Author: Philip Ronnert

Student No.: n8576513

Tutor: Abbey Diaz


Caster Semenya: The (unfortunate) Chosen One

Caster Semenya is the media dubbed poster girl for transgender sport where she was heavily investigated on if she was or wasn’t a woman. The artefact in question is a major article by Trans World Sport. This artefact at the start could suggest that male sporting stars with their unique greatness are never questioned. While later on in the video the use of newspapers and visual could lead to the assumption that media as a whole caused gender issues to become a worldwide subject leading to greater issues on women sport as a whole. The use of people directly involved with the situation shows legitimacy and the use of people outside the situation shows the influences the media has on the public.

Part 2: What is the Public Health Issue?

Gender Verification: Are you a man, woman or both?

The question on gender lies physiologically due to a syndrome called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) and affects between 1:10,000 and 1:62:400 people within a population (Bansboll, Qvist, Ebech & Winsky, 1992). What this AIS is specifically is a resistance to the hormone Androgen and cause the reversal of the XY chromosome to a female phenotype (Hughes & Deeb, 2006). What this means is that gender is no longer a black and white subject of do you have the right bits. It is now a question of what levels of female and male are acceptable within the sporting ranks and whether society will accept these people for how they were genetically born.

Part 3: Literature Review

Gender Verification has been a controversial topic and since has its inception of “gender testing” has had an extensive amount of literature on the topic. The main issues that literature seems to write about are what constitutes as being a male or being a female and what testing procedures are most ethical for the comfort of the athlete.

Before you can ask what a persons sex or gender is, one must know how sex and gender is defined. Sex takes a more physiological form where you can biologically detail the differences between a male and a female by characterising their gonadial sex, chromosomal sex, internal and external sexual features and hormonal features (Midgeon & Wisniewski, 1998). Gender on the other hand is something that is more culturally accept as the attitudes and beliefs society puts on its community with concerns with gender identity and gender role (McBride & Austin, 2011). Gender Identity is the how someone indentifies and emotionally feels on what sex they are and gender role is basically the role that society places on them (McBride & Austin, 2011).

The reason for genetic testing is because of a group of genetic syndromes called Disorders of Sex Development (DSD). A DSD is a disorder or syndrome that can affect someone through their gonadial sex, chromosomial sex or anatomical sex which alters the way someone is grown throughout childhood or adolescence which does not allow them to fully grow into either a male or female (Quinjie, Fangfang, Yuanzheng & Quinsheng, 2009). The main DSD that Gender verification in sport has to deal with is a syndrome called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Androgen is a receptor that is also used for testosterone and DHT, where DHT is more sensitive to this recepot and is important to the growth of external genital area (Barbaro, Wendell & Nordomstrom, 2011). A DSD affects 1/1000 new born children and thus making these disorders more common than realised. (Quinjie et al, 2009). Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome can be Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS) or Partial Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS). With PAIS, the syndrome can affect the person from a biological point of view where the clitoris is enlarged to a near complete penis where the person is in the middle of the AIS spectrum (Rupurt, 2011). PAIS in the middle stages can make it hard to biologically determine if someone is either male or female due to one not being an absolute sex and thus makes this topic more ethically biased (Rupurt, 2011). The chances of a newborn child being affected by Complete Androgen Intolerance Syndrome is at .076% (Rupurt, 2011. Blackness, pp. 153). CAIS is the complete physical appearance of a female but the full genetic characteristics of a male because of the complete resistance of Androgen receptors within the body (Quinjie et al, 2009). There is also a blockage of 5α-reductase that is responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone but although there is no explanation as to why this amplifies Androgen reactions (Wilson, 1992).

Fair play is the reason we feel that males and females need to be separated in sports and this is more important to people at an elite level where the competition is more important (Sullivan, 2011). There is a consistent conception the from birth the males and females have a physical advantage over their female counterparts so in turn to create success for themselves, males are changing their gender to a more female oriented line to help them get the overall edge over their competition (Sullivan, 2011). Gender verification testing started in 1968 in Mexico City and continued through 1998, with the IOC allowing on-site genetic testing for Xx/Xy chromosomal verification (Dickinson, Genel, Robinowitz; Turner & Woods, 2002). In the year 1998, the IOC decided to stop on-site testing of gender verification starting with the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and also decided that if there was any question that a person is needing validation of gender that experienced medical personal could be employed to undergo the testing privately (Dickinson et al, 2002). There have been certain indicators to assess if a person is either a male or a female ranging from chromosomal to a person’s physical genitalia but to consider which of all is a determination of male or female is up to society itself (Sullivan, 2011). When it comes to the protection of gender verification it seems that transgender people, let alone people affected by a DSD are not as well protected as they should be. For example, within the United States of America homosexuals are only starting to be given the same rights as heterosexuals (Larson, 2011). A group of experts got together and created 7 points of interest that would help shape the way that testing for gender validation is conducted and these were:

