Caster Semenya

Saturday, 12th September 2009 at 8:00 UTC 25 comments

The story of Caster Semenya seems to continue to grip the sports sections of news channels and papers alike. Her treatment has at times appeared more like a drug scandal, has been made out as a case of racism, and has become a major source of bewilderment and headaches for many, including the governing body of the sport in which she competes.

In one sense, she could face future disqualification for a reason she has no control over. She might be “guilty” of a rules violation but does this mean she should be  treated as a cheat? We can’t be certain that anything would have been visibly unusual at birth, when gender tests tend to be commissioned, particularly in a highly-resourced health service. I suppose it doesn’t even occur to most parents to question what they can see.

Her case provides problems on many different levels, and it should be obvious that a news report can hardly do something with this complexity any justice at all. But the problem is, the whole of human society the entire world has assumed, taught and enforced a system of two utterly distinct genders for centuries, if not millennia. Sometimes this has taken particularly brutal forms, others it has put on a softer face. It is the basis of heteronormativity; after all, if there weren’t two distinct sex/genders, there could be no assumption that people should marry someone of the opposite configuration. But although it holds true as an assumption for the majority of the population, it misses the whole picture.

1 in 2500 people are born with a gender condition, as I learnt in a talk at Greenbelt, of which there are apparently 96 possible birth-gender-conditions, though I haven’t a source for that figure. Many won’t ever have reason to discover their condition, and most will live relatively happily in an assumed Gender. In Semenya’s case, we have no reason to believe this has (or hasn’t) been a problem for her in finding a sense of emotional well-being, though only she can know.

Of course, this is one of the main assumptions made in planning sports events: there will be men, there will be women, and they will fit two very neat categories. In this way, Trans people face massive discrimination in sports. Part of this is because an argument is often made that people’s sex matters, not their gender, in assigning classification in sports. But several sports are radically different between men’s and women’s disciplines (gymnastics being one of the biggest examples, with a greater focus on gracefulness in women’s floor routines, whilst men are marked far more on sheer power). But even the stipulation that sex, not gender, be taken into account gives no real clue as to whether an intersex person fits the male or female category.

When the news story first emerged, I was on my bike ride, and that morning I stopped off at a small village shop for drinks and snacks. I saw two men pouring over the pictures in the paper, and quickly realised I probably wanted to avoid conversation with them, as the entire tone of their conversation seemed to be a mix of freak-show punter and some kind of anger. “Look, its clearly a man”, “Pull down their shorts and check”. It infuriated me. But its also clear that this is going to be the response of people who put so much in store by society fitting the nice boxes they were bought up with, a negative backlash at the shattering of the black and whiteness (or perhaps blue and pinkness) we internalise at such a young age.

It might seem a ridiculously small number of people in society, but why should that change the fact that current gender-divisions aren’t working? And why should we assume that anyone who might not be entirely female should compete as a man, as some are saying? (And what does that say about our view of women’s athletic abilities?) One thing does appear clear, however, and that is that our collective understanding of gender as a global society really should be put back up for debate. This might be a painful process, but it can’t be avoided. Science, that thing upon which we are supposed to base our enlightenment, no longer supports the claim that sex is two distinct categories. But I wonder if all this is a tall order, given how much resistance, how little maturity has been shown by much of the population of even this country over the last few weeks.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Culture, Gender, News, Science, Sports, Transgender.

Freedom of Expression For SCM: Vision and Mission

25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brain Duck  |  Saturday, 12th September 2009 at 22:07 UTC

    You might find this interesting: http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/09/semenya-and-hermaphroditism.html
    (also related posts on the same blog – note the language is very medical-model).
    Intersex conditions are considered in international athletics rules, even transgender athletes are allowed to compete in their ‘new’ gender two years after surgery.
    Please don’t start arguing for the end of women’s sports, elite female competition in most disciplines is ridiculously underfunded as it is.

    Reply
    • 2. Graham Martin  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 16:26 UTC

      Its a good article, definitely, but what you have to remember is that this isn’t just a scientific issue, its a social issue too. No matter what the science says, and the IAAF are courageous for going with it, science is rarely universally understood, and there will still be cries of foul play if she is allowed to continue competing as a woman.

