Social Question

casheroo's avatar

What are your thoughts on the Semenya athlete with both sexual organs?

Asked by casheroo (18019 points ) September 10th, 2009

I was not sure how to word the “main” question, but I do have some questions regarding this
http://www.comcast.net/articles/sports-general/20090910/ATH.IAAF.Gender.Test.Results/

Here’s what orginal happened to make them test
Here’s a better link

She didn’t look quite feminine enough, so they mandated she see a doctor. I think they were expecting some sort of injected hormones to have caused it..I guess a man taking estrogen to looking for feminine? Or a female taking testosterone to be stronger? I’m not sure. Turns out she’s just intersex (that’s the correct term, right??) And they seem to be backing off. But, some say they may give a gold medal to the second place person.

Was it right that they even questioned her, just because of how she looks?
I personally think they should apologize, since she is indeed a woman regardless of having testes. I thought when it came to things like this, what the person feels they are is whatever sex/gender they choose to assimilate with is just what they are.

How should they proceed?

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97 Answers

eambos's avatar

Wouldn’t the testes give her a huge advantage over the competition? If her body produces far more testosterone than a normal women, aren’t the effects nearly the same as if she used PED’s?

I don’t think there is any need for apology.

rebbel's avatar

There are, it seems, girls with higher levels of testosteron.
That might turn out to be an advantage when running, kicking, hitting, swimming in competitive games.
But aren’t there also women and men who have more muscle-tissue then other men or women in their class of sports?
Or other physical ‘advantages’ for that matter (i question this, not stating, so people with physical knowledge help me out, please)?
To me, she is a winner.
I am not for separate Hermaphrodite Games.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @rebbel…and also these kinds of situations are the reasons why I think sports shouldn’t be sex-segregated…

dpworkin's avatar

I think it could be the first time in memory that the injunction to “go fuck yourself” could have literal meaning.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I think if she was raised as a woman and has always competed as a woman against other women, she should be able to continue to compete and keep her medal.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: For team sports, I’m with you, but individually, men and women are better at different sports. It simply wouldn’t be fair if there wasn’t sex segregation in those sports.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KatawaGrey I think it should go like this so everyone gets to make a choice: women’s portion, men’s portion, everyone’s portion and people, athletes, will choose in which group they perform

ragingloli's avatar

reminds me of that certain House episode.

avvooooooo's avatar

I was looking at pictures when the controversy first started. There was one in particular that still stands out in my mind. That one had her running next to incontestable women an their appearances were strikingly different. I can see how anyone looking at her next to the others would have questions. Here’s a series of pics that kind of show why people have questions.

I don’t think its wrong to question, but I do think that it could have been handled better.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@avvooooooo I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder – they all look like men to me…or can look like women to others…

avvooooooo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think its mainly the curve of the hip that this athlete is missing that is present to some extent in all the others. She’s straight as a board.

Supacase's avatar

It makes me wonder how they determine which women will be tested. At what point to you not look womanly enough? I know Caster is way past that point, but some must be borderline manly. Are they only tested if someone complains?

I know the suspicion started when her time increased so drastically earlier and I understand that. I also understand some men have intentionally pretended to be women in competition. I don’t know… I just wonder about how arbitrarily they make the decision. It isn’t like random doping tests.

Also, if the reports of them not being upfront with her about what the test was for are true then that is a real problem in my mind.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@avvooooooo random variations like that exist in all people, regardless of sex

tinyfaery's avatar

Making her submit to a test is gross, and a horrible example of sex and gender bias. If she identifies as a woman then she’s a woman. She doesn’t necessarily produce more testosterone, and even if she did, so what. There are all types of biological reasons that some are better athletes (or anything) than others.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tinyfaery exactly…it’s not like she lives as a woman so that she can win in racing…that’s ridiculous

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Intersexed people can be primarily female or primarily male but that doesn’t help this situation for sports. This whole things kind of sucks, really.

