Friday, October 30, 2009

Dr. Oz Takes On Intersex

Dr. Oz had a segment on intersex, "When the Sexes Collide," on his show, Dr. Oz.. I can't say I'm crazy about the segment's name, as it serves to promote the humans-can-be-hermaphrodites myth, but the segment's heartfelt nature and generally good overview of many issues facing intersex individuals and their families almost justifies the dubious name. :)

Check it out here. I'm sorry it's not embedded in this post; I think the embed code might be buggy, although it could certainly be an error on my part. Still, check it out!

I'm really glad the Dr. Oz stated that intersex individuals USED TO BE CALLED "hermaphrodites." While this technically isn't true due to lack of intersex visibility, resulting in mainstream confusion as to what the &*@#$ it is, this is how it SHOULD BE! Great job on that, Dr. Oz!

Dr. Oz basically takes the audience through human fetal development from the 6-week stage, when the fetus has not developed body parts generally thought of as "male" or "female." Thus, that fetus isn't on a M or F developmental track yet. The word is out as to what its biological sex will be!

Oz specifically cites that intersex is often linked to what the body does with testosterone - either that the body makes more or less testosterone than is typical, or the body makes it but can't use it. While this certainly isn't the case in many forms of intersex, where testosterone doesn't play a (prominent) role, he's still putting some good information out there.

He then asks the guest psychologist and intersex activist, Dr. Tiger Devore, how parents are to raise their children - as male or female? (This question will most definitely be explored in future posts, so we won't get into all the nitty gritty controversies right now.) I LOVE that Dr. Devore stated that intersex children should be given the choice to wait until they are older and have formed a "sexual" identity (probably meaning gender identity, but okay) before any genital surgeries are performed. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, and will also be discussed extensively in the future.

It is interesting that Dr. Devore states that such individuals my choose to identify as male, female, or "something in-between." Although sometimes my gender identity is "intersex," many intersex individuals don't feel this way. Many intersex individuals don't think that "intersex" can even BE a true gender identity, since these individuals feel that biologically, all individuals are male or female....just with some added biological complexities (e.g., in terms of gene sequences, atypical hormone levels, etc.). I have been thinking a lot about this, and want to post on this sometime soon-ish, especially since I seem to support a minority view among intersex individuals. (I wonder how minor? Hmmm...)

The issue of surgery is also addressed, as it should be. Dr. Oz asks Dr. Devore how surgery affects [external genital] function. Devore states that surgery can render the gentials functional (Me: "Um, not most of the time...") or non-functional (Me: "There ya go!"). He specifically mentions that metal cutting into flesh will leave scar tissue, which "doesn't leave good sensation, and so they may be less functional than if they'd been left alone." Better yet, the following exchange:

Oz: But it is possible for- for someone who's born intersex to have a very functional, full sex life.
Devore: Yes. And to have ambiguous genitalia. (huge smile)
Oz: Despite that.
Devore: (still smiling) Absolutely.

I'm unsure how much network politics played a role in this, but I was hoping he'd be blunt and state that genital surgery may leave individuals unable to orgasm, and that leaving the genitals alone - yes, even ambiguous ones (*GASP*) - may allow intersex individuals to enjoy such sensations.

Of course, intersex individuals' experiences were recounted on the show, as well. I love that one intersex woman, Janet (last name not stated), featured on the show had had two children. A common misconception is that intersex individuals are, by definition, sterile, when this is not neccessarily the case. (This totally dependens on one's form of intersex. Janet is a person with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.)

Janet addresses something very important. Dr. Oz remarks that her upbringing must have been difficult, having perceived that she was different as a "little girl." Janet explains, however, that bodies aren't much talked about in general, and voices that it's often not uncommon for intersex individuals to be unaware that their own bodies deviate from the norm. In other words, that if bodies aren't discussed to establish a baseline for what "normal" is, then intersex individuals have no indication that their own bodies are different from anyone else's until they are informed by a medical doctor. (All too often, this doesn't occur until later in life, and often due to seeking medical help when such individuals encounter fertility problems.)