      The Australians were always going to scream foul regardless. They are, after all, desperately socially regressive on gender issues, even though their legislation is no where near as bad as certain nameable countries, Talk to any female or queer activist from Australia, and they tell you the horror stories of what people they’ve met have thought acceptable. Kevin Rudd’s election hasn’t changed that. Their media loves a good weirdo bashing story, and here we have one.

      And no, I was arguing for more equal treatment, even though this didn’t come across. That includes things like allowing women to play the full five sets at Wimbledon, as well as paying them correctly.

      Reply
  • 3. Hann  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 14:58 UTC

    The great Caster Semenya debarcle has not been treated like a drugs scandal. In the case of a drugs test, a statement is only made once a second positive result has been gained from the test. This was out and in the headlines far earlier than the gender-testing equivalent.

    As someone who doesn’t like our views of gender, I actually think this is a hugely positive thing, albeit at the probable expense of a talented athlete. As humans, we need to stop and look at these little things called boxes, and see it’s impossible to put everyone into them.

    BD – Grem isn’t saying we should stop splitting males and females for sports. He’s saying that women’s sports are almost entirely considered inferior to men’s sports – as, like you say, the funding shows. The England footballers got to the European cup final, for example! But we don’t hear about it, of course.

    If Caster wishes to continue partaking in international athletics, she may have to medically transition to female, just to make it easier for the IAFF. Which isn’t a good reason for anything.

    Reply
  • 4. Greg  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 15:48 UTC

    “Science, that thing upon which we are supposed to base our enlightenment, no longer supports the claim that sex is two distinct categories.”

    Graham, the boundary between two categories may be fuzzy, but it does **NOT** follow that those two categories don’t exist. Just as it’s perfectly possible to be either Christian or atheist (I’m Christian, Richard Dawkins is atheist and there’s some uncertainty about Jack Spong), male and female are two distinct sexess and there’s no dispute about that. Or, to pick another example, I used to live in Heworth, Duck lived in Tang Hall and there were a couple of houses in the middle that could be argued either way. You and I are male, Duck and Hann are female and CS is an uncertain case, and there’s nothing any of us can do about that without the surgery that Hann mentions.

    To suggest otherwise is to make the tail wag the dog, but it’s a telling fault of your postmodern leftist obsession with minorities and oppression that you have a problem with this result. You’d rather destroy women’s sport (Duck’s comments noted) and the human race’s method of breeding children (your third paragraph) than remove someone from a sport because she has an unfair advantage. Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win because of testosterone doping, why should this be different? She may not be in control of her sex, but neither am I, and neither am I allowed to compete with other females. Would you deny all the other elite runners a chance at a win, because of someone who isn’t biologically the same as them?

    Reply
    • 5. transactivist  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 16:20 UTC

      Greg: would you suggest then that intersex (and trans!) people simply do not compete in sports?

      Reply
    • 6. Hann  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 17:00 UTC

      Greg, the fact that someone states that there is an item between two catergories does not mean they say neither of those catergories exists. A house in Fulford is not in Tang Hall or Heworth – and could never be expected to be – but Tang Hall and Heworth still exist. Thus, CS is not male or female – but male and female still exist.

      I don’t see how saying that relationships don’t have to between a man and a woman destroys the human race’s method of breeding children. And, as Graham later said, and I’d earlier said, he didn’t mean anything about stopping woman’s sport.

      I never knew you identified as female.

      Reply
    • 7. Graham Martin  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 17:07 UTC

      First up, when I said distinct, I meant strictly and immovably separated. The point I’m getting at is that these things, whilst they exist, are not immovables or fixed boxes.

      I know that in women’s sports, as opposed to mixed sports, the distinctions are more important, but I’m not totally sure I like this language of “physical advantage”; physical sport is eventually a physical advantage game. C’mon, just because you’re 7 foot, and therefore put most of the population at a disadvantage doesn’t mean you get disqualified from playing basketball!

      My point was to argue for a break from men’s and women’s sport being separate, but to argue against any attempt to create third categories or, worse, some kind of “paralympic” categorisation.