Supacase's avatar

@tinyfaery I think I read that previous tests of some sort showed testosterone levels three times higher than normal for a woman.

eponymoushipster's avatar

she and Lady Gaga should get together. it’d be like a weird jigsaw puzzle.

bea2345's avatar

The IAAF has not confirmed the allegations in the Sydney Morning Herald and will make a formal announcement in November. There is no question of fraud, she was raised as a girl because she apparently had most of the female secondary characteristics at birth – I mean, a midwife is not going to mistake a boy for a girl. But establishing a person’s sex is not a simple matter: see this report. There were questions raised in South Africa but the kind of testing the IAAF wants is not available there, and anyway, the local athletics body did not think it necessary. I am sorry for her. She lives in a world where sexuality is regarded as “either/or” when it fact it is a continuum of behaviours and physical characteristics.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am sad for her, she will probably not have an easy life. But if I were competing against her, that would not be fair either. It is a fact, is it not, that the increased testosterone levels affect her performance positively. This gives her a distinct advantage over someone who does not have the increased levels.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – how would you handle this if women and men ran together, would you have classes based on weight and height? There would have to be some sort of separation or a small but fast runner would rarely have a chance.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@rooeytoo well it IS on my list of things to figure it out – there would be parameters set up by people who know more than me – different categories…

JLeslie's avatar

Could we relate the increased testosterone to weighing more in wrestling? You have to qualify for your weight class right? Or you have an advantage over a smaller guy. Maybe they should do hormonal testing to line up athletes in a more just way? Rather than male female.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JLeslie yes something like that

Leanne1986's avatar

I feel very sorry for her but I can understand why the pwers that be felt the need to do tests. Too many people have won major sports events by cheating over the years and so they need to take precautions. However, I wish it wasn’t made quite so public for the sake of the girl in question.

bea2345's avatar

What is happening now is information overload. In simpler times, you were either male or female and no allowance was made for “mixtures”. Now that there is objective evidence that human sexuality – let alone the rest of creation – is a lot more complicated than we thought, perhaps there is time to change some of the rules. Why not have open classes for athletes whose gender is ambiguous? Of course, Semenya may decide not to run again, and do something else with her life, but it is something to consider.

dpworkin's avatar

@Leanne1986 How does one test for something that lies along a continuum? Where are the boundaries? Gender is what you feel you are, deep inside. The days of arbitrary gender assignment are, or should be, over.

Leanne1986's avatar

@pdworkin I think they had to do tests to make sure she wasn’t taking drugs in order to make her stronger or faster. That’s what I meant.

dpworkin's avatar

If only that were true. One does not require the services of a gynecologist to determine drug usage.

bea2345's avatar

Define female and we don’t have a problem. Evidently that is not possible, since a great many women have ambiguous characteristics, hell, female is the default, not male – have I got that right? But she didn’t cheat, she played by the rules and if she has a condition the rules don’t allow for, that is just too bad for the organisers (and the other competitors). She should keep her medal.

Leanne1986's avatar

@pdworkin True. Maybe I should change my above comment to:

I can understand why they felt the need to test for drugs. Everything else probably (I say probably because I am no expert) wasn’t necessary.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Well, my mother once said to me that the reason the Williams sisters do so well in tennis is because they are man-sized, that is to say, bigger and more muscular. No one is trying to take their awards away. I think it’s the same issue. This woman is doing well because she has more testosterone and therefore is more muscular. I wonder if they would do the same kind of testing if a man’s results in a sporting event were abnormal. I mean, look at Michael Phelps, he does very well in swimming and women do better in swimming than men do. is anyone going to test him?

avvooooooo's avatar

@KatawaGrey He was tested every day of the Olympics.

Michael Phelps volunteered to be a part of a testing program with several other athletes to test for performance enhancing drugs. I’m trying to find an article on that one, but it was part of the NBC coverage that they played over again when they couldn’t find anything else to talk about (like his 12,000 calorie diet).

KatawaGrey's avatar

@avvooooooo: All right, I didn’t know that, but I think the essence of my query still holds. Would anyone have called for his gender/sex to be tested if he wasn’t being tested for drugs?

avvooooooo's avatar

@KatawaGrey Here is a little something about the testing for Michael Phelps.

If Michael Phelps looked very different from others in his races, if it wasn’t obvious about what his gender was (with as little clothes as swimmers wear, its pretty obvious), yeah. He’d be tested. Its a part of competing on an international scale. If he was tested and was indeed found to be part dolphin, there’d be a problem there too. Its all about making sure that people do not have and unfair advantage. Having testosterone levels that are comparable with those of standard women who are doping would be an unfair advantage, if that’s what they found in any case.

P.S. Women don’t do better than men in swimming. At least not with world record times.

Dr_C's avatar

She was brought up as a woman, identifies with women and has a vagina as well as male reproductive organs. She produces more testosterone than most women, but still within the legal limits for women competing in her sport according to that sport’s governing body.
She should not have been forced into a gyno exam becasuse other competitors can’t take a loss or because of the way she looks. This was discrimination and an invasion of privacy. She not only deserves an apology.. she sould be allowed to continue to compete. She is, was and will continue to be a woman.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Dr_C – You have said what I didn’t read in any reports. It was said her testosterone level is 3 times higher than “average” female. But you say still within legal limits for women. How much higher is she allowed to be? And if any woman would be higher, how is it normally determined if it is the result of an anomaly created by mother nature or substance induced, is a gyno exam the norm?

