Runner Semenya ‘hermaphrodite’ – both male and female organs. What now?

Semenya hermaphrodite

I firmly believe that God makes each one of us to be unique in every way, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those of us who are a little more unique than the majority of people.

Caster Semenya is different in her own way and it is a damned shame that she is now going to be put through a very public examination of very intimate details about her physical person and her life.

If Caster makes us examine how we think about others who are different than we are, and how we treat folks who are different than what we consider to be “the norm”, then some good will come from her pain.

As for our family, Shona and I will be saying our nightly prayers with Caster Semenya in mind – and Auntie Moses says she’ll be doing the same.

The Sun: Runner is a ‘hermaphrodite’


Filed under Celebrities, Health, Sports

35 responses to “Runner Semenya ‘hermaphrodite’ – both male and female organs. What now?

  1. kiki

    In Indian culture people with big differences are considered special or demi-gods to be appreciated

  2. D Newsam

    If there is no categoric proof that she is a “woman” I do not see how she can be allowed to compete with other “women”. Why should she/he not compete with the men? Because she/he would not be competitive? As it stands it does not seem fair to the women. She is not a little faster than the women, she is seconds better which is not realistic.
    A real puzzle! – What exactly is a “woman” as far as athletics is concerned?

  3. kiki

    Are you saying
    A womb-man or (wo)man with no womb is not a
    woman / man, or is a woman and man athletically

  4. kiki

    The most obvious solution would be to have
    mixed handicap races.

    Olympic Creed
    “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

    Olympic Motto
    faster, higher, stronger.

  5. Goldenbead

    Her birth certificate has the teen listed as female and urine tests showed that, despite her having higher than average male hormone levels, they are within the official limits for a woman.

    Enough said as far as I am concerned. Her hormone levels are within the official limits. My heart hurts for this poor girl. How humiliating this must be for her.


    those results should not be made public. she is a minor, to have such results posted for the world to see will have negative psycohological effects on her as a human being. she did not ask to be that way. and she probably didnt know of this.

  7. Paul Barnes

    I think this may be jumping the gun a bit, BFP…officially, the IAAF is still saying that the gender test results will not be known until towards the end of September. Let’s just wait until the formal results are known rather than rush to judgment.

  8. BFP

    Maybe we should put in there “If the story as reported in the Sun is true”

  9. Darian

    They should never have made it public before the test was even done. Do the test and then make the results public if that is the way things are usually done.

    She has been given a make-over, new coach and she is a beautiful woman. Conformity! Enough with the snide remarks.

    As for the Olympic motto, faster, higher, stronger screw that. Athletes that do that are looked upon with suspicion.

  10. John

    I am told we all start as female in our mother’s wombs.

    It is the chromosomes that kick in after a specified time and make some of us male, or keep some of us female.

    …… a miracle of life.

  11. BFP

    Hi Darian, I have to agree with you. The original leak was weeks ago that the tests were being done. Terrible now that more has leaked out, but we can hardly blame the newsmedia for reporting it once it leaks.

  12. Lulu

    BFP I am a little disappointed that you have chosen to follow the Sun’s lead in reproducing a story based on unnamed sources. It is exactly this type of agenda fed ‘news’ that destroys the credibility of journalism today.

    I take issue with the incredibly naive view that the IAAF will not make the results public. Sounds like someone trying to justify being a rat. If these ‘results’ are confirmed how will the IAAF defend stripping Caster of her gold medal or banning her from future competition? What arrant nonsense!

    I cannot imagine what it must be like to be Caster Semanya, raised my whole life as a girl, doing the thing I loved most, only to discover plastered across the fish and chips wrappers masquerading as newspapers in the urban underbelly of the west that I have a rare genetic abnormality, which will deny the hard work, sacrifice, commitment and talent that allowed me to realize my dreams.

    Thank God that her family love and know her as a woman and always will.

    And what a fine example for us here in Barbados to learn the lessons of acceptance and tolerance. Is Caster Semanya any less a woman or a human being because she is different? Do her sexual organs define the person she is? Alas, I learnt a long time ago that public morality seldom squares with private behaviour.

    Take the example of a Prime Minister who has two daughters that he belatedly acknowledges, born out of wedlock from two different women, while he was married to another woman. Oh and let us not forget the as yet unacknowledged son. Why would I believe anything he had to tell me about the private life of anyone else? But hey, this is the Caribbean, where men are measured by their sperm counts and to disagree is to either question or diminish my womanhood. Talk about being shackled by the remnants of a slave society?