      And my obsession with standing up for the oppressed is based on that classic post-modernist text, you know, the one that says “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the right of the poor and needy”.

      Reply
      • 8. Brain Duck  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 16:14 UTC

        Graham – sorry, I still don’t understand your sentence above about sex categories in sport, please could you re-word it?

        Trans activist, what would then be your solution to intersex and trans people participating in sex-categorised sport, then?

        FWIW my preferred sport (ultrarunning) it’s possibly a slight advantage to be female after about 80M, but for most disciplines then removing sex categories would end women’s participation in elite sport, and at a club level then there are historical and current reasons for women’s under-representation in sport. Groups like Women’s Running Network have done fantastic things for the participation of a previously excluded group, and it doesn’t seem right to decrease equity of access for 50% of people because of <1%.

        IIRC the IAAF rules are two years after removal of ovaries / testes which have obvious hormonal effects, & a bunch of stuff about hormone levels within normal ranges, but it's not something I've looked at much.

      • 9. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 19:57 UTC

        It turns out, I can’t write in English! The third para of this comment should read:

        I wasn’t trying to argue for an end to the two sex/gender categories common across most sports (i.e. men’s and women’s events), but I’m definitely concerned that the two categories, where applied, be all encompassing enough that we don’t end up creating a third classification, or for that matter, start putting Intersex people into some kind of para-games category as if they’re Disabled.

      • 10. transactivist  |  Tuesday, 15th September 2009 at 11:16 UTC

        In reply to Brain Duck (sorry if this reply ends up in the wrong place, the formatting here is confusing me somewhat)…

        “what would then be your solution to intersex and trans people participating in sex-categorised sport, then?”

        Honestly? I don’t know. But we should probably be thinking more about solutions, which is why I’m glad to see discussion over blogs such as this one from Graham.

        I agree with your points about the importance of gendered sports activities, and with Graham’s suggestion that women’s sports recieve better coverage and funding. I’m not sure if the line is necessarily being drawn in the right place though.

        I don’t think exclusion is the way forward. This kind of problem can be found in every part of the sporting world, not just high level competition. Your average trans person is likely to be barred by participating in any kind of sport whatsoever. This can’t be right!

        As for the situation with elite sports…it’s in the nature of the competition that people with particular physical attributes do better. I’ve already mentioned that some intersex (and most trans people who have been on hormones for a certain period of time) are likely to have a disadvantage when compared to your average athelete. Regarding those intersex people who do have an advantage…that’s just how they happen to be.

        “Groups like Women’s Running Network have done fantastic things for the participation of a previously excluded group, and it doesn’t seem right to decrease equity of access for 50% of people because of <1%."

        It doesn't seem right to disallow that <1% of women to participate because they're not the right kind of women. Think about the proportion of top-level long distance runners who are Kenyan…that's a pretty tiny part of the world population who have a remarkable physical advantage. Would you exclude Kenyan runners to give everyone else a fair chance?

    • 11. Lois  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 12:28 UTC

      Greg, have you heard of the word “sensitivity” where things that matter so personally to people are concerned? It’s possible to disagree with people without insulting or infuriating them.

      Reply
      • 12. Greg  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 13:05 UTC

        Lois, of course I have. Given that nobody had written anything personal above my post, I don’t think that applies, do you? Did you mean to reply at the bottom of this thread and deal with both my posts? If so then fear not, I could have been a lot more insulting, but chose not to be. For a start, calling Graham’s first post “complete bollocks” would have been quite ironic in the circumstances.

        Anyway, please tell me what is so needlessly insulting. I haven’t yet seen anything worse than “bizarre”, and that didn’t come from me. I’m not complaining about TA’s usage by the way, I think I’m big enough to deal with it.

  • 13. transactivist  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 16:18 UTC

    The Intersex Society of North America claims that the “total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female” is 1 in 100. Some interesting statistics can be found here: http://www.isna.org/faq/frequency.

    Either way, it’s far more common than people think. Intersex and trans people face many similar issues in sport. Although many intersex atheletes are allowed to compete as normal these days, others have had their careers ruined if they’re just too ambiguous. The same goes for trans people: it’s alright for (some) post-transition trans men and women, but those who have non-binary identities have to choose a box and hope they fit into it well enough.