I answered negatively above, but now your info makes me reconsider. It is not simple no matter how you view it.

Dr_C's avatar

@rooeytoo there’s a few reports.. some better than others obviously here, here, and here obviously with varying points of view. The fact remains that she was raised as a woman and identifies with that gender and has most of the anatomy to qualify… There are a lot of people ready to call her a cheat or at the very least make sure she knows she’s a “freak”. There are a lot of people though (myself included) who feel she should be left alone. If raised a women and at least part woman… leave the girl in peace. (other notes here).

One of the rumors (I must point out that it is still unconfirmed) is that Semenya’s testosterone level was three times that expected of a female athlete. That was reported about a week and a half ago. There are a few problems with this report – the main one is that we don’t know what “expected” value they used. There is a range of testosterone values for females, and it’s unclear whether the reports are based on the mean, the mode, the median, or the upper limit. Given that doubt, it’s pretty meaningless to say “three times higher”.

For a comprehensive rundown on the ruth about the testosterone controversy check here and scroll down to the portion labeled “The testosterone issue: Males vs females” and please note that First, the ranges are wide. That means it’s even more important to know what you are comparing a value to. Quite clearly, people are not equal, and so to compress everyone into a narrow band is ‘unphysiological’.

Second, and maybe more important, the ranges don’t overlap. In fact, they’re not even close. The bottom end of the male spectrum is almost 400% higher than the top of the female range. And, importantly, males who lie in the bottom of that range are usually quite ill – they have hypogonadism requiring medical treatment, and the typical male value is much higher than this 9 nmol/L lower limit. The difference between males and females is thus enormous.

Caster Semenya IS NOT MALE and her testosterone levels (although abnormaly high) are still within the limits for a woman.

bea2345's avatar

@Dr_C – so the South Africans are probably right when they claim that the girl is being unfairly stigmatized.

Dr_C's avatar

@bea2345 absolutely.. she’s higher than “expcted” yet still within limits for women and WAAAAAY bellow even the minimum for a male… nuff said.

bea2345's avatar

@KatawaGreyif it wasn’t obvious about what his gender was – Phelps’ gender is quite obvious, as you say, but occasionally I wonder if he is altogether human.

Haleth's avatar

@Dr_C
I agree with you, and I think this whole situation is really sad and must be hugely embarrassing for her. People have spent so much time debating whether she qualifies as female and whether she concerns to win, but I’ve heard hardly any sympathy for the athlete herself.

Lorenita's avatar

I think it’s just awful.. how can they do this to her, even if she’s hermaphrodyte, she already chose to be a woman, she is a woman, I’m so sorry for her, it must be embarrasing and she just should sue ‘em all.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. This is a prime example of the hypocrisy being tossed around daily. As mush as people try to say males and females are the same they are not, no matter how loudly PC you yell it. You can get 40 milling people sp say a tiger don’t eat meat but you’d still be its lunch if it were hungry and you were in the bush with it. Males and females are different creatures, they were made to go together like peanut butter and jelly, ham and eggs, software and hardware, not be an extension of the same or a slight variation. As much as people want to say females are as equal and capable as males, situations like this show the Emperor as no clothes or the kings has feet of lead. The moment you speak of a male going against a female (even if that male is in the process of becoming a woman whish is not the case here) unfair advantage is rung through the hallowed halls of hypocrisy, the male(s) have it better. If males and females were actually equal then no one would give a hoot about a woman going head to head with a woman, but people do, because they hardly believe their own lies.

tinyfaery's avatar

Face Palm

Response moderated
Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@eponymoushipster I sometimes disable the spell check to see if suppose ancestors who walk on their knuckles and swing from trees will notice, especially those who could never sting an answer together long enough to actually have to use spell check Banana?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central your answer makes no sense. move along,

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@eponymoushipster It will when you finally become Homosapien, though we all may be dead by time that happens. Banana?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central
women and men can go together
or they can not
you don’t have to come up with a thousand analogies of things that go together to convince yourself of that

if you want to go with a woman, fine
doesn’t have anything to do with this question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir If you looked at the whole of the comment in conjecture to the question and the links provided it comes down to whether to take back a metal from an athlete who may not be 100% woman or not woman at all. That leads to discussion as to if it is ethical simply because of looks to ask for a gender test. Also it shows the flaw in the “everyone is equal there should be no different treatment of males and females” idea. PC says there is no advantage from male to female it is all the ability of the athlete, the real world is the reason to redeem the metal is because of an unfair advantage due to male hormones and not because the person was just a way superior runner DNA notwithstanding.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central everyone is equal doesn’t mean everyone’s body is the same – you do get that, don’t you?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I certainly do, it is people who ride the PC race horse that keep saying “equal” means what the boys get the girls get, anything less is discrimination. If that is not the usual meaning please illuminate I would love to hear that theory.

