Tuesday, July 06, 2010

On the Semenya Gender Dispute

Earlier today Caster Semenya, olympic running champion for South Africa, was welcomed back into the world of sports after eleven months of trials and tests to determine her gender and ability to race in the women's division. Many challenged Semenya's gold medal at the last summer Olympics because she ran so much faster and had a bigger muscular build than other racers, calling into question her gender. The truth was that Semenya had both male and female sexual organs, making her an intersexual* individual. I have been doing loads of research on intersex conditions lately, in preparation for my next novel, and I learned that there are different types of the condition, none of which should have kept Semenya out of the competition. Most intersex people identify strongly with one gender or the other and this is backed up by physical characteristics, such as genitalia, without being equally male or female.

What this athlete was exposed to was inappropriate, demeaning, ridiculous, and as I see it, unnecessary. If an intersex individual who is primarily female and identifies as such wants to represent her country in the world Olympics, she should be able to. And now that she has returned many question whether or not she had a surgery to make her body more female so that she could be considered one. If this is the case, I am royally pissed off and overall very disappointed in the world, based on their treatment of this woman. She is a person, a living human being, and to go through that kind of ridicule and trial is beyond what any person should have to deal with. Intersex people are people too and should be treated with the same kinds of respect.

Caster Semenya, on the other hand, has handled the situation very well and is an inspiration to intersex people. I plan drawing a little on her strength and her story when I write about Sky's dilemma in my next novel. Semenya, I am very sorry that you were treated the way you were, but you have my support in anything you do. Good luck on the race.

*Another term is hermaphrodite, but there is a slight difference.


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