la_vie_noire: (Anthy flower)
The Sad Saga of Caster Semenya

It is a horde of people thinking they have a right to decide where you belong with only an ignorant impression of your gender proclivities and expression with zero understanding of your internal sex. And their opinion is to be given credence over your own. Transpeople undergoing Harry-Benjamin style therapy for “permission” to transition know this feeling very well. It is humbling, infuriating, and leaves you feeling powerless and adrift.

And for her there’s no point at the end of it, just the threat of the removal of everything that has brought you joy, the threat that all of this can be taken away because you were suspicious. Now the public and an arbitrary standard noone fully understands can remove the one passion that has defined your life and remove from you the dream of a little girl (to compete, perchance to medal in the Olympic games, to bring honor to your country and family, and most importantly to yourself).

Gone in an instant.

So when the test came back that she is in fact a form of intersex, a condition that is inconsistently ruled upon, that giant maw of uncertainty grew wider still as well as increasing the amount of vitriolic speculation amongst the public over how much advantage it has given her (and little examination over the possibility of none above the rest of her nongendered abnormalities).

Thankfully, her country is fighting for her, though she has already dropped out of her next race as the rumors continue to fly and as the deliberating bodies continue to put her training and competitions on hold until they decide what to do with the rest of her life.

And again, not hyperbole, if she is found to be “too manly” for the arbitrary standard (testosterone levels and receptors, something not similarly examined or enforced in male athletes outside of doping laws), she will be barred from competing in female competitions as well as likely male competitions. She’d be struck out from that euphoric moment of dreaming of an Olympic medal she has worked her entire life training for to never being able to run in a competition again.

As such, this should only surprise the terminally devoid of empathy.

Caster Semenya has been placed on Suicide Watch and yet another paper reporting on it decides her gender for her declaring her “proved a hermaphrodite”.

The world is trying to enforce their ideas on gender on her, a deliberative body will decide if she’s “too secretly male” to compete as she always has without incident or complaint for 18 years, to decide if she will ever be allowed to run at a moment most athletes begin the fevered dream and focus that they might be able to make a run at an Olympic gold medal, perhaps even being considered a favorite.

But hey, she “may” be allowed to keep the one gold medal she won though her competitor “may” also be awarded one as well you know to make clear what they think of Caster.

And so, this bright beautiful young butch woman is under suicide watch.

I end with this quote from lawmaker Butana Komphela, from the South African sports committee: “She is like a raped person. She is afraid of herself and does not want anyone near her. If she commits suicide, it will be on all our heads. The best we can do is protect her and look out for her during this trying time.”

No shit.

It’s time for the IAFF to get over themselves and accept the reality of gender in this world, the incongruity of sex and stop creating the type of world where they are pushing a strong woman to the brink of death “figuring out her sex for her”.

And it’s time for all of us to stop thinking ourselves the only real arbiters of someone’s real sex entirely from ignorant assumptions of gender performance.

Sep. 17th, 2009

  • 12:43 PM
la_vie_noire: (Default)
Via [ profile] delux_vivens:

[ profile] karnythia, Race, Gender, and the Oppressive Public Gaze....

And if you're deemed to be outside the range of "normal" all the basic rules we were taught as children about polite behavior and common courtesy fly out the window. If the press coverage is any indication many people feel entitled to poke and prod and discuss her body like she's specifically on display to satisfy their curiosity. After all it's not like she's human or anything, what with her having the temerity to (maybe) be born intersexed. Instead she's a freak with no feelings, no right to privacy, and above all no right to her own body. Right? If you're staring at your screen right now and contemplating asking if I have lost my everloving mind? I totally understand that reaction. Because it's how I've felt every single time I've read an article about Caster's "condition" or seen someone expounding at length on her body without once pausing to consider that her humanity is being questioned along with her gender. Looking at the descriptions of the treatment of Sara Baartman I'm sure a modern reaction would include an acknowledgment that the way Sara was treated was abominable.

[...] Being human isn't about fitting into a box designed by someone else. It's not something other people get to define for you. And if you think that the way Caster has been treated makes sense because she's a public figure, or you think you have a right to treat people like an exhibit to satisfy your interest in their experience? You're directly using your privilege (whatever it may be) to oppress someone. This idea that examining and inspecting and discussing someone else's body is acceptable behavior because they are "different" is so reprehensible. But, it is also an idea that permeates our culture. That's the point of tabloids and gossip and fatphobia and every other 'ism I can think of right now. That's why a friend just posted about having to tell someone repeatedly that they were not going to be allowed to touch her hair only to be met with questions about why she was refusing. As though she owed this person access to her body.

Sep. 11th, 2009

  • 7:59 PM
la_vie_noire: (Anthy flower)
Caster Semenya Case Opening Old Wounds

But as I know from my time on planet Earth, if an African descended female athlete excels in spectacular fashion, we get accused of cheating or have ‘that’s a man’ shade hurled at us.

When you combine it with the hypercompetitive world of international sports in which national pride and prestige is on the line, it was inevitable that somebody would try to find a way to knock this talented runner out of international competition, especially with the 2012 London Olympic Games on the horizon. [...]

Continental Africans still haven’t forgotten how 800m runner and 2000 Olympic champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique was dogged throughout her illustrious decade long career by ‘that’s a man’ accusations despite passing test after test.

The way the Semenya case has been handled by the IAAF has only crystallized that impression on the mother Continent.

It’s probably why officials in South Africa are backing her all the way. Makhenkesi Stofile, South Africa’s sports minister said that Semenya and her family maintain she was gender-tested without her consent and that lawyers were being consulted over possible action.

In addition, Stofile has written to the IAAF demanding an apology and seeking a response to those Australian reports claiming that she’s intersex.

Yes, if he IAAF had questions, they should have quietly done those tests. Somebody leaked the info in Berlin that got this hot mess started. It’s also not a coincidence that another leak in this case results in an Australian newspaper publishing those allegations that Stofile reacted to with “shock and disgust”.

You have to feel for Semenya in this case. It has not only put her personal business out there, but has been done so in the most humiliatingly public way possible

In the meantime, her athletic future rests on the results of the gender test and an IAAF Council meeting set to take place in Monaco November 20-21.

Semenya has also received some advice and support from India’s Santhi Soundajaran, the last woman to be subjected to this type of withering international scrutiny.

“She should not let them take away her medal or allow one test to determine her fate. “She is a woman and that’s it, full stop,” Soundarajan says. “A gender test cannot take away from you who you are.”

Even if the people behind this are determined to take away her 800m world championship.


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