  1. That sport authorities, in conjunction with the relevant medical authorities, have a responsibility to follow up on cases of DSD that arise under their jurisdiction;
  2. That there be an increase in education and awareness of DSD within the sports community;
  3. That PPHE (pre participation health examinations) are important for the purpose of identifying athletes with DSD;
  4. That precise diagnosis should be established expeditiously utilising requisite expertise;
  5. That a Management plan be drawn up if treatment is necessary;
  6. That strategically located venters of excellence be established at which athletes with DSD can, if necessary, be diagnosed and treated; and
  7. That rules be put in place to determine eligibility of athletes for sport competition on a case-by-case basis both prior to and following diagnosis of a DSD, Including when an athlete is under-going treatment for DSD or refuses treatment for a DSD

(Larson, 2011; Int’l Olympic Comm, 2010)

Part 4: Cultural and Social Analysis
Caster Semenya: Accused of being a
male during her career as an athlete

With all of the points that have been discussed throughout this wiki, it is understood that the main practice of gender verification is the most ethically discussed point of view due to the public interest and inevitably involving their private lives. Culturally, the role of the male and female can be differentiated depending on the geography but to be considered either not completely male or female has proven to be a very ambiguous line, as shown in sports.
With that, society must not know what the act of gender verification involves not just during the main media coverage while that person is under review but the time afterward where the athlete, who has either been cleared or not, has to take to rebuild their life. In our cultural artefact it is said that Semenya specifically asked for no questions on her gender and also did not turn up to training on the day of her interview. What this shows is that even after years of her allegations of being a man; she still is being affected emotionally and professionally due to social ridicule.

In 2007, after middle distance runner Santhi Soundaraja was stripped of her silver medal had attempted to commit suicide with veterinarian drugs (Fox Sports, 2007, para 2). As said before, this is because of the humiliation after the conviction of being a “man” because of her CAIS condition and ending her career. Culturally, it seems that they can accept someone for who they are if that does not affect the way they physically look and perform as part of her own society but from the social standpoint of her professional life, these genetic defects are ridiculed because it seems to give her an advantage. Although this is a case of having the Xy male chromosome instead of the Xx chromosome of a female, research has shown that testosterone cannot easily be synthesised by the body to allow for proper growth of the male genome.
Santhi Soundarajan: Stripped
of her Silver medal after failing
gender verification tests

So in understanding this, the question is not whether or not someone is male or female. Can someone be completely male or completely female? Can someone be labelled as partially male or partially female without the reticule of their peers in their society? As can been seen the act of gender verification only brings into question social and ethical points that need to be addressed at some stage.

Part 5: Analysis of the Artifact and Own Learning Reflections

The artefact in question is a feature piece of Trans Sports about Caster Semenya’s ordeal when accused of not being a female and required to undergo gender verification testing. What this really shows is what the point of view of the public verses the point of view of the media and her peers. During the video it can be seen that the media blew this out of proportion especially in sports orientated countries such as the UK and Australia. Although this is the case it is also seen from the socially and culturally public point of view where they all agree that this was taking her condition to far and that she shouldn’t be treated this way for being a successful elite athlete. Before her interview it is seen that she is still traumatised by the events because it is said in the video that she did not want any questions about her gender specifically and even then she did not turn up to training for obvious fear of the interview. This shows that she has been affected deeply by the events of the gender verification process and its wide publicity. All in all, this piece is not a biased view on her condition but a way of showing that she has been a social scapegoat for gender verification and that she has not been considered during this process.

The making of this wiki has made me see one important piece in a new light. When I see a story on someone or something on the news, it is safer to say it is a lie if it does not have any refutable evidence to legitimise the story. Before this wiki I didn’t have any knowledge on DSD’s or any sort of condition that could affect the male or female genotype or phenotype but now have the right amount of knowledge to make my own decisions on the topic if I so choose.

Comments on pages:

A Cruel Injustice - The Controversy Surrounding Elite Female Athletes - By Georgia Gascoigne (8006199)

A major Health Issue of Violence - Fuelled by a Competitive Society - By Timothy Ng (07543956)


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