Dr_C's avatar

If you’d like some facutal medical information on the subject read this response. PC has nothing to do with this question. The athlete in question has higher than expected testotsterone levels for a woman, but still within acceptable levels and way too low to be even remotely considered male. There is a huge difference in the levels of testosterone found in each gender and that has already been discussed. Hornomally men and women are very very different and that was not disputed, in fact it was the whole basis for the question.

No one is arguing that males and females have the same athletic ability in all events or activities. Maybe read the whole thread?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central no, you first tell what is wrong with everyone being treated equally – boys should get what girls get and vice versa.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir There is nothing wrong with everyone being treated the same if it was actually practice as it is preached. Same with boys and girls getting the same, playing the same sport etc, if they really go in there as “competitors” and not as the boys in the team and the girls in the team but be completely equal in the rules etc, nothing wrong there.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central so let’s practice what we preach – I know I do

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Get the world to start and I am right behind you. I am watching the Olympics right now and they speak of women and mens down hill and snowboarding etc, there should just be snowboarding etc. and all those good enough be they make or female should mix it up together and let the best PERSON win. :-)

Sophief's avatar

I don’t think she should have the medal, it was so clear that she wasn’t female. It shouldn’t compete in any sex race because it is unfair to the sex he/she is competing with because of advantages.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Dibley How? What avantage? You still have to know how to run.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Dibley: But as @Dr_C says above, her testosterone levels were well within the biological norms for a female.

Also, “it”? That is extremely rude and disrespectful. She is a woman and it is ridiculous to call her anything but.

Sophief's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Running with women it has the advantage of having male genes so will obviously run faster, running with men, it has female genes so men will be faster.

@KatawaGrey Shemale, it, whatever, it is still a bit of both.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Dibley So now we have out in the open that even though those professional running women could beat a lot of dudes it has to be because they are exceptions but generally the dudes would be better and that is why they can hand? Better tell the feminist; guys are better, head to head even the gals don’t have a chance…..

Sophief's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Guys are better, better at most things really, for some reason women like to think that they are better!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Dibley (cloaking her in flame proof garments) WOW, I am going to take my camera and snap a pic of the screen because you dare to utter what is logically true in most cases but everyone is too afraid to say. But I have proof and from a woman to boot so no one can’t say “sure a guy would say that”. Larvae 500,000 time over for you and 20,000 sea horses too. ;-D Psst…...I will do my best to run interferance when NOW and the other feminist come after you with pitch forks and hot oil

Sophief's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I can handle myself!

eponymoushipster's avatar

is there any way to change that script to block everything this twit says?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley no, you don’t get to say ‘it’ ‘shemale’ ‘whatever’ – that’s disrespectful – no one is calling you an ‘it’

Sophief's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That is because I am female, all female. But if someone wanted to I wouldn’t care, EVERYONE is entitled to their opinions, we don’t have to like them but we are still entitled.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley Being all female is nothing you did – it’s not like becoming a professor or something..you were just born and categorized, that’s all..being a part of the female sex doesn’t mean you get to call others an ‘it’. It’s not about having an opinion – it’s about knowing that no person should be called that.

Sophief's avatar

Well I can’t call it a he or she because it is both. Which one would you prefer?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley Well, in the case of the athlete in question, you call her a she because that is how she lives her life and obviously that’s the pronoun she wants others to use. In the case of other intersex or transgender people, if you can’t ‘read’ their gender, then ask them or say ‘that person’ or ‘they’ or you can always use gender neutral pronouns like ‘ze’

Sophief's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well just for you, I’ll call that Athlete a she. Happy?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley I am happier, yes, thank you – but it’s not just for me, it’s just out of decency because you are a decent person

Sophief's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I am a person with opinions, I know many people don’t like them but that is the one thing I have and I won’t change them.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley if you find that that’s a good way to live your life, fine – I, on the other hand, find that our opinions can shift given new information and new perspectives

Sophief's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir It’s not a way to live a life. It is opinions, and I am entitled to that. I will not change them just because you have told me too. If I change an opinion of mine, I will change it because I believe I was wrong.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley by all means – I never told you to change them because of me

casheroo's avatar

:( I don’t like where this question went

eponymoushipster's avatar

I am a person with opinions,

understatement of the year

Sophief's avatar

@eponymoushipster Shit happens. If you don’t like it, that is your problem, not mine.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thank you for that.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@casheroo: Me neither, but I stayed on because I can’t look away, kind of like looking at a train wreck.

