Caster Semenya: Let the Girl Run…and Be

This is one of those moments where I profoundly loathe Rupert Murdoch and his Aussie tabloids. They are constantly trying to find fault in blacks and people of color and sexuality. I wonder how much they paid the turncoat who provided them proof of Semenya’s gender: that she is a hermaphrodite, meaning that she is physically female, but possesses male testes in her body. Somebody really needed to win a bet.

From HuffPo:

South African Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile expressed horror at the handling of the affair and insisted Caster is female.

“We think her human rights have been violated and her privacy invaded,” Stofile said, adding that Semenya should be given legal advice and counseling.

Semenya dropped out of sight Friday. The South African Press Association quoted her coach, Michael Seme, as saying she would not take part in a 4,000-meter race at the South African Cross Country Championships in Pretoria on Saturday because she was “not feeling well.” Seme had said earlier in the week that she would run.

In one of my first articles for this blog, I outlined the story of an outfront lesbian and gay activist, Eudy Simelane, who had been raped and done to death in South Africa, simply for being lesbian, with a “butch” appearance, and thus was unavailable to men. Simelane’s rape was what many call, “corrective rape” to “cure” her of lesbianism and to punish her for her refusal to submit to feminine norms.

Unfortunately, the president of South Africa himself, the Zulu Jacob Zuma, was acquitted of rape charges before his election in a highly controversial case in which he claimed thereafter that his clan culture proscribed him to rape. Now this.

At the same time that South Africans compare Caster Semenya’s treatment in the media to the Hottentot Venus, Saartjie Baartman, the men who raped and murdered Simelane have finally been brought to trial this week. In death, will Simelane finally obtain justice? Black women in South Africa who do not conform to feminine norms face shunning, physical injury, rape and death. This situation is not going to change overnight.

South Africa is progressive on paper only. The reality is far more onerous than people imagine. Women have the vote and have access to employment and education, but politically and domestically, they are still second-class citizens, especially within the African National Congress (ANC). The same can be said for gays; there is gay marriage in South Africa, but black gays are harassed to the point of death.

Many have pointed out that Caster’s father has been the most supportive of his daughter and that he has never tried to push her into a traditional gender role.

Dean Peacock, co-director of the Sonke Gender Justice Project, says: “Her parents have been very supportive. It doesn’t conform to the particular stereotype of rural families in Limpopo. I think Caster Semenya’s father is the unsung hero of this story. He belongs to a traditional church in a small village but leapt to her defence and has never tried to force her into a particular gender role.”

How far is Caster’s family and her countrypeople truly willing to go in response to the leaked test results and to the IAAF’s official determination which won’t come until November? And how will people’s minds be changed by the existence of people like Caster in their midst? They cannot just excuse her and not everyone else, like Eudy Simelane. Caster was already the target of whispers and gossip throughout her young life in a rural community of Limpopo Province. She was a girl who played football with boys, wore pants and refused to have boyfriends.

The Guardian was reporting that several groups were coming to the support of Caster Semenya and her family, as well as Winnie Mandela:

A group from Semenya’s home province, Limpopo, urged all participants in the controversy to consider the teenager’s feelings. The Limpopo Progressive Women’s Movement said: “We want to urge all role players in this sad saga to be more sensitive in how they handle it going forward. Stop the leaks, stop the double standards and stop hurting Caster and her family … How can we victimise a national hero like this?”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former president Nelson Mandela, joined the condemnation. “The poor innocent child is a victim of all this, and it is not of her making,” she told South Africa’s Star newspaper. “I do not understand how any sane person can blame this child for a biological problem which is not of her making.”

It’s not a ‘problem,’ Winnie. It’s how Caster was made. Nature didn’t make a mistake.

I can only guess what Caster Semenya is feeling at this moment. I’ve long forgotten how it is to be eighteen. I hope that the people around her will watch over her that she doesn’t harm herself. At the same time, I would hope that her countrypeople would allow themselves a window of understanding about what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel every day of their lives in a country that does not yet accept gender difference. This ain’t over yet.

~ by blksista on September 13, 2009.

One Response to “Caster Semenya: Let the Girl Run…and Be”

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