If you’re debating whether a runner with elevated testosterone levels should be allowed to compete with women, isn’t it relevant that the individual has no womb or ovaries, but does have an XY genotype and testes? The mainstream media apparently don’t think so, as they omit these facts from the coverage of the curious case of Caster Semenya (shown). Even more shamefully, they use the story to twist people’s conception of the sexes’ binary nature.
South African runner Semenya has been the subject of controversy ever since the athlete became the 800-meter women’s world champion in 2009. Semenya’s dominance over rivals and masculine appearance led to questions about sexual status, and for 10 years officials have been debating whether the runner — and athletes “with high testosterone levels” in general — should be able to compete as women.
They decided this spring that Semenya should be disqualified. The “Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld rules imposed by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) limiting the ability of certain athletes with high levels of testosterone to compete as women,” reports Vox’s Mac Schneider. Yet more recently, “the ruling was temporarily suspended, and the issue is far from being resolved.”
Of course, it’s hard to resolve a matter when refusing to examine it honestly. This brings us to a segment from Schneider’s article. The “media has been following Semenya’s story closely and shaping a narrative that is often misguided or inaccurate,” Schneider writes. “‘Gender,’ ‘sex,’ ‘intersex,’ ‘transgender,’ and other terminology have often been misapplied when discussing the controversy.... The lack of a standard for using terms like ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ has left many people confused about the actual circumstances of the case and Caster Semenya’s involvement in it.”
The kindest interpretation here is that Schneider is one of the confused people, as his “narrative” is “misguided” and “inaccurate” in the extreme. Following a media pattern that a columnist in May called “mind-boggling,” Schneider portrays Semenya as merely a woman “with high testosterone.” Nowhere does he mention the staggering fact that the runner has an XY (male) genotype.
Also omitted is what the Telegraph, writing back when the media would still (briefly) tell the truth on this case, reported in 2009.
“Caster Semenya ‘is a hermaphrodite’, tests show,” the paper’s headline read.
“According to reports in the Australian media, the medical tests have established that she has no womb or ovaries and that she also has internal testes,” the Telegraph further informed.
To be clear, Semenya is not “transgender” (no one is, actually; it’s a made-up sexual status). The runner never knowingly masqueraded as an opposite-sex member. In fact, born with external female genitalia, the athlete’s family had every reason to assume, prior to puberty, that Semenya was a girl.
So the masculinization that occurred after puberty was likely troubling to them, and the 2009 medical revelations were no doubt a kick in the gut. Semenya’s abnormality is a heavy burden for which the runner deserves compassion. (Note: I’ll henceforth reference the athlete not with pronouns, but just as CS.)
What CS doesn’t deserve is to compete with women. In reality, there’s nothing confusing about this case. In fact, I’d predicted prior to CS’s 2009 examination that the runner would be found to have internal testes; it was obvious based on CS’s physique, voice, mannerisms, attitude, and facial bone structure. It also appears plain to me that CS is a male who experienced abnormal development.
Yet while I reject the term “intersex,” a synonym for “hermaphroditism” (I believe there are only, in rare cases, males and females who develop abnormally), accepting, for argument’s sake, that CS is intersex changes nothing. “Intersex” is not “female” — and women’s sports are for females. Full stop.
So why have officials been wringing their hands over this simple case for 10 years? Political correctness in our Alice-in-Wonderland time. Identity politics — being black, non-Western, and sexually unusual grants CS special status — is trumping recognition of biological reality.
Yet while the craven officials fiddle, women’s sport burns. Consider: Credible studies show that “the rate of intersex births is just .018% — less than two out of every 10,000 people,” wrote Robert Johnson at LetsRun earlier this year. Despite this, “it’s believed that all three of the medallists in the 2016 Olympic women’s 800 — Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui — are intersex.” Of course, that’s what happens when women’s sports aren’t limited to actual women.
As with all agendas based in unreality, the one here is typified by rationalization and shoddy thinking. For example, the Court of Arbitration for Sport panel that ruled in favor of the IAAF did so with some regret, lamenting that the testosterone rule was “discriminatory” but “necessary.” “Discriminatory”? Sure. But so what? Female athletics themselves are discriminatory.
Men can’t participate!
Of course, there’s much discrimination in athletics (and everywhere), such as age categories and weight classes in fight sports.
But the silliest argument is a common one Schneider parroted. “For swimmer Michael Phelps, the advantages of having a wide wingspan, long torso, and producing low amounts of lactic acid are celebrated,” he wrote. “But for Semenya[…] the response has been different.” The problem?
We haven’t created sports categories based on wingspan, torso length, or lactic-acid production — or any other esoteric factor. But when we do delineate, we’re supposed to adhere to it. We don’t let a 15-year-old compete in a 12-and-under category because, owing to an incorrect birth certificate, he once believed he was three years younger.
If the sexual distinction in athletics is irrelevant, eliminate separate sports for men and women. But if it matters enough to be perpetuated, it matters enough to be adhered to, and women’s sports should be for women. This leaves out those such as CS.
The more serious issue here, however, is that this orchestrated “confusion” serves to blur the perceived distinctions between the sexes, feeding the incorrect notion that sex isn’t binary but a “spectrum.” But a two-in-10,000 phenomenon doesn’t suggest a spectrum or that, as a quack biologist put it, there are “five sexes” — not anymore than the rare person born with hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth) suggests that “human/animal” is a spectrum. These are called “abnormalities,” the exceptions proving the rule.
As for those still claiming “confusion” about the sexes, a question: If you wanted to breed dogs — let's say, Neapolitan mastiffs — would you ask for “a male and female, the pick of the litter”?
Or would you say, “Gimme’ any two that look good; I'll put ‘em together and see what happens!”?
I have a feeling that when these sexual devolutionaries’ “confusion” would cost them personally, they’d have a major moment of clarity.
Photo of Caster Semenya: AP Images