How hard is it to know if an elite athlete is a woman? (Read 2187 times)

    Caster Semenya during the SA High Schools Athletic Championships in rustenburg South Africa

     

    I did see that celebrity race.  It was awesome.  If I am correct Nicole Kidman (639) was outkicked by Magic Johnson (730).

    In an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion

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    What a fantastic time!

       We'd probably be surprised at the number born with ambiguous genitalia, or with extra genitatlia. 

       

      DRs make decisions based on what they think is best and usually perform surgery to align the "SEX" (male or female) with what they perceive the gender of the child will be.   However the sex and gender don't always lign up.  Then there are cases that the DRs don't even know about, where the extra genitalia aren't obvious (not exposed) and begin developing or causing problems later in life.  I have a female friend that this happened to and she was a teenager before they even became aware of the extras she had inside.  Ends up, that she was producing lots of testosterone (her body was reaching puberty) and she said she required surgery to remove the extra bits that she had. 

       

      So first, sex and Gender should not necessarily be thrown in together, (look at former Chastity Bono).

       

      As for me, I have no problem with them testing her to make sure she's not a cheat, but what will they do if she has an extra chromosome, or does or did have ambiguous genitalia, or is naturally producing extra testosterone, then what?  What if she was a he and became a she?

       

      Gail

       Okay, so now they have concluded that she has the extras I mentioned.  Now what?  Is she just like my friend that never knew?  Did her parents know and never tell her?  Such tough decissions now both professionally (although they may take away her choice) and physically. 

       

      INCG


      What a fantastic time!

         

        Yep, cancer is tragic.  Organ failure is tragic.  This is a person who is otherwise in exceptional health and with emotional counseling will likely go on to have a pretty regular life.  Seems to me like the world (sporting and otherwise) is pretty supportive of this person, which is far more than a lot of people in similar situations could claim.  

         


        I'm sure a lot of questions she has had about her development and physiology will be answered, too.  I doubt that she is completely oblivious to how different she is from other females.  She's an adult and it sounds like she has never had normal female reproductive development.  An 18 year old who has never had a period and doesn't look like her peers can't possibly not have had questions about her physical exterior (and interior) for many years.

         

        So Kirsten, if you looked in the mirror everyday and had boobs (even if they are small) and a vaginia, would you question your gender? 

         

        Remember, she has grown up in a diferent world than we have and probably hasn't had the medical care or access to the world of what's normal (I hate that word, but will use it).  Anotherwards, she may have been too niave to suspect anything was out of the norm. 

         

        Sometimes in these situations, they'll also find a little extra under the hood which tells a tale, but often, Drs remove this at birth and no one knows. 

         

        Gail

        INCG


        Needs more cowbell!

           

          So Kirsten, if you looked in the mirror everyday and had boobs (even if they are small) and a vaginia, would you question your gender? 

           

          Remember, she has grown up in a diferent world than we have and probably hasn't had the medical care or access to the world of what's normal (I hate that word, but will use it).  Anotherwards, she may have been too niave to suspect anything was out of the norm. 

           

          Sometimes in these situations, they'll also find a little extra under the hood which tells a tale, but often, Drs remove this at birth and no one knows. 

           

          Gail

           

          The only problem with this assertion is this.  She is 18.  By now her peers are possibly having babies...and all would have had ~5 years of menstrual cycles.  She cannot have had any without a uterus.  This coupled with the fact that her exterior (aside from a vagina--assuming that region looks entirely female) looks almost entirely male...well, to assume that she has never once questioned her gender is to assume that because she is not of "Western" society that she must be completely ignorant.  I don't think that's giving her the credit of being a critical person with any level of intelligence or knowledge of the human body. 


          Is anyone really so naive in any culture that they wouldn't look at themselves vs. their peers and start wondering why they look so different and why they resemble members of the opposite gender more than their own?  No matter how uneducated and innocent she may be, she has to know that menstrual cycles are normal events for women beyond the age of puberty...if not from schooling, then from the experiences of her female peers.  I have a hard time believing that the results of the tests she's undergone are giving her knowledge that she hasn't already questioned herself, even if she never discussed it with anyone.  Even teenagers who are completely "normal" in every way tend to obsess over every little physical aspect of their bodies that sets them apart from their friends.

          I shoot pretty things! ~

          '14 Goals:

          • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

          • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


          straw man

            OK. Now this thread sucks.