One thing I didn't like is that Dr. Oz states that Betty, a woman whose child is intersex, is "going through it," before asking Janet to advise Betty on child-rearing an intersex individual. Rasing an intersex individual may pose unique obstacles to parents, due to a lack of dialogue about sex and biological variation, gender identity, the stigma associated with discussing bodies and gentials in general, etc. However, stating that a mother is "going through it" implies that raising an intersex child may be akin in some ways to having birthed a baby dragon - that everything might go up in flames at any moment. It's really important to keep in perspective that male, female, intersex, the child you are raising is a CHILD. A HUMAN CHILD. A HUMAN BEING. You are not raising an individual from another species that you can't relate to, that makes no sense to you, that is foreign to you in every way. You are not raising an intersex child. You are raising a child, a person, than happens to be intersex.

Another thing I didn't like is that Dr. Oz stated that many women, like those in Betty's position, might feel ashamed by their intersex children. I understand that shame is prevalent due to lack of awareness and understanding of intersex; I simply wondered why he singled out mothers. Would not fathers and other guardian types not be interested in these individuals' care?

Betty's thoughts and testimonials are really amazing, on several levels. She identifies these surgeries as unnecessary, and not just the surgeries, but the separation and isolation that goes along with it. She values that her child is physically healthy over the fact that he has atypical sex anatomy. She is proud to keep her child's genitals the way they are, specifically citing that "...he might change his mind in the future, and I'm just glad I haven't screwed anything up for him." I hope all intersex childrens' parents are as committed and loving as Betty's words indicate she is.

Lastly, Dr. Oz asks Betty if she knows any other parents of intersex children. "No, I don't, but I wish I did," she says, her eyes raising to the ceiling. IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR BOTH INTERSEX INDIVIDUALS, AND THEIR LOVED ONES, TO HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM. And this is something that is not NEARLY talked about enough among individuals who are intersexed, or have loved ones who are. This may mean other intersex individuals/parents to talk to, supportive family members or friends, or professionals that are experienced working with intersex issues. (Sadly, professional therapy is not always an option, depending on one's socio-economic status. Free or low-cost therapy may be available in certain areas. These would definitely be worth searching for if working with a professional is the right choice for you and/or your loved ones.) Betty states how she was uncomfortable talking about it, and how many people just don't want to talk about it "because it's a taboo subject." And she's totally right. This isn't a justification, but an accurate appraisal of the situation right now.

Perhaps the best quote of the whole piece is from Janet. "Who that child is, is in his brain." Every person has the right to define who they are, and what that means. If we could all just internalize that one lesson, then I think that we will have breached that first step in resolving innumerable issues, far beyond intersex alone.

The second-best quote? Perhaps also from Janet. "Your child is well-loved, and that is the best you can do for your child." Sex, gender identity, surgery options looming in the future. These are not things parents should have the right to make. The INDIVIDUAL alone should be allowed to make these choices. This is a great reminder that parents who may feel powerless and overwhelmed at the thought of "choosing" a sex, "choosing" a gender identity, choosing whether or not surgery should be performed....that these are not choices of theirs to make. And that NOT making these choices does not render them powerless. These parents are powerful in their love and support for their children, regardless of their sex, gender identities, or wishes to decline/pursue surgeries. Their children don't need them to choose these things. They just need love and support. That IS powerful parenting. Anything else is controlling and inappropriate.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this segment. No, it wasn't perfect. No, it wasn't totally accurate all the time. But I think that if more mainstream coverage of intersex looks like this - and increases in frequency - then some big steps will be made in the right direction, in generating awareness of intersex and activism to safeguard individuals' rights and health.

THIS is more what it should look like. Good job, Dr. Oz. :)

[Off-Topic Side Note: Has anyone else noticed that I have TONS of things I want to talk about in each post, that I reluctantly must defer to other posts in the future? *Sigh* There's just so much complexity to dissect and understand! AND IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO DO SO!]

Appreciation to my mother for alerting me to this segment. Thanks, Mom!

