September 11, 2009

Caster Semenya Gender: Hermaphrodite?

Reports are in that tests on South African runner Caster Semenya's gender are in, and they show she is a hermaphrodite, but the IAAF says they cannot confirm or deny these reports, which they won't officially release until November.

News spread all over the web of the test results on Caster Semenya's gender, saying the results found she has 3 times the normal testosterone for a female, but now the IAAF is casting doubt or at least uncertainty on those leaks, saying they have not released their results yete and will not for several months. Also still not known how they will act on the test results, if they do find anything unusual.

Many in South Africa and elsewhere are outraged by the way Caster Semenya is being treated, saying this is unfair, based on a poor understanding of how gender is more complex than the simple male/female binary, and sends the wrong message to many young people who don't fit into that simplistic binary and are meant to feel like freaks or outcasts.

Caster Semenya Gender: Hermaphrodite
abc news

The results of the gender tests run on South African runner Caster Semenya are in, but the International Association of Athletics Federation refused today to confirm or deny reports that the 18-year-old medal winner has the biological make-up of hermaphrodite...

Caster Semenya Gender: Hermaphrodite

Posted at September 11, 2009 1:59 PM

Does anyone other than me think the claims of invasion of his/her right to privacy are beseless? Don't you open yourself up to such scrutiny when you compete onthe world stage.

He/she got caught. Let's move on.

Posted by: Anonymous at September 11, 2009 2:29 PM

If she has the hormones of a man, in sport, then she should be competing with men. It is an unfair advantage. This has nothing to do with accepting her sexuality or not.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 11, 2009 3:02 PM

Maybe she/he does not qualify to complete with females. Maybe h/she does not qualify to compete with males.Maybe he/she does not qualify to compete with both males nor females. Maybe this person should be allowed to compete with males and with females.Putting hermorphiphobia aside a special class should be created.

Posted by: and263 at September 11, 2009 3:08 PM


Posted by: Anonymous at September 11, 2009 3:12 PM

This was not her first race. Why was her gender not questioned before? Have you seen these un-petite (Female?) basketball and tennis players?
Do we test them also? Let her be.

Posted by: Evangelina De La Rosa at September 11, 2009 3:18 PM


Posted by: pat at September 11, 2009 3:29 PM

It was obvious on the world stage that Castor was different than the women competing with her/him. Any physical advantage Castor was born with must be considered when competing for women's world records.Steroid testing as well as Sex testing is done to prevent unnatural advantages. It wouldn't be fair to enter Castors records in female record books.....

Posted by: kt at September 11, 2009 3:32 PM

I think its very infair to her, I dont think at the age of 18 she had thought about well since I have male parts I can be faster and better then any women in this sport. And its definetly unfair to her to have it published all over the world whether its true or not. Like come on people what kind of world do we live in.

Posted by: Daniele at September 11, 2009 3:32 PM

Castor is not a female, and therefore times should not be recorded in female record books. Steroid and Sex testing is done to prevent those with unnatural advantages from making competition unfair.

Posted by: kt at September 11, 2009 3:34 PM

I would like to know if she is even aware of being a hermaphrodite. I would also be a little surprised if the testostorone levels in some other female athletes did not run high. I would not be so quick to take away her glory.

Posted by: patricia Rockaway at September 11, 2009 3:36 PM

I think the officials at IAAF, especially the americans are jealous and competitive and are looking for excuses to disqualify Caster Semenya from competiting in the future. Why not accept Caster for what she is an hermaphrodite or female, isn't she also human. Caster has performed well as an athlete and deserves to be respected and praised for such.

Posted by: Dewdrop at September 11, 2009 3:36 PM


Posted by: PAT at September 11, 2009 3:36 PM

Obviously, several of the comments being left regarding this post do not understand sex and sex hormones in the average male or female body let alone that of an intersexed person. More than likely, Caster was not aware of her intersex condition since the testes were undescended. This would have given her reproductive organs the outward view of a genetic female.

Reference the comment that since she has male sex hormones in her body she should not be able to compete against females. That would mean no genetic females in sports competition whatever since ALL females have some testosterone in their bodies. The ovaries produce some amount of testosterone. The average testosterone level for a female is 50 ng/dL. Even with Caster's testosterone level reportedly being 3 times that of a genetic female she would still be considered too low for a genetic male. The average starting point for male testosterone levels are roughly 450 ng/dL.

Which is why she is considered an intersexed person and not a genetic male or female. Out of respect you refer to the person in their elected gender identity but biologically speaking they are not male or female but a blend of both.

Posted by: DrAnon at September 11, 2009 3:46 PM

Doesn't intense exercise decrease female harmonone levels anyway. It's the the main reason why female athletes don't have regular peroids when they are training. The longer and more intense the training, the longer the periods cease.

