Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mourning Semenya

Semenya's only crime was to be born the way she was, Athletics South Africa's president, Leonard Cheule, told the media at the 2009 Athletic World Championships in Berlin. Cheule was responding to what, beginning as murmurs at the 2009 African Junior Championship, had grown into loud protestations that Caster Semenya was a gender cheat. That she, Caster Semenya, winner in the Women's 800m Final, was actually a 'he'. The response from her camp and supporters was a miffed one, and acceptably so, had it not been drowned by the standard fare — racism & sexism — of the international kneejerk protests brigade.

As all this was happening and the most intimate details of this teen were speculated and fought over by strangers across the globe, the people expected to protect her betrayed her, her fans and her sport. Athletic's international governing body, IAAF, (having more leaks than the Kibaki cabinet) revealed that they had ordered gender verification tests on Semenya. With these revelations, Semenya's privacy was cast out of the window as even idiots generally incapable of an opinion made categorical remarks on what lay beneath the pants of a stranger they had only seen on TV.

Now the farce has quickly turned into tragedy as once again, on IAAF's watch, information on Semenya's supposed gender has been leaked. The news, emerging from the Australian press and gobbled up by the rest of the world is, brace yourself, that Semenya is neither a man or a woman. That Semenya, despite having the external genitalia of a 'she' has no womb and ovaries and instead, internal testes. Semenya is, technically, a hermaphrodite.It has neither been confirmed or denied, but the international media has alleged it and that is now a truth.

Fine. But why in hell did I need to know that?

Somehow, in the light of Semenya's humanity, all the arguments and counterarguments I have been having with myself and others about 'undue advantage' don't seem to matter any more. I am beginning to worry a lot more about this young teen who had a great future ahead of her and who will now lose it. I am thinking about what it means to be that person that grows up with one conception of the self and then has it shattered and smeared with public humiliation. But most important of all, I realise that because I know and you know what Semenya is then she has, in own foul sweep, died and been resurrected in public as a freak show.

The punishment for the crime of her birth will not be gentle. Semenya has been accused of and charged with being born different. Whatever the verdict, in official spaces, will be, the court of public opinion has sentenced her to a lifetime of self-loath.


Our Kid said...

I think it is easy to blame people over the Semenya handling but when someone is in the public eye as she is, then people are justified to get information about her.

She was put on the map, she ran so fast that people started questioning whether this was natural.

I believe if the gender test had gone to prove that she is female after all, she would be very glad that the questions of her sexuality had been put to rest. If the results go to prove otherwise, people who watched her win the race will also have a few questions answered.

Even if it didnt come out publicly, if she was told not to compete again with other women, people will 'guess' and probably think worse things about her.

None of this would happen if she wasnt on the world stage. Once to take the world stage, you can always expect some form of intrusion however unpleasant.

Just my unrefined thoughts.

equivocal said...

I'm with you man. It's so sad and so fucked up. I thought the witchhunt days were past.

kahawaMoto said...

Putting up her business for everyone to see wasn't proper at all. All she did was be good at what she does.
the fact that she has to go through the rest of her life with people knowing her as a 'freak show'
I'm currently studying in SA. In the local news, they actually said that she's now getting counselling following all that's happened. How sucky is that???

And the same politicians who were so quick to play out the 'race' card, were no where to be seen after the test results came out.

Chrystal K. said...

I feel so bad for her. I couldn't imagine having such intimate details of my life publicized in front of the whole world.

Joe said...

the only question to be asked was, "how was she raised, as a boy or a girl?" we all know the difference between sex and gender. You just don't go to someone who has a girl's name, goes to the ladies probably shares the bedroom if not bed with her sisters to say "actually you are a man." wtf.