Treatment of intersexed African athlete appalling


South African athlete Caster Semenya (shown here holding a gold medal she's just won) has been the subject of gender-related cheating allegations. She was forced to take a gender test (perhaps more accurately, a "sex test"), and the results have been released: Semenya is intersexed.

For context: we're not just talking about deeply personal medical news becoming very public world news, we're talking about that happening before the person involved was informed or counseled on the results. And, she had no option to keep the very private information private.

Mainstream news coverage, within South Africa and worldwide, has reflected ignorance, and worse. Here's a snip from a news article that describes her with the derogatory term "hermaphrodite":

The athletics governing body is also expected to advise her to have surgery to fix the potentially deadly condition, the paper reported. The IAAF would not comment on the results that have yet to be released.

You stay classy, New York Daily News. Blogger Pam of Pam's House Blend, where I'm reading this news, says,

Someone please tell me how the f*ck her natural condition — which is that of a superb physical athlete — is deadly? Thankfully Semenya wants no part of this.

Update: Some BB commenters have pointed out that the "potentially deadly condition" of which they they speak may be the belief that having male sexual organs "embedded" within the body means elevated cancer risk in intersexed people. Another BB commenter who says they're an intersexed person argues the purported risk is a ruse to pressure intersexed people towards altering themselves through surgery.

Semenya, who identifies as female, says,

"God made me the way I am and I accept myself. I am who I am and I'm proud of myself," she told [South Africa's] You Magazine, which ran a photo spread. "I don't want to talk about the tests. I'm not even thinking about them."

Runner Caster Semenya takes gender test — she is intersexed; MSM reporting is offensive (, via Kate Bornstein)