The Case of Caster Semenya

Recently some controversy has erupted around the person of Caster Semenya, a very succesful athlete from South Africa who has broken world records and was poised to compete in the 800 meter finals in Berlin when doubts were raised about her sex, and thereby her eligibility to compete in the female olympics. There are conflicting and uncertain sources as to the results of the subsequent tests for sex, but it looks like there may be a case of hermaphroditism or pseudo-hermaphroditism involved. In this case, the person has high testosterone levels and a Y chromosome, yet has developed as a woman, possibly due to insensitivity to testosterone in the phase of physical development.(1) This would make her a ‘genetic male’, yet for all social purposes a female (female-gendered), for which the term ‘intersexed’ could be used (but need not necessarily).

Of course, there is some argument about her eligibility, not in the last place because of her excellent performance so far – she won the gold medal in the aforementioned Berlin race. Continue reading “The Case of Caster Semenya”