Secret gender testing sends Caster Semenya into hiding
South African runner Caster Semenya was all smiles when she won the women’s 800 metres at the World Champions in Berlin, clocking in at 1 minute, 55.45 seconds. But this 18 year wonder was unable to enjoy her victory due to the immediate controversy surrounding her gender.
Is she a she? or a he?
Her masculine build raised the initial questions, which seems rather odd since wouldn’t she be expected to have a bod-and-a- half when competing at this level? Further, why were these questions raised after she won the race of a lifetime?
Just as Semenya’s life was being turned upside down, secret investigative tests revealed she had an unusually high amount of testosterone for a woman.
Hmmm…said the salivating press– and then all hell broke loose.
The Guardian reports further tests have revealed Semenya is a hermaphrodite. She is receiving trauma counseling, is in hiding, with suicidal rumors swirling because not only has her privacy and dignity been shattered — the news report was the first she heard of her own condition.
Hermaphroditism, or the preferred word, intersex, is an umbrella medical term that covers a variety of diagnoses where a person is born with ambiguous reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of male or female, according to The Canterbury Intersex Group.
In Semenya’s particular case, she is said to have no ovaries, but has internal male testes that produced large amounts of testosterone. Semenya was completely unaware of this aspect of herself, according to her mother.
If they had such doubts about her (gender), why did they wait until she won before they questioned who or what she was? Why did they allow her to compete before they complained? Would they have treated her this way if she had not won any race? No! That’s so unfair.” stated Dorcus Semenya.
Here is the kicker– Semenya could very well be stripped of her gold medal. Plus, she is not the Semenya is not the first athlete to suffer such a heartbreak
Just over two years ago, a 26-year-old Indian runner named Santhi Soundarajan was rushed to a hospital near her hometown in Tamil Nadu after attempting suicide. Her tragic actions a result of an announcement that Soundarajan was being stripped of her young life’s biggest achievement, a silver medal in the 800-meter race at the Asian Games. The reason: she failed a sex test. It was later revealed later that Soundarajan suffered from AIS, androgen insensitivity syndrome, a condition in which a genetic male is resistant to male sex hormones like testosterone and makes the body appear externally to be female
“The incident surely robbed India of a world-class athlete,” P. Nagarajan, her coach, told Time magazine recently. “An incident like this is enough to ruin a girl’s life — and it did ruin her life and career.”
So, what can we do, besides sit here and be horrified?
Learn more about The Intersex Society of North America