International Olympic Committee to Standardize How Intersex Games Athletes are "Dealt With"

Caster Semenya's shaming, globally sensationalism surrounding her biological sex has led the International Olymic Committee (IOC) to standardize how future competitors of "ambiguous gender" are treated. (Note that if the article has this wrong; this issue was not about gender, which an individual identifies as, and which may differ from one's biological sex. {It also isn't set in stone; my own gender identity often changes from minute-to-minute, a topic that will be the subject of future posts.} This entire issue was about biological sex.)

The brief article is interesting in that it implies a reactionary approach in a situation like Semenya's, in which an athelete is perhaps outed for or suspected of being intersex after having been accepted to the Games, or even after having competed. The article doesn't mention IOC's plans to "test" for intersex. (Meaning, that genetic tests would be performed, which would be quite ineffective for certain forms of intersex because intersex is about a lot more than what genitals and chromosomes you have....especially since external genitals and/or sex chromosomes possessed may be totally typical. See previous posts for more information.) So, if the IOC didn't start performing more genetic tests to catch some of those pesky intersex athletes wanting to compete, then how would one identify intersex individuals? It seems it would be terribly difficult to "deal with" a suspected intersex individual unless it involved whistle-blowing by Semenya's fellow competitors voicing complaints about her angular features and sizeable musculature. If the latter is the case, are future competitors going to be in the same situation as Semenya, caught wondering if their medals and right to compete might be taken away from them after all their hard work and sacrifice? It's unclear if this new plan will be employing any new methods other than witch-hunt-esque techniques. Is this really acceptable? (The answer is a resounding, "NO!")

I was equally alarmed after reading this quote by IOC Medical Commission Chairman, Arne Ljungqvist: “It’s highly unfortunate. These cases should be confidential. They are private matters and should not be displayed openly. The one who suffers is the person, and the person has done nothing wrong. This may be part of our discussion — how to avoid this type of public knowledge." (Emphasis added.)

To many, this boldfaced part might be applauded and championed. After all, who would like to see future athletes subjected to the freak-in-a-fishbowl treatment endured by Semenya? However, this aim is misguided. The ultimate goal shouldn't be to avoid telling the public that an individual is intersex. That should be a GIVEN. It isn't the public's damn business what genitalia, internal sex organs, hormone levels, secondary body hair distribution, chest/breast development, etc. an individual possesses.

The real goals should be to the following:



TO EDUCATE INDIVIDUALS ABOUT WHAT INTERSEX IS. (This humans-can-be-hermaphrodites thing has been soldiered on for way too long.)


It's not going to be easy for the IOC to determine what standards they will employ, but the decisions they do make are going to be really important. Keep your eyes peeled for more in the coming weeks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lady Gaga Leaves out Intersex, Trans Individuals In National Equality March Speech

So, after the Lady Gaga debacle, turning her accidental skirt-hoist into a viral video incurring massive speculation about her sex and gender identities (predominantly intersex and transgender), one would think that Lady Gaga would be especially attuned to issues affecting intersex and trans individuals. This is apparently not so. I mean if she had time to call out Obama on not coferring equal rights to queer individuals, then surely she had time for a brief shout-out mentioning trans and intersex folk.

Although this last item doesn't have to do with intersex, I think it's important to say. First, the new channel covering the event incorrectly dubbed it the Gay Rights Rally. Second, Gaga herself, who identifies as bisexual, almost exclusively states that GAY individuals need equality, and that GAY peoples' demands won't be ignored any longer, and that she has "the most beautiful GAY fans in the world." Um, is the National Equality March really exclusively about GAYS?