Posted by: Parenting Matters at September 11, 2009 3:49 PM

Well for the people that believe this should be respected are correct in a sense. If she didn't know about this and went into the females division it makes sense but if she did then its another story. I'm only a highschool runner in both crosscountry as well as track but with the testosterone lvls tripled it seems Like a great advantage but it is still unfair.

Posted by: lehahiah81 at September 11, 2009 4:11 PM

UM WHAT THE HELL she didnt open herself up to anything. all she wanted to do was run and be the best at it - not be judged and ridiculed by everyone. it doesnt matter how famous you are everyone deserves the right to their dignity, privacy and respect. I doubt you would be so casual about it if she was your sister/cousin/friend. the fact that she competes on 'the world stage' doesnt make her any less immune or oblivious to the harsh things being said about her.

Posted by: Elle at September 11, 2009 4:18 PM

It is an invasion of privacy but is unfortunately necessary. If she is producing that much testosterone it isnt fair to the other women. That is the only issue. She has run 2 races and set world records for females in both.

Posted by: Mike at September 11, 2009 4:24 PM

It is an invasion of privacy but is unfortunately necessary. If she is producing that much testosterone it isnt fair to the other women. That is the only issue. She has run 2 races and set world records for females in both.

Posted by: Mike at September 11, 2009 4:24 PM

As a former runner and having a daughter that is a runner, i say let the poor girl run. Obviously she is good at it and it probably bring her much joy in doing so. Unfortunate for her of her condition, but i am sure she did not ask to be that way. Her running could be one of the things that gives her joy, why take it away?

Posted by: d at September 11, 2009 4:51 PM

No, normally it's no one's business if she is a male or female or both or neither, but when you're an athlete competing at a world class level then it's not fair to the other athletes to have to compete against someone that is not also female. Like it or not 99% of the time men are bigger, stronger, and faster than women which is why separate competitions exist for all sports and everyone doesn't just compete in one giant group. If it doesn't matter about elevated levels or hormones or testosterone or anything else, then it shouldn't have mattered about all of the East German female athletes back in the 70's being doped up, or male athletes today taking steroids or anything else. The issue is making sure there is a level playing field for everyone to compete on, not trying to disrespect this poor girl that probably had no idea she was not genetically female. Like it or not her records should not stand and she should not be allowed to compete against other females. Sorry!

Posted by: sh at September 11, 2009 5:05 PM

Emotion aside, she has too high a testosterone level to run with females. Period. Whether she knew or din't know (apparently Barry Bonds didn't "know" he was taking steroids) is irrelevant. She/He's not a cheater, just not qualified to run with females. To those who say "Who does it hurt?", it hurts all other females who compete against her and who have gone before her.

Posted by: Rob at September 11, 2009 5:57 PM

I completely 100% agree with the comment left by DrAnon. I have done a lot of research on women's studies, and have a better understanding of sex vs. sexuality vs. gender than the average person does. What they do not realize is that there are a LOT of gray areas in defining someone's gender, sex, and sexuality. You cannot simply group them based on appearance.

For Caster Semenya, it is not an "unnatural" advantage that she has. It is completely natural. That is the way her body was made. Like DrAnon had said; Caster, most likely, was unaware of her own intersexed condition. Which would shoot down the theory that her right to privacy is baseless. Trying to categorize her as a male or female is like trying to classify a catepillar/moth as one or the other while in the chrysalis.

Furthermore, she does not need the scrutiny from the public to make her feel like a freak under a microscope. Yes, the testing is necessary in sports. However, what the general population needs to realize is that there is more to a person's gender than meets the eye.

Posted by: cece at September 11, 2009 5:59 PM

I think it's wrong that we make her out to be some sort of monster and are thinking of punishing her for a disease that isn't her fault. She didn't choose to be born the way she was. It's ironic how everyone in this world get's so overworked by sports they forget people are people and have feelings too.

Posted by: Amanda at September 11, 2009 6:05 PM

So if she has abnormally high levels of naturally occurring testosterone she has an unfair advantage and should be prevented from competing with women if she has 'the hormones of a man'? If this is so I fail to see why we dont stop athletes competing with each other on the basis of other inborn differences such as height, visual acuity, their proportion of fast and slow muscle fibres etc etc. Our species thrives on individual differences, and from the points raised above it seems clear that gender is an example of this.

Posted by: Ki at September 11, 2009 7:08 PM

I think the Americans and the public should leave the girl alone. If it was a white person would they have gone to such lent to find if she is a girl or boy?