    Meanwhile, I believe Brain Duck is wrong about the rules on trans competition: I’m sure that it’s two years on hormones which is needed for international atheletes rather than two years after surgery. Obviously that might depend on the organisation running the competitions. Basing this kind of thing on hormones makes a lot more sense than basing it on surgery however. Not all trans men and women have surgery for all kinds of reasons, and it’s the hormones that will impact their performance. The actual genitals or chest that someone has won’t make much of a difference, except possibly in a negative capacity!

    That said, it’s depressing that the binary nature of sport effectively “transes” many intersex people. Semenya was assigned a female identity as birth, and appears to have been quite happy growing up as such, abeit she is reported to have been something of a tomboy. As such, I doubt she regards herself as trans, and has quite different issues to trans people who were assigned an inappropriate gender at birth. Unfortunately, the fact that the world is suddenly paying attention to the fact that she *might* be intersex means they begin to impose a trans model onto her: she is regarded as “really a man” or “neither female or male” despite her apparent female identity.

    Reply
  • 14. Greg  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 21:31 UTC

    Hann, you and I both know that Graham was saying more than “relationships don’t have to be between a man and a woman”, so please rise above the straw man tactics. The fact is that the male and female are in healthy, immovable, set-in-stone shape and if we get rid of all this ‘heteronormative’ guff and forget about these “oppressive” two categories that we apply to people, we’d have a much reduced hit rate at producing kids and population levels would decline sharply. Hey, do you think this would help solve the overpopulation and climate change problems?

    I also think that Graham’s letting you do the apologising for him, while backtracking more subtly himself. So far you say that he’s not arguing against a break in men’s and women’s sport, both Duck and I saw the opposite – to introduce some more PoMo, go and read Death of the Author. (I think you’ll like it.)

    Graham, you piece about the Australians was a classic piece of Bulverism. “The Australians were always going to cry foul” carries no weight unless you can show that they were wrong in this specific instance. You have to show that someone is wrong before explaining why they’re wrong.

    Graham and transactivist, I’d suggest that if it’s unavoidable that either a minority or a majority are to lose out, the majority wins, and that’s where all my talk of ‘obsession with minorities’ and ‘tail wagging the dog’ comes from. Civilised society should be able to right most wrongs, but sometimes life gives you a shitty deal, and that doesn’t give you the right to impose that shitty deal on everyone else. CS has an unfair advantage over the overwhelming majority of other women, so she shouldn’t compete against them. Furthermore, this advantage is relevant to the classification under which she races. While being tall is a natural advantage at basketball, if the NBA introduced leagues for 6′ people, it would be cheating for me to play in the lower league. As long as men’s and women’s sports are divided, it’s fair to exclude people on the basis of sex.

    If she wants to forego surgery and compete against men, that’s fine by me. She may be at a disadvantage and that may suck, but if there’s not going to be a ‘paralympic’ category, that sucks a whole lot less than the alternative. The facts of the matter are, some people are different and all of us have limits placed on us at birth, and we shouldn’t overturn our reproductive mode and exclude any chance of gold from a bunch of other athletes in order to deny those facts in the case of one person. I’m colourblind so I can’t fly a plane for a living. Should I demand we redefine the oppressive chromonormativity common in everyday life and rewrite references to the differing frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum out of school textbooks?

    Reply
    • 15. transactivist  |  Sunday, 13th September 2009 at 22:39 UTC

      Greg, the thing I find particularly bizarre about your argument is that you seem to be in favour of exluding people on the grounds of natural advantage, and then comparing this to exlusion on the grounds of natural disadvantage.

      A colourblind person is arguably less physically able to fly a plane, so maybe they shouldn’t. On the other hand, a female intersex athelete with slightly more tesosterone than the average woman isn’t any less physically able to run a race. Quite the opposite in fact! She’s nowhere near fast enough to be competing on a level with men, so why cut her out of the women’s competition for being unusually fast? Most top-level atheletes have unusual features, such as unusually long legs or unusually large lungs, and they’re not excluded because of these factors.