No. The National Equality March is supposed to represent all individuals with sexual orientations falling outside heternormativity (= being straight). This includes lesbians (which can be umbrella-ed under "gay," fine), bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals, and many individuals whose sexuality doesn't have a nice, flashy little term associated with it (i.e., it's not in the books, but that's worlds different from saying that it doesn't exist!). Since the transgender and intersex identities often overlap with queer ones, it would not have been inappropriate at all to mention that their equal rights should ALSO be met, and furthermore, that awareness of these peoples' existence should be championed. This last one is no trivial issue; I can't articulate how many individuals don't know that transgender or intersex people EXIST, let alone what they mean - non-celebrities and celebrities alike. For an example, check out this awfulness vomited out by Kathy Griffin and Larry King from June 6th of this year:

There are so many things wrong with this interview. Just to put it in context here's a play-by-play of the entire sequence, from 8:05 to 9:23 of the video:

* Moments before, Griffin brags about how ratings are highest on her show, Life on the D List.
* Proceeds to talk in a morbidly fascinated way about Chaz, a transgender celebrity, as King seems unabashedly befuddled. Nice.
* Griffin states that she's a strong supporter of the LGBTQI community. King proceeds to ask her what that is, and Griffin names what the letters denote. (Interesting, she includes the "I," which many do not, and also identifies the "Q" as questioning, when others identify it as "queer" in general.)
* Griffin states that the "I" stands for intersex, where this little gem unfolds (8:51 to 9:01):

Griffin: And then the other one is called intersex.
King: What’s that?
Griffin: I don’t know. I was hoping you would. I think maybe the Jonas Brothers might know.
King: (profoundly puzzled) Intersex.
Griffin: I- I- you know what, I support them, whatever they are. (Emphasis added.)

* Griffin goes back to Chaz, stating she doesn't know what to call him, so "[she's] just treating her like Pat from Saturday Night Live...I'm just calling her Chaz." Griffin has called Chaz "her" for the entire interview. Why is it difficult to call Chaz by the pronouns he prefers outside of this interview? And if she really has a problem doing this, it's curious how easily she jumps this hurdle on national television. Another thing worth considering: how might Chaz feel watching this interview on national television?
* King remarks that having a "neutral" name like Chaz is great "...for this." For this what, Larry King? "This," meaning the fact that Chaz is transgender? Surely this fact isn't so upsetting to you that you can't verbally articulate yourself on air. Right?
* Griffin starts a pissing contest with King as though that whole fucked up conversation never happened, asking how many Emmy's he's won. He says one, and she gleefully counters she's won two. (Oh, joy of joys, readers! They're disricminatory for sure, but at least they're fancy, EMMY-WINNING discriminators!) Ugh.

So, let's review the evidence.

* Griffin is a great LGBTQI supporter and doesn't know what intersex is. Riiiiiiight.
* Griffin incorrectly thought that King would know what this meant, perhaps thinking mainstream awareness of intersex is really common. As you know , it's not.
* Why might the Jonas Brothers know about intersex? Clearly this is a jab in stating that they're not heterosexual, but what isn't clear is why she thinks they might be intersex. We can safely chalk this one up to not having her facts straight. It is also unclear why the Jonas Brothers' sex, gender, or sexual orientation would be any of Kathy Griffin's business, and why these might be news-and-gossip worthy.
* Intersex is apparently something to puzzle over as though it's a great mystery of life, instead of looking it up on Google and educating oneself. (Larry King, I'm looking at you!)
* WHATEVER they are is a much different statement than WHOEVER they are. Kathy's use of "whatever" in this context de-humanizes intersex individuals, and reduces them once again into the realms of the freaky, fetishized, shameful others that they are. ("And thank the gods I'm not one of them!" Right?) That's absolutely unacceptable, Kathy Griffin. Intersex indivuals and their allies aren't on Larry King Live to refute your inane and discriminatory views; in light of that, don't strip them of their human dignity, too. A public apology would not be uncalled for.

So, quite a long aside, but a worthwhile one, I think. Intersex people haven't been featured much in the news or the media at large, although there have been several Oprah episodes devoted to intersex individuals, several documentaries, and intersex individuals' use as a major plot device in single episodes in medical drama like ER and House. (And not flattering or necessarily biologically accurate portrayals, either. Clinicians helping write for medical shows should know better, but this is a subject for future posts.)

In light of the lack of intersex and transgender visibility, it would've been nice to mention these individuals into Lady Gaga's speech at the National Equality March. The real question is, were these individuals simply not on Gaga's mind, or was she purposefully trying to distance herself from them given the recent media onslaught (othering herself from "them," once again)? It's just not clear.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Was Your 6th Annual Intersex Awareness Day?

