The complicated sex of Caster Semenya

The complicated sex of Caster SemenyaDid Caster Semenya win medals with deception?

An article in The New Yorker says that Ms. Semenya’s case is not just about the scientific difficulty of discovering the "truth" of whether someone is male or female. It’s also about prejudice, racism and the history of apartheid in South Africa.

"Since the day Semenya broke Zola Budd’s record, people in South Africa had been talking about her. Semenya does not look like most female athletes. People questioned whether she was really a woman. Some even e-mailed the International Association of Athletics Federations, the worldwide governing body for track and field, with their doubts…

…Several of Semenya’s competitors in the race were incensed that she had been allowed to participate. "These kind of people should not run with us," Elisa Cusma, of Italy, who came in sixth, said. "For me, she is not a woman. She is a man."

Taxonomy is an acutely sensitive subject, and its history is probably one of the reasons that South Africansparticularly black South Africanshave rallied behind their runner with such fervor. The government has decreed that Semenya can continue running with women in her own country, regardless of what the I.A.A.F. decides."

Either/Or – Sports, sex, and the case of Caster Semenya, The New Yorker>>

An article from the UK’s The Daily Mail on Ms. Semenya talks more specifically about how hard it is to determine gender, and about intersexuality, which is, as the word implies, when one person can have reproductive or sexual features that are not typically male or female. (The older, less accurate term was hermaphrodite.)

"…sport, with its emphasis on precise measurements and defined quantities, is badly equipped to cope with something as vague and emotionally charged as human sexual differentiation.

In the world of athletics, you come first – or you lose. But when it comes to being male or female, it really is possible to be something in between."

A related article also talks about past gender deceptions in sports. (In cases such as Helen Stephens, Stella Walsh, Dora Ratjen, Heidi Krieger and Tamara and Irina Press.)

Woman, man or a little bit of both? How deciding Caster Semenya’s gender is more complex than you might think, The Daily Mail, UK>>

Intersex Society of North America>>

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