      Furthermore, the exlusion of trans and particularly of intersex atheletes can be based on dogma rather than fact. Once you begin to ban intersex atheletes on the grounds of their being intersex, you get situations like in the 1990s where women born with with Y chomosomes who may have *less testosterone than your average woman* are nevertheless banned from competing as women because of a condition that actually gives them a disadvantage against others.

      Also, you seem to be suggesting that Semenya undergo “surgery” in order to compete with other women. Why? What difference is it going to make? If her genitals look more like those of a “normal” woman, that in itself isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to her performance. Demanding that someone undergoes a dangerous operation that might cause long-term psychological discomfort and loss of sexual sensation in order that they can compete in sport is…bizarre, quite frankly.

      Reply
      • 16. Brain Duck  |  Tuesday, 15th September 2009 at 11:11 UTC

        Trans activist, hope you don’t mind if I clarify the biology here.

        External genitalia aren’t any more relevant to the IAAF decision, they long ago dropped the ‘nude parades’. Raising cosmetic genital surgery is a red herring.

        Karyotype (chromosomes) is recognised as inconclusive – the 1996 Olympics was the last time women were checked for a Y chromosome, and all 8 of the XY women were allowed to compete as women, hence such testing no longer being universal. Complaints of unfairness that CS wasn’t tested because she’s from the developing world are therefore inapplicable, besides which SA isn’t ‘developing world’ as far as international athletics goes.

        Hormone levels are extremely relevant to competitive sport. There is a clear difference between normal female and male levels of androgens, the ranges do not overlap. Even that’s not quite the deciding factor, due to conditions such as androgen insensitivity syndrome which reduce the body’s responsiveness to testosterone and related hormones. IAAF do already have rules and procedures to deal with conditions affecting androgen levels, but some rare conditions are going to be a matter of judgement: http://www.iaaf.org/mm/Document/imported/36983.pdf

        Testosterone and derivatives are banned substances (‘doping’) in athletics, because they do confer a very substantial performance advantage, particularly here in terms of muscle power for sprinting. Testing for testosterone doping is technically complex, but even so I’m surprised CS hasn’t been picked up before now. Athletics SA are quite rightly coming in for a lot of stick with how they have dealt with this, not least because the ASA team doctor, Dr Ekkart Arbeit, is notorious for participating in doping in the former GDR (East Germany), and IMO shoud have had his medical registration removed and certainly never been allowed near elite sport again.

        If you allow people with testosterone levels (and responsiveness) substantially outside the normal female range to compete as women, you’d effectively end elite women’s athletics. Prior to sex verification rules, men did take part covertly in women’s elite sport.
        Women with disorders of sexual development can very often take part in women’s sport (the IAAF has blocked four women since 2000), and participation in men’s elite sport does not require sex verification.

        Again, if you aren’t happy with the current rules on sex determination in athletics, please explain what you’d prefer to see instead.

      • 17. Brain Duck  |  Tuesday, 15th September 2009 at 11:22 UTC

        sorry, clarification – the IAAF do require gonadectomy (removal of ovaries or testes) in the case of trans athletes, but surgery isn’t a requirement for intersex athletes (though sometimes medically recommended for other reasons). Appearance of the external genitalia might be a reason for testing someone, but it doesn’t decide the outcome of the tests, and cosmetic surgery to external genitalia wouldn’t be relevant.

    • 18. Hann  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 17:17 UTC

      Sorry, I seem to have misunderstood something. This is what I assumed you were referencing: “if there weren’t two distinct sex/genders, there could be no assumption that people should marry someone of the opposite configuration.”, and so that’s why I responded how I did. It happens that more-or-less 95% of the population want a partner that they’re able – and willing – to have a partner with, and whether people consider people as people or blokes, lasses, and odd things, I expect this would remain constant. (It’s weird, I’m only attracted to males, even when they don’t say what gender they are.) If it wouldn’t, it means a lot more people than we know about are in situations where they are unhappy. If the majority would not still be reproducing, but are now, surely you can see by your own admission that the majority should win, that something should change.