Posted by: Anonymous at September 11, 2009 8:29 PM

Why hasn't anybody (including the press) bothered to ask what is her Estrogen level? What if her estrogen level is 10 times that of men? Clearly, this tells me race is an important denominator in this case. As a scientist, I know that testosterone levels could vary up to 100 times above what is normal for women (and these are not hermaphrodites)

Posted by: JD at September 11, 2009 10:38 PM

I find it amazing to hear such uneducated opinions here. Gender is not defined by a single factor, but a multitude of factors. I hear she should not run with women because her testosterone levels are higher more than a average womans, but as already stated, they are far lower than an the average man. So in which category is she supposed to run after living her whole life as a woman?

Posted by: Sean at September 11, 2009 11:02 PM

Leave the athlete alone, she won the race fair and square. What if the tables were turned and it was a male who just happens to be effeminate, but talented in a sport was to run and win against the more masculine types, could the argument exist that he should be able to compete with woman? After all, it would be kind of embarrassing for the other males, especially the atypical ones. I mean could you imagine a drag queen setting the race off, and then giving the rest of the pack the snap after he/she wins? Oh, my goodness, and what about the hip strutting and the beautiful cheekbones, arched eyebrows, madeup, permed types that loves to rub it in? Too much estrogen and a breasts, too!

Posted by: hadassah at September 11, 2009 11:07 PM

This is a race-based issue. If there is any degree of fairness associated with this invasion of privacy, then test all women involved in athletics. Let's see how many of them have an above normal level of male hormones. Otherwise, call it what it is...racist.

Posted by: James Strong at September 11, 2009 11:11 PM

This is a race-based issue. If there is any degree of fairness associated with this invasion of privacy, then test all women involved in athletics. Let's see how many of them have an above normal level of male hormones. Otherwise, call it what it is...racist.

Posted by: James Strong at September 11, 2009 11:11 PM

This is a race-based issue. If there is any degree of fairness associated with this invasion of privacy, then test all women involved in athletics. Let's see how many of them have an above normal level of male hormones. Otherwise, call it what it is...racist.

Posted by: James Strong at September 11, 2009 11:12 PM

Who does this hurt? Well, it hurts all the females in the race who trained hard to get where they are on the world stage and didn't have "three times the testosterone" as the others in the race.

These races are designed for women and for men. You're either one or the other. If you're both, you can't compete. You're obviously going to be much faster than the women and unable to keep up with the men. Period. I think maybe there should be a hermaphrodite olympics. Trouble is, good luck finding enough people to compete.

Should she have been tested before? Maybe. But we'ere talking about the World Championships here. Unlike other venues, this is very serious business.

If you put aside the hermaphrophobia, if you put aside the fact that "she" looks like a man, if you put aside the testosterone level results (which is a lot to put aside), consider this: People who know what it takes to become a World Class Track & Field Athlete know that it takes years of training. At the National and World levels, these gains are made in small increments year after year; a one second improvement from year to year is good, while anything more than that is exceptional and extremely rare. This "woman" went from running 800-meters in a time of 2:03 to a time of 1:55 in less than a year. THAT is where the questions started. THAT is what prompted the investigation into performance enhancing drugs. It's just unheard of for a woman at the World Class Level to improve 8 seconds in one year. You need not look any further than the rest of the pack to see that. Semenya blew them away by nearly five seconds.

So, who does it hurt? It hurts everyone who is playing fair. The outrage here is not that Semenya's privacy is being violated (it is, but that's the price of glory), or that she got caught, or that there are hermaphrophobes out there, no. The outrage is that she and her handlers (and apparently the people of South Africa) tried to get one over on the rest of the world. "She" should be ashamed; not of who or what "she" is, but the fact that "she" tried to win a competition not by working hard and competing on an equal playing field, but by an unfair advantage. If every girl on that track had three times the average testosterone level, Semenya wouldn't have stood a chance. She may not be able to help who or what she is, but she is clearly not "female" which is who was competing in the race.

Posted by: Greg the Sane at September 12, 2009 1:59 AM

Caster Semenya should not be banned for competing because of his/her condition, but should not be allowed to compete against genetic males and genetic females. Instead he/she should be competing against her peers,as genetic males and genteic females do. Unfortunately, for her, there are not enough world class athletes with that particular condition to warrant having specific competetive events.

Posted by: Steve Johnson at September 12, 2009 5:19 AM

In response to Greg, she did not know she was abnormal, there was nothing unfair about it, she didn't try to 'get one over' the rest of the world.

She is is innocent until proven guilty.
Besides, becuase her testosterone levels are high does not means she is a hermaphrodite.

They said in the news that such high levels of testosterone can occur in females.

Besides, testosterone may make a one second difference, not five, she is either a supreme athlete, or there might be other foul play (I didn't say I was completly on her side.)

Posted by: Mysti at September 12, 2009 5:35 AM

leave the poor girl alone shes just that fast and deserves her victory.

Posted by: heather purdy at September 12, 2009 9:41 AM


Posted by: CHARLIE at September 23, 2009 5:52 AM

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