    I can only hope that Athletics South Africa will provide counseling for young Caster as the media storm swirling around her re-spawns with renergized fury. She has been gracious in the face of unimaginable private scrutiny. She clearly has a strong family unit who will love her no matter what the medical tests reveal or others think. I join the thousands of people around the world who empathize with and support her.

  13. Lulu

    sorry – should read “unimaginable public scrutiny of a very private issue.”

  14. kiki

    The only important thing is that society accepts her.
    She will be keeping her medal. Athletics has become
    too commercial and competitive for normal life and is not that important.

  15. kiki

    presumably the church would accept trans-gender


    Lulu wrote “I have a rare genetic abnormality”

    Not so rare.

    And if she was our daughter or sister or niece or Sunday school teacher, or nurse, or babysitter or favourite auntie nobody would be digging up in to her private business (or her private parts).

    And for those who are fond of saying that God has only created two genders, and if we accept that God is still in the creation business how do we explain Caster? Because certainly she too is created in the image of God.

  17. Mathilde

    poor girl, or whatever she is, something like this should not be splayed across tabloids, but I guess thats what tabloids are all about.
    Still, couldnt they have softened it a bit?

  18. Ulul


    “Take the example of a Prime Minister who has two daughters that he belatedly acknowledges, born out of wedlock from two different women, while he was married to another woman. Oh and let us not forget the as yet unacknowledged son…”

    In the interest of archeological fairness perhaps you may also want to dig into the parentage of another Prime Minister. After all a little DNA test ought to clear that up just like the gender tests are doing for Caster Semenya. Hope this reworded comment survives the censors, no offense.

  19. Sister Baby

    But look at the heading you have here…and then you, Shona and Aunty Mo will be praying nightly for the poor girl. I think the sad part in all of this is how the so call normals respond to this type of situation, all the wondering if she is a man and what makes a woman….and she should compete with men, are really irrelevant, for the simple reason that Caster had no say in this, for she was born this way. This is the hand that nature dealt her and hopefully she has the strength to accept it and live life to the fullest.

  20. BFP

    BFP says to Sister Baby

    I understand your point Sister Baby, but how then should we have covered the story? Should we have ignored it?

    Although we linked to the Sun, we could have linked to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Daily Mail and a host of other news organisations throughout the world. It is already news for the reason mentioned in the title. We did our best to communicate our feelings and thoughts about the story – but we don’t understand how you would have us cover the story without mentioning the issue at the heart of the matter.

  21. Marsha Hinds-Layne

    Hmmmm…the Most High Jah really finds interesting ways to make us face facts.

    These are my same Bajan people embracing Semenya who cry down other “hermaphrodites” in our own society as ‘dirty bullers’…..

    I hope we all realize now that metrosexuality has less to do with choice and more with how we were created….Semenya is reported to have one set of sexual organs with another set ‘drawn in’ or not manifested….how do we know that other people in our society don’t have the same challenges and are just as psychologically torn as Semenya will be after this experience?


    go on Bajan people…keep talking and coming of age…I am very proud of your stance…and my prayers and thoughts are too with Semenya.

  22. Du

    In all societies dualism is the accepted condition of human sexuality. Individuals like Caster Semenya clearly show that this is not the reality. Noted researcher Fausto-Sterling contends that sex is a continuum rather than a collection of discretely defined phenotypes. She proposes that along this continuum are five points: male, ferm (female pseudohermaphrodite), hermaphrodite, merm (male pseudohermaphrodite), and female. She estimates the frequency of all sexually mosaic conditions (hermaphrodites and pseudohermaphrodites) in humans to be about 1% of the population.
    There are some characteristics of gender that permit greater athletic performances from males than females so it is necessary to group athletes by sex to ensure fair competition. International athletics sanctioning bodies recognize only two sexes so the 1% that is not clearly male or female has to be categorized into one or the other on some (hopefully scientific) basis if they are to compete in international sport.
    The media attention that is focussed on Ms Semenya is unfortunate however the need for the tests to be done cannot be challenged. I don’t believe that anyone is questioning her honesty in competing as the woman she is emotionally, however if her physiology gives her an unfair advantage in women’s athletics she cannot be allowed to continue without damaging the sport.

  23. Paul Barnes

    What I find surprising in this episode is this – if the athelete can indeed be considered a hermaphrodite, why is it that only within the past two months has a significant sporting advantage been gained? Should the athelete not have been stronger and faster than her female competitors from a much earlier age (say, from around puberty)? But then again…one could ask “which puberty”, if the athlete might have both female and male sexual characteristics that develop at different rates…the mind boggles, really.