            He who has the best time wins. Jerry

            GST


              As I mentioned above, it's pretty common for women athletes at elite levels so young to NEVER have periods or have seriously delayed periods... due to extremely low body fat levels.  I guarantee you she's far from the only 18 year old runner not to have a period.  She's not 30 or something.

              Not being in Western society she might not have had standard ob/gyn visits. 

               

               

              And it's not fair to say, well, shouldn't she think she looked differently? Even if she thought she did, even if she thought she was unattractive, why would that make her think that she's a man when her genitalia is female? I would not. 

               

               

              The only problem with this assertion is this.  She is 18.  By now her peers are possibly having babies...and all would have had ~5 years of menstrual cycles.  She cannot have had any without a uterus.  This coupled with the fact that her exterior (aside from a vagina--assuming that region looks entirely female) looks almost entirely male...well, to assume that she has never once questioned her gender is to assume that because she is not of "Western" society that she must be completely ignorant.  I don't think that's giving her the credit of being a critical person with any level of intelligence or knowledge of the human body. 


              Is anyone really so naive in any culture that they wouldn't look at themselves vs. their peers and start wondering why they look so different and why they resemble members of the opposite gender more than their own?  No matter how uneducated and innocent she may be, she has to know that menstrual cycles are normal events for women beyond the age of puberty...if not from schooling, then from the experiences of her female peers.  I have a hard time believing that the results of the tests she's undergone are giving her knowledge that she hasn't already questioned herself, even if she never discussed it with anyone.  Even teenagers who are completely "normal" in every way tend to obsess over every little physical aspect of their bodies that sets them apart from their friends.

               


              Needs more cowbell!

                Even if we assume she was raised in a very remote area lacking in "civilized" accoutrements and regular OB/gyn visits...the thing with these sorts of communities is that gender division is particularly intense.  She would have been spending most of her time with other females.  And in many of these cultures menstruation is a BIG deal and in some cases the event that marks ceremony and a woman's availability for marriage.  A woman who has not menstruated half a decade after the typical age would not have gone unnoticed in a lot of communities.  Perhaps she is the exception, but I'm not sure why we are so quick to assume so.


                We also don't know just how long she has been training at the elite level.  There seems to be a lot of assumption that because she has not had a history (so we assume) of regular doctor visits that there could not have been any question re: her gender, which assumes that only an internal exam would cause a person to question abnormal development.


                /Devil's Advocate


                Regardless, I certainly find the situation to be a pretty crushing one for a young adult...whether she had any questions about her gender or not.  It's possible she will end up in that spot between the proverbial rock and a hard place in terms of her ability to compete...but would her abilities make her competitive against men?  I'm guessing not.

                I shoot pretty things! ~

                '14 Goals:

                • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


                What a fantastic time!

                  It's very probable, that her family and Drs (let's assume she did have adequate medical care) knew and never told her and made up lies about it. 

                   

                  Gail 

                  INCG


                  Needs more cowbell!

                    It's very probable, that her family and Drs (let's assume she did have adequate medical care) knew and never told her and made up lies about it. 

                     

                    Gail 

                     

                    This is kind of what I am getting at.  I have a hard time believing that NO ONE ever questioned things given her external build and the lack of periods.  I think that assumes that only Western medicine and education would detect abnormalities and that everyone else on the globe is ignorant and/or naive.

                    I shoot pretty things! ~

                    '14 Goals:

                    • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                    • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


                    A Saucy Wench

                      I disagree K.  I think most people even in this culture are not going to think "hmmmm maybe I am a hermaphrodite".  It just isnt common enough to come to mind EVEN if you are a teenager who is thinking "why do I look so different"  My guess is at most she would have thought "why am I ugly" which is pretty common among teenage girls.  Even in this country most girls dont have OB/gyn exams until they become sexually active.

                       

                       

                      you know that typing thing where the letters are rearranged?  You see what you expect to see.  Very few people will look at hoof prints in colorado and think "zebra"

                       

                       

                      MTbecause my kid interrupted me before I was done: 

                       

                      I could see a teenage girl being concerned about the lack of menses but being told "oh, well, you are an athlete with low body fat so that isn't unusual"  by a family doctor.  Hell, I've been told stupid things by my doctors.  I am rather skeptical that once she started competing at the elite level she did not have a thorough physical.  Since the findings were visible not just glandular, it would seem unusual that it was not found sooner. 

                       

                      But again, not being familiar with the culture perhaps not.  Over here we are aware of the long term health risks of ammenorhea so even if we thought it was the cause of delayed menses we would be likely to pursue a full exam.  Other cultures..who knows.  It really is a matter of how taboo the subject is.  After all, in this country there are STILL girls who reach puberty and have first menses and have no idea what it is and think they are dying.

