Caster Semenya, the “woman” runner who made waves years ago dusting female competition while appearing very male, is back in the news. The athlete has just written a new book, The Race to Be Myself; the problem is that most media reporting on Semenya either don’t know, or won’t say, what the runner’s physical “self” actually is.
Reporters may focus on Semenya’s “struggle” to compete — in 2019, rules took effect barring high-testosterone “female” athletes from running in certain events without suppressing their testosterone levels — as if the issue here is the allegedly unjust persecution of a minority. This leaves many observers with the impression that the runner is just another MUSS (Made-up Sexual Status, aka “transgender”) individual. But here’s what the media don’t relate:
Leaked results of medical tests performed years ago informed that while Semenya apparently has external female genitalia, the runner has no womb or ovaries; moreover, Semenya does have an XY (male) genotype, internal testes and, consequently, male-range testosterone levels.
Thus is it clear to me that Semenya is a male who underwent abnormal intrauterine sexual development. Years ago, such a person was typically called a hermaphrodite.
So when claiming womanhood, Semenya probably isn’t trying to fool others (though the runner is likely being self-delusive: i.e., rationalizing). The larger issue, however, is that the controversy surrounding the athlete reflects how our society is fooling itself.
Unlike MUSS individuals, who clearly have psychological/spiritual issues, a biological condition does explain Semenya’s woes. It’s called 5?-Reductase 2 deficiency (5?R2D), a genetically induced problem that causes abnormal development in the womb and during puberty. It’s extremely rare and afflicts only males — or, as the establishment puts it, children “genetically male.” The condition causes a lack of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is necessary for the proper development of external male genitalia before birth.
This results in either ambiguous genitalia: poorly developed male genitalia, or frequently, genitalia that appear female at birth. Semenya apparently occupied the last category.
This means the runner’s family perhaps had every reason to believe, prior to puberty, that their child was a girl (except that Semenya was likely a “tomboy” to end all tomboys). At puberty, however, male characteristics began appearing (e.g., a deepening voice).
Whatever Semenya’s family might’ve suspected at that point, maybe deep in their minds’ recesses, it likely wouldn’t be anything with which they’d come to terms. So even during Semenya’s adolescence, they would’ve had a strong emotional vested interest in believing the runner was “just a girl” (though a bit different). Semenya clearly had, and has, the same overriding desire.
Because such an abnormality is a cross to bear, Semenya deserves compassion. For this reason, while I will studiously refer to a MUSS individual with pronouns reflecting his actual sex, I won’t reference the runner with either male pronouns or Semenya’s preferred female ones; I’ll just write “CS.”
But while sympathy is warranted, what CS doesn’t deserve is to compete with women. Understand that the runner is profoundly masculine. How much so? Well, many years ago, before CS’s medical evaluation, I predicted that an examination would show what one ultimately did: that CS had internal testes.
No, it wasn’t precognition, but that CS was not merely a muscular woman. It wasn’t just that the runner had the physique and voice of a teen boy and no mammary glands, either; rather, CS also exhibited male facial structure, mannerisms and behavior. As an example, take a look at the following video, of CS setting a South African national women’s record, paying particular attention to the 0:09 through 0:21 segment.
And below is an interview from mere days ago, in which CS’s masculine nature is also clear.
Personality and mannerisms are significant because, in reality, psychological sex differences may be even greater than the physical ones. The most extreme tomboys (and I’ve seen more than a few) may be athletic; may when young play sports with the boys, look for frogs with the boys and even fight with the boys; but they’ll still in significant ways have female personalities. The loudness, boisterousness and playful mischievousness characterizing small lads will, perhaps invariably, be absent.
Now, one commenter under the second above video wrote, “It’s not caster’s [sic] fault that she’s like this.” No, it’s not — but it’s not society’s fault, either. Nor is it society’s obligation to completely overturn its social norms to accommodate the rarest of problems. In our gratuitous focus on individuals and “rights,” we often forget that the “many” comprises individuals, too — and that the “good of the many outweighs the good of the few.”
This error occurs partially because the plight of an individual, as in CS’s case, will often become a human-interest story that tugs on heartstrings, as people’s emotions are manipulated; in contrast, the “many” are often left as a faceless collective, or mass, and are lumped into “society.” It then appears a matter of societal discrimination, of the many bullying the one, of a “brave soul” batting an oppressive, ossified “system” — despite the system being wholly on the anomalous individual’s side.
Yet to illustrate how silly this is in CS’s case, just consider how different this story would’ve been had CS had been born with poorly developed male external genitalia, which CS’s 5?R2D disorder could just as easily have induced:
We wouldn’t even be talking about CS — no one would even have heard of the athlete.
Yet the difference would be just superficial. In fact, it’s reasonable to conclude that a male MUSS individual who has had sexual-distortion surgery (sex glands removed) has less of an athletic advantage. After all, CS still has those testosterone-producing male sexual organs.
This said, none of this would mean as much were the issue just a matter of women losing some sporting titles and medals. Athletics is, after all, frivolity. The deeper problem is that whether it’s a CS-type situation or the MUSS agenda, the propaganda warps people’s sense of reality — and most egregiously, that of children.
CS can embrace the illusion, as the athlete does, of being a “different kind of woman” if CS wants. I’ll treat the runner kindly, too, given the cross CS bears. But legitimate compassion never extends to the deep societal indulgence of illusion, and a legitimate individual “right” never includes the requirement that everyone else must lie.
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.