  24. Sister Baby

    OK BFP. in spite of your feelings and compassion for Semenya, you still sensationalised the headline, Semenya!!!!hermaphrodite, both male and female organs, what now? BFP, you see what I mean, to me you too are caught up in the hype, and to ask what next, come on she was born this way, so no next, why do we have compartmentalise everything, man, woman, black, white, Guyanese, Barbadian, illegal immigrant, legal immigrant, and so on, you see where I am going. No Next, for techinally speaking she is she and she has been a she since she can remember, BUT playing football with village boys and so on, but in this day and age girls play football too, so she will continue in that manner. You could have healdlined it gentler, like… Tests back on Semenya… and she is between the two sexes…a gentle way..but hermaphrodite..oh I tell you conjures up all these bizarre sexual images…if you know what I mean.

    I am sure there are lot more like Semenya out there, meaning a woman with testes for ovaries and so on, who just lead quiet lives, but let them just try to enter competition, then pampalam. I remember when growing up in Guyana we had a true hermaphrodite in the area, lovely person, but the word got out that she was that way in her teenage years by an insecure foolish boy that she had formed a friendship with, and he went and told his friends, so quickly the parents of the girl friends of this GIRL heard and then told their daughters to stay away from this girl, and of course the boys were curious, so they began to call and when they were seen with the girl, they were called anti-man, the Guyanese word for homosexual, and then when the girl went out to shop in the market or walk on the seawall the boys wanted to attack her to see her body with both male and female sex organs, now in America they would have tried to fix the problem, but in Guyana there is no fixing of anything, so the girl just lives on, and that is how it should be, if the Lord made people that way, then that is how they should be, and no questions should be asked, this is not a social issue, like illegal immigrants, or man fathering children outside marriage, this is genetics we are talking about.


    well, is the person a man or a woman? Not of much consequence in the every day world,

    However if there are ‘mens’ races and ‘womens’ races, are you saying it’s OK for a man to run in a womans race becuase the person ‘looks’ like a woman? – and vice versa?

    Is it all about ‘looks’ only … or is gender the determining factor ? ? ?

  26. Sister Baby

    Stinging, I think people don’t like ambiguity..they like to know you are either male or female…ambiguity conjures up discomfort and fear…I think in the case of Semenya she appeared to be very masculine and supposedly spoke in the male voice range which caused them to suspect and of course when she won the race…it really raised their suspicion about her…but my contention here is that she was born this way…but I understand she can never be Miss South Africa and so on..which is she is a very beautiful girl…a South African magazine recently featured her on the cover.. all made up and so on..and she looked lovely…

  27. J

    Sister Baby wrote “spoke in the male voice range”

    So what is the male voice range?

    I know a whole lotta biological mother who have deep voices.

    Do we really believe that every woman has to speak in a little, squeaky “female” voice?

  28. boredickey

    According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph which broke the news, Caster has internal testes – male sexual organs which produce testosterone and which in turn produces muscle bulk……yah hear dat??? Muscle Bulk.
    This testosterone, the report says, also produces body hair and a deep voice. Yah hear dat too???? A deep voice.
    Holy cow! Mama Mia! Do you people know what this means?????? Hummmmm?????
    And what about Mary wid all dat muscle and d sweet boy dat went to court, dem should all get this gender test done too.
    I would also include Old Brigand and dah brown skin medical man JW .

  29. Pearl

    This whole thing is very sad and must be causing some serious mental damage to this young athlete, to have your personal business spread like this world wide.

    Perhaps I am naive but I personally think the South African athletic association should take some responsibility for the damaged caused. Yes they have a great athlete but surely they must have known the controversy that would have been caused, particularly at that level of competition. Could they not have had the gender tests done themselves so that the issue could have been squashed and never reached this stage? Even if it was an issue of the financial costs of the tests, these are now minor compared to the price that Caster is now paying.

  30. Sister Baby

    J, I know what you mean, and years ago when I would hear females with deep voices talking I would not bat an eye, but these days I usually wonder to myself, is that a man dressed up and so on but as Boredickey says, it is all based on genetics, so in the case of Semenya ((and others)) that is how she sounds, as it is her genetics, as opposed to say somebody like Rihanna. I agree with Pearl as to why SA Sports did not nip this thing in the bud before it got to the international stage, and the only thing I can think of is that they did not know, she was born this way, and they just assumed she did not have any problems.

