Caster Semenya

The issue of gender is one that has long plagued the human race.  Men have penises and testicles and are big and burly, a la Gaston in Beauty and the Best (oh, Gaston).  Women are small, delicate, demure, and gentle.  If you believe that, I’ll tell you another.  In a time when medicine can probe all aspects of a person’s body, we are discovering that gender is not always as neatly packaged as some always thought and hoped.  The issue of Semenya, the sprinter from Africa, has been all over the news and has frustrated many a person.

What defines gender?  Clearly, not genitalia.  So, hormones?  Chromosomes?  What then, in the case of people who have identifying factors of both genders but the ones clearly visible to the naked eye point in the “wrong” direction?  This girl did not ask for this scrutiny. Nowhere does it seem more clear that life holds continuums as opposed to blacks and whites, rights and wrongs.   Coming from a small African village, I can only imagine that while it would probably be considered odd that she never grew breasts, was hairier than her female counterparts, and never got a period would not necessarily be chalked up as conclusive evidence of her manhood.  After all, she has a vagina.  She identifies as a girl.  She did not seek to defraud the other runners or the IAAF.

It’s a shame that now, she faces the fact that even if her medal is not stripped away, she will likely be unable to continue competitively in the sport she has been so successful at.  Sure, she could proceed as a man, but not at the high level she has been.  And no, it’s not really fair to the other runners since she does have such insanely high levels of testosterone.  So, what of it?  Does change need to come about in the way we categorize athletes?  Why does this bother me?  As far as I’m aware, I know of nobody personally who is sexually mosaic.  Still, it seems unfair that there is a whole class of people who, by society’s standards, are entirely unclassifiable.

Maybe we’re all wrong in our approach.  In some ancient cultures, it’s been clearly documented that hermaphrodites were worshiped as gods.  Why do so many now revile them or fetishize them?  They’re people, pure and simple.  Not gods.  Not perverts.  Just people.

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