@Hypocrisy_Central: Well, I guess I’ll be the first “feminist” to come in and comment on your answer.

Yes, it is true that men are better at a lot of things than women, just as the reverse is true. In many sports, especially those in the Olympics, men are better which is why there are separate events for men and women, as there should be. However, there are some sporting events that women are better at than men. Women tend to be better at swimming, for example, as well as long distance running. Anything beyond the physical, however, is not determined by sex. It might be determined by gender something completely different than sex but it is no longer in the realm of the physical.

@Dibley: Do you know the difference between gender and sex? This athlete’s sex is both male and female I believe the correct term is intersexed, @Simone_De_Beauvoir, is this the case? but her gender is feminine because she feels like a woman and identifies as a woman.

Also, you say you are a person with opinions congratulations on that, by the way but you’ve had a side conversation with @Simone_De_Beauvoir who has, I think it’s safe to say, some of the strongest and most different opinions about gender and sexuality on this site and thus far, she has managed to keep her tone civil. Just because we are not spouting expletives and getting defensive and disrespectful doesn’t mean we are any less opinionated than you. We are just more civil when expressing it. :)

Sophief's avatar

@KatawaGrey I don’t particularly care what you or anyone else thinks. There are comments I have read on this site that I haven’t agreed with and have upset me, but I haven’t attacked the person or tried to knock them down just because I don’t agree.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley again, no one is knocking you down – this is not about agreeing or not agreeing…it’s not like ‘oh I like chocolate ice cream and I like vanilla’..this is about not calling people ‘it’...do you see the difference?
@KatawaGrey the term is intersex if that’s how she views herself and I haven’t read up on this particular case much because it’s been such a trigger topic and I can’t get into it but I think that her sex is female as well even if she has some other parts…otherwise they wouldn’t let her compete in the first place…these things are hazy and confusing because it shouldn’t be so clear cut

Sophief's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yes I agree with that, but certain people don’t want me liking chocolate ice cream, and are trying to say I’m a piece of shit for not liking vanilla. I will not be bullied.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dibley no one is bullying you, no one said you were a piece of shit…if this is what you’re feeling, I will stop my responses to you…clearly, my objective isn’t getting through

bea2345's avatar

As I understand it, Semenya is female, even if she also possesses male characteristics (which has not been verified). It is true that the IAAF has not made a determination yet, it is awaiting the specialists’ report. The IAAF apparently thinks that she could not be female but she is not obviously male: how did the discourse reach this point? If the rules say she must be one or the other, then for the sake of young Miss Caster, and for the sake of other people with similar conditions there needs to be a set of reasonable standards for establishing the sex of a person. And I see no reason why gender identification should not be taken into account.

Sophief's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir It isn’t what I am feeling. Please continue, I wouldn’t want to stop you showing and giving your opinions, that is not what I am about. I wasn’t meaning you anyway. I appreciate your views and that you think strongly of them, as do I, just on this occasion they are not the same. That’s all.

bea2345's avatar

Another thought (although I think somebody has expressed it already): so what if some people are intersex? It makes competition that much more interesting. BTW, the IAAF’s concern is not her sexual status, per se, but whether it gives her an unfair advantage against other, female, competitors. Perhaps the IAAF needs more liberal definitions of feminine and masculine.

Dr_C's avatar

I made a comment on the subject here. You’ll find links to useful information.

bea2345's avatar

I have looked at those comments again (2 did not download): Miss Semenya has an advantage over other women athletes, but to call it unfair is most unjust. Brian Lara, the cricketer, now retired, has a physiology that enables him to make a cricket ball “sit up and say its prayers.” No amount of training will make you a first class ball player unless you have this capacity. It hardly is an “unfair” advantage for Mr. Lara. I have never heard anybody complain that Michael Jordan’s height gave him an unfair advantage in basketball.

Hang in there, Caster Semenya. You are what you are and hopefully this foolishness will end soon enough for you to resume your career.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

That woman is owed an apology, for crying out loud.

Dr_C's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I couldn’t agree more.

tinyfaery's avatar

I so do not miss Dibley.

Well, at least she can go back to doing what she’s good at.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Geezus! That poor woman has been put through enough! Thank goodness she can go back to doing what she loves most.

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