                      I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

                       

                      "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7


                      Needs more cowbell!

                        But again, not being familiar with the culture perhaps not.  Over here we are aware of the long term health risks of ammenorhea so even if we thought it was the cause of delayed menses we would be likely to pursue a full exam.  Other cultures..who knows.  It really is a matter of how taboo the subject is.  After all, in this country there are STILL girls who reach puberty and have first menses and have no idea what it is and think they are dying.

                         

                        That's the thing...in a lot of indigenous African culture first menses is a VERY big, positive deal and not a taboo thing.  First menstruation is a celebratory event for some groups (I believe this is the case with the Masaai...a group that has gifted the world with some amazing runners).  It's treated quite differently than what we are used to in Western societies where it can be a source of embarrassment for girls.  I'm guessing that lack of menstruation would raise questions in some societies where it is an occurrence that is publicly documented and acknowledged.


                        Do we know where she was raised...other than South Africa, which doesn't tell us much?  That might answer some questions and give a better understanding of the likelihood that the recent internal exam presented entirely new and shocking information to Semanaya and her family.

                        I shoot pretty things! ~

                        '14 Goals:

                        • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                        • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)


                        A Saucy Wench

                          and so? You think in an indigenous tribe (which is NOT most of S.A. by the way ) a girl doesnt get menses and there is ANY thought "oh maybe I am not a girl?"  Please.   Yes, she may have noticed she was different.  Yes she may have been stressed and heartbroken at times about those differences, but I dont think most people ANYWHERE are going to jump to the conclusion that hermaphrodism is a possibility.   A teenage girl who is stronger, less curvy, more athletic....hmmmm well maybe I will channel my frustrations into my sport where my differences make me BETTER. 

                           

                          And consider this.  If you are a teenage girl in a culture where it is celebrated as a rite of passage and all your friends are leaving you behind would you not perhaps want to keep your difference a secret and not tell anyone?  It isnt that hard to fake, not to "cheat" but to fit in.

                           

                           

                          The question is really only a matter of whether or not she had not just adequate, but fairly thorough medical care. 


                          I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets

                           

                          "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

                            Do we know where she was raised...other than South Africa, which doesn't tell us much?  That might answer some questions and give a better understanding of the likelihood that the recent internal exam presented entirely new and shocking information to Semanaya and her family.

                             

                            Who is "we" here?  You've speculated  several times about what "we" collectively don't know or can or cannot assume but you haven't mentioned exactly who "we" is.

                             

                            And the questions you seem to be raising are, aside from being admittedly ignorant, not the relevant ones.  The only ones that matter from an eligibility perspective are whether she does or can in the future meet the criteria compete as a woman.  Based on the information presented in the Mike Hurst article and the analysis I've read by Ross Tucker, it's not clear at all that she will be disqualified and even if so it's not clear that she will not be allowed to compete in the future if she undergoes treatment.

                             

                            What most people who have any knowledge whatsoever of this case (which excludes nearly everyone in this thread) seem to agree on is that Semenya has been been a victim and that Athletics SA have utterly made a mess of the whole situation.

                            Runners run.


                            Needs more cowbell!

                               

                              And the questions you seem to be raising are, aside from being admittedly ignorant, not the relevant ones.  The only ones that matter from an eligibility perspective are whether she does or can in the future meet the criteria compete as a woman.  Based on the information presented in the Mike Hurst article and the analysis I've read by Ross Tucker, it's not clear at all that she will be disqualified and even if so it's not clear that she will not be allowed to compete in the future if she undergoes treatment.

                               

                              What most people who have any knowledge whatsoever of this case (which excludes nearly everyone in this thread) seem to agree on is that Semenya has been been a victim and that Athletics SA have utterly made a mess of the whole situation.

                               

                              Can you link me to the Mike Hurst article?


                              From what Ross Tucker is saying it does appear that there was earlier question re: her sex and ASA did only rudimentary external examination...which does mesh with what I am suggesting--that questions of her sex are not coming completely out of left field or just in recent weeks.  I couldn't agree more that they dropped the ball a long while back and that she is the one who is being punished for their lack of foresight and thorough investigation...beyond a simple external gynecological exam.  I'd like to see her able to continue competing, too.  She's been put in a godawful position by the ASA and if there is a way for her to be able to compete further as a female and without question, then all avenues for her to do this should be explored.

                              I shoot pretty things! ~

                              '14 Goals:

                              • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                              • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)