Sunday, August 23, 2009


When gold medalist Caster Semenya ran the women’s 800m at Wednesday’s World Championship in an impressive 1:55.45 (over two seconds faster than silver), sceptics gasped, ‘Well, she must have a penis, then.’ Now, Semenya is undergoing extensive and invasive ‘gender tests’ to prove that she is ‘entirely female’… whatever that means.

She will be poked and prodded by a team of experts including an endocrinologist and a gynecologist. All the while she is having to endure the public humiliation of her femininity being questioned, her private life being exposed, stories of her childhood sold to tabloids and every inch of her body scrutinised by the world’s media… sounds like a woman to me.

Yes, her arms are bigger than Madonna’s. Yes, she wore trousers instead of a skirt at school. And yes, her hips are smaller than her waist (as are Cheryl Cole’s, but she’s got hair extensions and is in Girls Aloud, so it’s cool) but that is the way she is: she was built to run.

If Semenya is found to be biologically male – meaning XY chromosomes and high testosterone levels – she will be stripped of her gold medal. If tests determine she is intersex – a combination of chromosomes – who knows what will happen? She has done nothing to deserve this appalling treatment and lack of privacy (even athletes undergoing drugs tests are treated with more respect than this), unless looking like a bloke is a crime. For me, it’s a case of female, until proven male.

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