      Perhaps Graham is letting me apologise for him. But I still don’t see where he says that women’s competition should be scrapped, just that current gender divisions aren’t working – and I see that in real life all the time. Perhaps Duck’s just thinking of the times she’s been put into men’s races?

      I, like you, think that Caster should not be competing as she is. It’ll just cause more arguments, for starters. But given Olympic regulations concerning trans people’s inclusion state “two years of hormones, after surgery including complete genital reconstruction” ( I don’t know how long that would take “TF”, but I am reliably informed that for FTM it’s 7 years in total), we’re unlikely to ever see her competing otherwise, either. Let’s hope she finds something productive to do with her time.

      The fact that there is seven colours in a rainbow is, by the way, a lie. I think it Should be taken out of textbooks, as I’m really sick of lies-to-children. There are an infinite number of colours in the rainbow, but because the general population have three kinds of colour receptor, we come up with the concept of the three primary and three secondary colours. Then Isaac Newton added another, to make the magical number seven. I think it’s rather fitting that this was your example, as both colour and gender can both be categorised both ways.

      Greg, you haven’t encountered me in ages, apart from a brief chat on Facebook. You would not believe how important and relevant this subject is to me. I ran away from your arguments before, seeing you only as someone spoiling for a fight. Now I see you as someone who needs educating. Whether Transactivist and I are the ones to do that, I don’t know.

      Also, you claim you’ve not said anything insulting. I’d like to nominate “hetronormative guff”.

      Reply
      • 19. Graham Martin  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 19:15 UTC

        Also, the accusation that standing up for minorities is somehow Post-Modernist stupidity. I kind of felt you were saying “its Political Correctness gone mad!”. I expect better than the Daily Mail/Express of you, Greg!

        And there’s at least one person who’s told me they’re not commenting on this thread because they can’t believe how short sighted you’re being, and don’t want to bother arguing with you. These are clearly personal issues to some people, you already know that, and yet you can’t seem to grasp that what doesn’t affect you, what isn’t an issue to you, might in fact be a cause of massive frustration to other people. Perhaps you need to think yourself into other people’s shoes for once.

      • 20. Greg  |  Tuesday, 15th September 2009 at 20:05 UTC

        Hann, since we’re talking about sex here, forgetting about these two ‘categories’ would mean that we forgot about who was who and mated with anyone at random, which would clearly reduce our hitrate. Also, as I’ve replied to Graham, in this case I believe the talk of heteronormativity to be guff, as the governing bodies are dealing with a perfectly legitimate sports performance related issue. That was the scope of my ‘guff’ comment, so sorry if that wasn’t clear.

        In fact, I think the main problem here is that Graham and TA see this as a gender liberation issue whereas I and (as far as I can see) Duck see this as a sporting issue. Having followed a sporting event, seen someone win it and then have his victory removed and his career ruined due to testosterone doping allegations, and having seen the UCI retrospectively invalidate Chris Boardman’s and Graham Obree’s world record by changing the regulations about their ‘natural advantage’ of their ingenuity in devising new bike positions, I’m rather less sympathetic to any cries of unfairness emerging from the gender liberation camp.

        As for your penultimate paragraph, don’t worry, I’ve heard wind of it. Again, “this subject” is an issue of fairness in sports and of sex, not of gender liberation. However, I was never “spoiling fo ra fight” and don’t think I need educating – it’s very easy to assign ignorance to someone you disagree with. My downfall is that I take Graham’s bible verse to heart, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” I absolutely hate to hear someone dismissed when they’re not there to defend themselves, especially when their treatment is flippant or cursory, so I tend to demand rigorous reasoning to back up any comment made behind someone else’s back, whether that be a friend, a politician or whoever. Often, our views affect many more people than we at first realise and we need calling on that. In this case, the unseen victims are CS’s female competitors, which is why the sex/gender issue needs widening out to a fair sportsmanship issue, which is what Graham and Trans show no sign of doing.

