No makeover is going to hide South African track star Caster Semenya’s insides from on-lookers. Results from those “gender tests” show she has no ovaries, internal testes, no womb, and ultra-high levels of testosterone.
What does of any of this mean? That Semenya is intersexed — which, while a curious revelation for the media to pounce on (especially because they get to use the word “hermaphrodite”), is not all that abnormal.
The International Association of Athletics Federations, which conducted the tests, is reportedly ready to disqualify Semenya — and is advising her to have surgery immediately. Okay, so that’s a tabloid newspaper’s version of events, and we’ll wait to conclude whether IAAF is actually, seriously, making that recommendation, especially since surgery won’t fix the “not having a womb” thing, and the reason she doesn’t have ovaries is because her body grew them as testes, which didn’t descend like they do on males.
Now it’s only a matter of time before everyone starts demanding to see her genitalia, too. (Soon, the IAAF could demand her gold medal back, too.)
In the meantime, should someone who is intersexed be prohibited from competing in a women’s league? Well, she wouldn’t exactly be welcome to compete with men, so were does that leave Caster?
And we can get into a whole debate about male-vs-female athleticism, but as it stands, Semenya is, for all intents and purposes, a female. That’s how she was raised. That’s how she identifies. And that’s how she competes. On the other hand, we can see why her competition would have a problem racing against her; their “unfair advantage” claims are hinged on the equivalent of having to race against men.
The real loser in all of this, however, is Caster, an 18-year-old girl who became an international spectacle for being a strong competitor who didn’t fit gender norms.