seem a little bit contradictory, which is unfortunate, and I’m wondering how much pressure she felt to dress up in a traditional feminine way that is really out of her comfort zone. Thankfully, outside that one photo shoot, she still wears her baggy tracksuits and her hair in cornrows, as always.
Most importantly, there is great news at the end of the tunnel for both Semenya and other intersexed athletes. While an official report will not be completed until sometime in November, Dr. Myron Genel, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at Yale University and a member of the IAAF panel that was put together to specifically decide on the case, told the Associated Press, “She's born a female, raised as a female through puberty. Whatever is found, with the exception of deliberate substance abuse, she's going to have to be allowed to compete as a female.”

Megan Drysdale

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