Womens 800m Champion Not Exactly A Woman September 10, 2009Posted by Matt Brown in Sports, Transhumanism.
Tags: 800m, Caster Semanya, gender, hermaphrodite, running, Sports
I have been following this story since I first heard about it but I must admit that this is a twist I didn’t see coming. For those of you who don’t know there has been a bit of controversy hanging over the current women’s 800m world champion, Caster Semenya. A few months ago the South African runner won the 800m at the world championships, absolutely destroying her competition in the process. Almost immediately questions were raised about whether or not Semanya was actually a woman, those questions being fueled by her dominating performance, her deep voice and masculine features.
Well, the IAAF tested Semanya and discovered that she is not a man, but neither is she technically a woman. It turns out that while Semanya possess a vagina she lacks ovaries. Instead she has a pair of internal testes making her technically a hermaphrodite. Those testes have been producing an abundance of testosterone which probably accounts for her masculine voice and features.
The presents a bit of a problem for the IAAF. It’s clear that Semanya didn’t violate anti-doping rules and she probably was unaware herself of her condition. However, the fact remains that Semanya is not technically female. Oddly enough, had Semanya been transgender (i.e. male to female) this would have been a much easier process. While I’m unsure about the IAAF I know that the IOC has guidelines allowing for the participation of transgender athletes in athletics.
But Semanya isn’t transgender, nor is she technically female, nor technically male. She is something sports hasn’t had to deal with yet, at least not at this level of competition. You can be sure though that we’ll see more episodes like this in the future as technologies like germline genetic engineering become commonplace. If we have controversy over a competitor who isn’t technically female, what will we see with competitors who aren’t “technically” human.
On a side note, I personally think she should be allowed to keep her medal as she clearly wasn’t trying to cheat and thankfully that seems like what is going to happen.