Yesterday was Intersex Awareness Day. I'm not going to pretend my quippy title underlies a fierce pride of my own annual celebration of IAD...

...because I didn't know it existed until today. I learned this from Queers United post, which has some history, pamplets-for-print, and intersex articles. Good job, QU!

I think that this fact says VOLUMES about how intersex indivudals are often stigmatized to the point that they don't seek out community, or try to educate themselves about intersex. There are so many things I still have yet to learn about intersex history, health issues, and activism going on today...and a lot of that has to do with the shaming of individuals that don't fit sex and gender binaries. (Fuck that.) On that note, I guess I shouldn't be shocked that IAD wasn't locally or nationally covered, as far as I know, although it should be. How about some positive visibility, Mainstream?

Well, you can bet your butts that I'll be ready for the 7th Annual IAD. Local activist centers, here I come!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Map of Human Fetishiz- I Mean, Sexuality.

So, apparently this has been around for a while, but I just became aware of its existence. Check it out for yourselves:

This creation, by Franklin Veaux, is called "A Map of the Lands of Human Sexuality." While certainly creative and pretty extensive in topic areas covered (although not necessarily within each topic, given in part to space constraints, I'm sure), I couldn't help but notice that "Sex With Hermaphrodites" is specifically included in the "Gender and Orientation Identity" portion of the map. Now, sophisticated and non-discriminatory readers that you are, you understand why the use of "hermaphrodite" is not only biologically incorrect, but is also both highly offensive and way outdated. (He might as well have added, "Nardly!" afterward, for crying out loud.) He's also got "Shemales" listed up there - a term I have a particularly poisonous hatred for, along with "shim" and other such lovelies.

Equally disturbing is his placement of these apparently shocking individuals in his map. ("Oh, no! Not a 'hermaphrodite'! Quick, come before 'it' fertilizes itself!") He partitions the Land's "mainland" into four regions, respectively separated from one another by mountain ranges. These areas are clearly delineated based on Veaux's perceived perversity ascribed to various sexual acts. For example, "Fully Clothed Sex" is separated from "Naughty Nurse Play" by The Lesser Barrier Mountains, which is separated from "Flesh Hooks" by The Greater Barrier Mountains, which is separated from "Necrophilia" by the Impassable Reaches.

Now, "SWH" is located verrrrrrry close to The Impassable Reaches, though not quite crossing. That's right - having sex with a human being that doesn't fall within the popular, narrow view of sexuality is more kinky and perverse than being a "Human Ashtray," engaging in "Anal Fisting," or getting into "Speculums" in a big way. (Well, technically they'd get into - ...never mind.)

The objective of this post isn't to shame anyone's sexual preferences. Whatever you like is fine by me. I just resent the fetishization of intersex individuals, thereby making sex with them something forbidden, to hide and conceal. We're PEOPLE. Even more reprehensibly, Veaux draws transsexual individuals into this game, too. UGH

In sum, this thing gets a big boo all around. Maybe next time, Veaux should make a map to help him pull his head out of his ass instead instead of trying to map humor onto plain ol', played-out discrimination. So uncreative. (Plus side? If he does make that map, he likely knows about lube, which would help him in that endeavor. Fun!)

Caster Semenya Cast Away to Olympic Sex and Gender Police

Just when you think we’ve had enough intersex controversy after the Lady Gaga exploitation… It appears targeting popstars isn’t enough. Now we’re moving on to Olympic athletes.

I understand that this is now “old news”…which is part of the reason I want to talk about it now. I resisted covering this story during the height of the media craze to see how things might’ve played out before posting, but in the last few weeks, it seems to have died and fizzled.

Here’s another reminder that even if the media craze over Semenya is over, this experience is very likely not over for Semenya herself. Monday morning’s morbid curiosity will be played-out and boring by Friday afternoon, but I can’t imagine that Semenya will not think about (and react strongly to) her Games experiences for every Monday, Friday – and every other day of the week – for years and decades and quarter-centuries to come. That’s a pretty weighty thing to behold.