  • 21. Lois  |  Monday, 14th September 2009 at 14:45 UTC

    My twopennyworth: http://contadine.blogspot.com/2009/09/categories-do-they-really-matter-that.html

    Reply
  • 22. Greg  |  Tuesday, 15th September 2009 at 20:02 UTC

    Well well, we all seem to have drifted into a discussion of gender here, which is unfortunate since it has sweet nothing to do with this issue. What’s at stake here is sex, and as you’ll well know, the human race has two sexes, has done since before it became a species and presumably will do until it is either wiped out or evolves into something else. An athlete can be any gender they choose to call themselves, but the issue at stake here is her internal testes, leading to her testosterone level. So why all the mention of gender?

    Graham, you know what? I know trans folk that you don’t know, I’ve thought about the issue and it really sucks to be CS, so thankyou for stereotyping me, you should know better by now than to read things I didn’t say into my words. I could have worded the ‘postmodern’ comment better, but anyone who starts talking about hermeneutics of suspicion on a blog, should be taken out and shot.

    To use it now, your hermeneutic of suspicion and your love of power claims make you see oppression everywhere, even when it doesn’t exist, and cry power and heteronormativity even when people are just trying to be fair to as many people as possible. Nobody cried oppression when there was a debate over someone’s adult medal because she’d already won one at under 23 level earlier this year (even though ageism is very real) so why do you get excited about this case in particular? You’re focusing on a minority, to the point where you lose the ability to think about any of the other athletes.

    By the way, I believe Sophia’s words were actually “Greg is being too obnoxious for me to want to join in. It is personal to me and the tone is v offputting.” That doesn’t sound quite as strong as what you reported it as, so let’s cut down the hype, shall we?

    Transactivist, you’ll find my answers to your questions upthread. There are two categories and she doesn’t fit into one because she has some advantageous properties of the other. The rest of the women would be banned if they testosterone doped, so it’s not fair on them that she should run with them. As I said before, any characteristic that is leagued is fair game for separating people, so you wouldn’t expect a heavyweight boxer to box bantamweight because he identified with that category.

    The surgery is to get her internal testes removed (as was in Duck’s article and as you yourself discussed with Duck) and then compete two years after that. Otherwise, she should race with men, which would disadvantage her, but not everyone else. That really sucks for her, but it’s the fairest option we can come up with for the greatest number of people. How is that bizarre?

    Reply
    • 23. Brain Duck  |  Friday, 18th September 2009 at 13:53 UTC

      http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-09-18-semenya-saga-chuenes-trail-of-lies

      Fuckwits. Looks like ASA deliberately exploited CS knowing this could happen.

      Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the way people have reacted to this for a few days, & ISTM that some people are missing the distinction between elite & participatory sport.

      For elite sport, the bit that matters is that you fulfil a certain set of conditions better than anyone else in the world. Equality isn’t at all the point, since only one person at a time can do that. For most athletes then sex isn’t a difficult criteria to fulfil, running times are, but for CS then sex categories are and running times not so much. Talking about her being ‘excluded’ from winning the women’s 800m doesn’t make sense unless you are also going to get annoyed that I’m excluded from holding the women’s 800m run WR because I’m too slow, or Tammi Grey-Thompson is excluded because she competes in a wheelchair. Having an endless set of categories so everyone can be best at something is to entirely miss the point – elite competitive sport isn’t supposed to be something where everyone can take part in every category.

      Participatory sport is a completely different thing. CS in Berlin doesn’t have much to do with intersex / transgender people turning up to a local running club, where tbh what you compete as is unlikely to be an issue unless it’s really obvious you’re taking unfair advantage from it. I’ve ended up running in men’s teams when we’ve been short on numbers without anyone blinking.

      Reply
      • 24. Graham Martin  |  Friday, 18th September 2009 at 15:36 UTC

        I have to admit, it was only half way through the debate of this topic that I put two and two together, and realised that this is the same Athletic Association who main regarded as trying to pull a past one over the classification of Pistorious, the para sprinter sometimes known as blade runner. It does have to be said that this is an alarmingly similar tale, and one wonders if this is the means by which they hope to secure medal places.

  • 25. brainduck  |  Friday, 25th September 2009 at 20:42 UTC

    http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-09-24-chuene-keeps-his-job-amid-gender-storm
    Fuckwits, fuckwits, fuckwits 😦

    Reply

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