Fall is here and it makes me excited because I am watching the seasons like my stories depend on them. In a big way they actually do. Apart from the relocation, Dakar to Syracuse, I must say the best news item of the just ended month that tickled me most is about Caster Semenya.
Some countries always have something hilarious going on. South Africa is one of those countries. It never ceases to amaze me because of its identity circus, from color to sex to gender to citizenship and so on. Sometimes the issues are within an individual’s troubled ‘identity.’ This time round, Semenya didn’t have much to do with it. She just happened to be competent beyond the world’s, or should I say, beyond science’s expectation of an athlete woman. What she did ‘qualified’ as male and this is where my laughter turns raucous. Was she actually a he? Jesus, my first instinct was, it is the 21 century and a woman, an 18 year old woman cannot gallop with other women and overtake them and be seen as a woman? So Semenya goes to the World Athletics Championships in Berlin and turns the 800m gold to ash.
In her smashing win, she leaves her rivals trailing like they are taking a walk to the market and not in a race. Instead of folks applauding what do they do? Order a gender-sex test. Cough. This is where i imagine she was taken to the specialists table and told to undress. A team of internal medicine experts, gynecologists, psychologists, geneticists and endocrinologists got involved. Semenya’s genitalia was of a woman. They touched and squeezed her breasts, they were female breasts. They turned on a sharp light and analysed her other womanness, the vagina, the cervix, and so on. The reproductive organs on the inside, we’re yet to hear about those. They looked outside again, at her pubic hairs and those in her armpits. They must have asked about the regularity of her menstruation, her body odor and secretions. Then came the final test in gender verification: Hormones. Semenya’s testestorene proved to beat that of a stallion. “Three times higher than that normally expected in a female sample.” Aha. I would say that’s my woman! But now, this is where the ‘scientific’ takes a different angle; that makes her male. Male, sisters. Our excellent Semenya is male though she’s female, and she’s not on drugs, and she has most of her womanness together, but because she’s won a race at an unimaginable speed of lightning, and because her testesterone is high, her gender and sex are contested. Perhaps that’s not all. Beware women who are beating fellow women (not to mention those beating men) at sports, work, etc. A sex test might be demanded. Gender is nothing. Simply perceptions. Sex is everything. Hormones, especially. I’ll take a break here.
Just to inform the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that in another perspective, we women hold the moon in our bellies for 28 days then release it to hang in the skies and light up the world and you take that for nothing? We carry lives in our wombs for nine months, 40 weeks, and, 270 days, cause our waters to burst and bring forth the children and you still don’t get it? You think that a shallow thing? And that’s just a tiny aspect of us, only a biological aspect. What’s the 800m world championship to us? It’s only running and winning the race. Our bodies, our minds, our abilities are powerful beyond the realm of science and imagination. Our feet are capable of much more than man’s eyes have seen and you don’t get it? Semenya hails from the great Limpopo where women sail the Okavango and ride the Zambezi until the falls ripple like the beads around their waists. That isn’t cheap. So what if she’s both male and female and we are just getting to know it? Only one little question left, will Semenya continue to compete as a woman? What are the legal implications here? More raucous laughter. And more pondering. Of course we are having slogans like “You go girl,” “Caster 100% female,” We should just add one more word to the slogan: Organic. Oh, dear.