A brief recap for those who may not have followed the news hype: The sex of Caster Semenya from South Africa, the track-and-field Olympian, was called into question after she apparently shaved ample time off her training record within a few short months. After blasting the competition and breaking the former world record, the IAAF (governing body for the Games rules) publicly called her gender into question. Their stated rationale was that a runner could not have improved so quickly in such a short amount of time. They somehow found it most logical that the reason must be that Semenya’s not REALLY a woman. (I was interested that if they suspected something, they didn’t jump to drug testing, much more prevalent in Olympic history than intersexed individuals competing.) Semenya underwent a battery of extensive tests – gynecological, endocrine, psychological, histological (of internal tissue samples, apparently, to determine whether testicular tissue was present) to determine her sex. Early test results indicated heightened testosterone levels; later results showed that Semenya possessed undescended testes. (Although, ignore the title and inaccurate mention of Semenya as a "hermaphrodite" in that last link. Ugh.) It is unclear whether the IAAF will revoke Semenya’s medal, or whether she will be allowed to compete in future Games.

There are many, MANY troubling aspects to this entire ordeal – some which have been openly criticized, others which have not come to much public light. If the IAAF felt it was necessary for Semenya to undergo testing, they should most definitely not have made their sensationalist announcement publicly; this should have been done quietly and privately, and with Semenya’s consent. Instead, they shocked the world by outing her as a potential freak of a human – but who could be more shocked than Semenya, hearing this news fresh along with the rest of the globe? I cannot imagine how stigmatizing and hurtful this must have been for her, and am appalled that IAAF felt that their press release was appropriate. They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. (Although it’s telling that, nearly two months later, they have not apologized to Semenya.)

Speaking of consent, it was also sham-consent that Semenya proffered in the chances of keeping her Olympic gold. Technically, her name was signed to a bunch of medical forms and IAAF statements, I’m sure, but her alternatives were “Undergo invasive testing after a highly public, global scandal” or “Lose the epitome of everything I’ve worked hard for.” Her hands were tied; she couldn’t truly consent. Way to go, IAAF.

Additionally, WHY did IAAF feel it was “necessary” for Semenya to undergo testing in the first place? What could have spurred them to believe that Semenya’s gender identity did not match up with her sex? (Many intersex individuals would beat me senseless at this point for phrasing that last sentence the way I did; I assure you this will be the subject of future posts.) Well, apparently her fellow competitors accused her of "being a man" because of her appearance and prowess on the field. Because the IAAF fell trap to narrow, stereotypic views of what a female should look like and what she can accomplish, they took these accusations seriously and investigated Semenya with no just cause other than some unsportsmanlike belly-aching. Simply, IAAF felt her angular jaw and curtailed finish-time were proof enough that Semenya couldn’t be a woman. A woman couldn’t possibly fall so far outside a Western ideal of beauty. (Never mind that she’s South African. Don’t consider that perhaps global beauty standards aren’t toe-in-line with Western standards. What a silly notion!) A woman couldn’t possibly improve so much without some sort of a “boost.” (It is unclear how a vast improvement might be interpreted if this track-and-field event was a men’s event; would Semenya have endured the same criticism? That a man couldn’t possibly improve so much so quickly? Or, in reverse: Would a man whose performance had decreased rapidly over a few months be accused of not being a man? Would the IAAF have publicly announced that the man wasn’t simply a slacker, a victim of health problems, etc., but was perhaps a woman?) If Semenya had conformed to Western beauty standards, even with her drastic performance increase, I am unsure the IAAF would have placed the question mark (or perhaps, more fittingly, a scarlet “I” in their exploitation of intersex) next to Semenya’s name.

