I live on the Internet. I work there, I read there, and I write there. But sometimes, when a topic confounds, I just gotta close my eyes and turn to another medium. God bless radio.
Radio insists on brevity. And in the rising swell of gabbling voices (mine included), it is this simple two-sentence story borrowed from Radio New Zealand that quietly drops the penny:
The World 800 metre champion Caster Semenya of South Africa has been undergoing hormone-based treatment for what is widely accepted now to be an inter-sex condition and could return to competition at some point this year.
Semenya won’t be allowed to compete at IAAF sanctioned events until independent experts agree that the treatment has been effective.
– “Hormone treatment for controversial gold medallist“, Radio New Zealand
It would appear (from this and other sources) that the IAAF is requiring hormone “treatment” in return for permission to compete. Be exceptional… but not that exceptional. It’s a standard that doesn’t seem to apply to everyone:
According to his Wikipedia page, Yao Ming “…is one of China’s best-known athletes, with sponsorships with several major companies, and he has been the richest celebrity in China for six straight years.” Imagine if he’d been banned from his sport for having his remarkable – yet unfair! – physical advantage.
I am not going to belabour this point, but I believe that Caster Semenya’s story is going to be one of those sad chapters in history that future administrations will regret. It will be remembered as yet another example of our collective ignorance around sex and gender. We will wonder why we she was pathologized when she could just as easily have been lionized.