  31. cherry 2

    September 11, 2009 at 1:50 am
    I am told we all start as female in our mother’s wombs.

    It is the chromosomes that kick in after a specified time and make some of us male, or keep some of us female.

    …… a miracle of life.


    True. Doctors cannot tell the intended sex of a baby until a few weeks afterwards because all fetuses are female in the beginning. Nature decides if it should remain a female or be a male. Unfortunately, for some, the hormone
    testosterone, that was to be produced in the womb to determine the gender indentity, does not ‘kick in’ until the girl reaches puberty stage.

    (Interesting, a boy can come from a girl but a girl cannot come from a boy).

    Imagine as a parent, you have a girl child who suddenly become a boy!

    Some accept their original gender identity (like Caster), some change to their new identity (transsexuals) and others undergo surgery (transgender) to find their place in the world where they feel most comfortable and acceptable. Then another category accept both genders.

    As for the Caster’s gender tests, I personally feel that info was delibrately leak to embarrassed the poor woman in front of the world to make her out to be a freak.
    Hey, one never know, it could be that, if enough media coverage is given to this, it would so overwhemling for Caster, she may decide to quit athletics making the job of IAAF easier!

  32. victor

    I agree with PearI tests shouId have been done earIier. As I said in a previous post I have a friend who is a hermaphrodite who has suffered aII his/her Iife from prejudice, starting with her own father who forced her to have an operation at 16 to remove breasts and womb. My friend is an amazing person, whom its a priviIege to taIk with, there’s a mind there, highIy inteIIigent and sweet natured who seems to understand everything about being a man AND a woman. Don’t sneer but its Iike taIking to an angeI in a way, a person who seems to understand everything about the human condition. There’s no prejudice there, no barriers spring up, theres no divide. you get both points of view there’s an unimaginabIe depth its so refreshing and chastening. Hermaphrodites are so rare they shouId be treated with great respect, we can Iearn a Iot about the battIe between the sexes. It shouId be up to them which sex they decide to act in pubIic but when it comes to athIetics, obviousIy and in this case of Caster there is an unfair advantage. See for exampIe how it has been discovered from Soviet records, that in the oId Soviet days their femaIe athIetes were pumped fuII of testosterone drugs which gave them an unfair advantage.

    The sad thing about Caster is that her athIetic prowess took her from a poor viIIage Iife to internationaI stardom, onIy for her hopes to be crushed. It shouId not have been aIIowed to happen; someone on South Africa’s oIympic committee shouId have spotted the situation. Nowadays there is a Iot of psychoIogicaI testing etc. mandatory prior to competing so who Iet that get past the radar? I hope this is not the Iast we see of Caster. You have to imagine what the poor person’s Iife wiII be Iike in the future, coming from a traditionaI background where views are aIso “traditionaI” for Iack of a better word. Such individuaIs are often treated as freakshows. Freaks of nature they may be but we shouId take a positive view as in cuItures which treat them as demigods, if onIy that they have such a greater understanding of human nature due to their very unusuaI makeup. This is the kind of person who wouId make an ideaI priest or shaman, which is what my hermaphrodite friend has become, very successfuIIy too, even though now in his/her 60s. At the risk of boring you aII, can I say again that the chance to discuss probIems with my friend is Iike a breath of fresh air, you get an aII round picture, making you see things from another point of view yet at the same time, your own.

  33. Lady Anon

    The reason why testing was done is to try to pigeon hole this young lady to fit into some category that society feels she should fit into.

    I do not believe that hermaphroditic person should be forced to choose to be either male or female visually. I personally believe that they should remain as they evolved and live their lives accordingly.

    My prayers go out to Caster because of the emotional distress that this has caused her and her family.

  34. Like myself Semenya is a hermaphrodite. Society is very odd, in my time hermaphrodites were considered males but now a days hermaphrodites are considered women as some of us do have wombs. The only problem is that there is a eugenics program in place and if the child is noticeable hermaphroditic they are taken, sterilized and surgically altered to normalise the hermaphrodite into a definitive sex either male or female. Since Semenya was considered a female or woman she had the right to enter the competition even though she is a hermaphrodite.

  35. for me god made every man in his own image and lightness ,so who is man to say different .your bless ,you have health strenght ,your strong .some people praying to stand were you are so no matter what people say god made you so for a reason and only he knows so be thankfull ,because you are alive .just think what could of happened in the labor room think ,you could of pass an gone but god said no .so give thanks sister you are well bless