Drawing parallels to the Lady Gaga debacle, there has been huge confusion in this case as Semenya having “come out” as interesex in the end, after all. Semenya has NOT “come out.” Coming out is an intentioned choice, one that should be authentic to your desires and an empowering (though often, simultaneously terrifying) act. Semenya has been publicly EXPLOITED – a far cry from said coming out. Additionally, a subtly different flavor of exploitation has been taken on in Semenya’s case, versus Lady Gaga’s, because it was assumed by the media that Lady Gaga deliberately chose to keep private that she was intersex, transgender, the big marshmallow man at the end of Ghostbusters, or whatever else they tried to ascribe to her on scant “evidence.” That, of course, led to the hunt to find evidence confirming the deep, dark (and apparently, shameful) truth about Lady Gaga’s sex and gender. The difference in Semenya’s case is that Semenya herself, and those closest to her, have maintained before and after the test results came out that Semenya is a woman, and therefore she wasn’t “hiding” anything, taking the exploitation bit to a whole new level. Athletics South African president Leonard Cheune also strongly supported Semenya: “I will continue to defend the girl, I will continue to do anything, even if I am to be kicked out of Berlin, Germany, but I am not going to let that girl be humiliated in the manner that she was humiliated because she has not committed a crime whatsoever. Her crime was to be born the way she is born.” (Emphasis added.) Absolutely heartbreaking quotes include her father, Jacob’s: “She is my little girl. I raised her and I have never doubted her gender. She is a woman and I can repeat that a million times.”

Jacob’s use of the word “gender” and not “sex,” I think, perfectly encapsulates another very important aspect of this problem. The IAAF wanted clarification on Semenya’s sex, not her gender. Semenya’s gender was known all along – by Semenya herself. I couldn’t find any IAAF contentions with Semenya’s gender identity, only with her sex. Even though they didn’t question her sex outright before she competed, even though her increased performance was known beforehand? I doubt the IAAF realized the repercussions forcing individuals to submit to tests for sex could potentially have on their gender identities. Having your world rocked by gender dysphoria is not fun, from my own experiences. And really – was it okay for the IAAF to question Semenya’s sex AFTER-THE-FACT, after her medal was won? Especially based on tenuous observations? The whole ordeal is a disgusting mess.

I think it’s fantastic that Semenya, post-testing, is unwilling to let her medical examiners, the IAAF, or anyone else tell her what her gender identity is – something only she can know and assert. “God made me the way I am, and I accept myself. I am who I am and I’m proud of myself.” (Emphasis mine.) On the flip side, it’s not duty to defend her gender to the world. That’s her business, and that shouldn’t be questioned, or need to be defended. It’s a sad commentary on her experience that she was (directly or indirectly) spurred to do this. Again, ugh.

And that isn’t all. The You magazine photo-shoot response after the test results made me see red. I was like, “First Semenya has to defend herself as woman to the IAAF, and now she has to prove it by getting all gussied up in stereotypical Western female attire? Are you fucking kidding me?!” But Semenya isn’t buying into the bull. “I didn’t do this to prove a point, but rather to have fun…I don’t give a damn what people say about me.” Caster Semenya is a total badass.

In closing thoughts, Semenya isn’t the first intersex Olympian to have competed in the Games, nor will she be the last. Depending, IAAF officials don’t have any problems giving individuals with certain forms of intersex the a-okay. Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS), for example, is characterized in part by the fact that CAIS individuals don't use the testosterone their bodies make. The little molecular hands that should grab onto the testosterone couldn’t do it, and so I developed hyper-feminine features, although sans uterus, ovaries, etc. (See two blog posts back for more information!) If I actually had the athletic talent (I don’t), I would have been able to compete in the Games without the harassment and sensationalization incurred by Semenya. In fact, several intersex individuals competed in Atlanta. So, while some intersex individuals may compete in future games (WITHOUT having their sex and gender identities aired publicly, and without consent), is it possible that a situation like Semenya’s may be endured by future athletes, whose dreams include only Olympic gold and not a search for their potentially hidden gonads? Will they lose their medals? Will Semenya? More importantly, what other costs might they bear in undergoing such a trial? I’m not sure what to expect for future intersex competitors, but I’m unconvinced the IAAF received enough flack to prevent this from happening again. (Awesomely notable exception: The Irish Times. Flutter.)

We'll just have to wait and see in the aftermath.