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Women’s sport should be a ghetto Caster Semenya isn't trying to game the system

Is it fair for Caster Semenya to race against other women? (Ian MacNicol/Getty)

Is it fair for Caster Semenya to race against other women? (Ian MacNicol/Getty)


November 6, 2023   5 mins

In the world of sport, there are few things more exciting than an underdog story. The scrappy boxer who punches above his weight; the last-minute victory; the team of ragtag misfits who win the day through sheer grit and determination. Underdogs make for good stories for the same reason they make for a good game: it feels like poetry when they win.

For a long time, the runner Caster Semenya made for a terrific and compelling true-life underdog. In a world that was increasingly cognisant of the oppressive interplay of race, gender and class, here was a woman, black and gender non-conforming — a 2009 New Yorker article described her as “breathtakingly butch” — battling against a racist, sexist system that wanted to keep her down. Her trajectory from an impoverished running club in rural South Africa to the winner’s podium at the Olympics was Hollywood movie material, and the repeated indignities she suffered at the hands of officials and fellow competitors who questioned her right to be there were an outrage: Semenya was dogged by rumours that she was a man in disguise, and was routinely required to prove her sex by submitting to humiliating inspections of her genitals. It all seemed like the work of a snivelling patriarchy conspiring to take down an exceptional woman.

But the truth was more complicated: Semenya is a woman — by her own definition, and in virtually every social context that matters — but she is also not exactly female. Testing eventually revealed her to be intersex, possessing an XY chromosomal makeup and a pair of internal, undescended testes, which among other advantages meant she could produce performance-enhancing testosterone at levels that an ordinary female could not.

Athletic governing bodies struggled to come up with a policy that would allow someone like Semenya to continue competing: when she declined to remove her internal testes, they required her to take drugs to suppress her testosterone production. The solution satisfied no one, including Semenya, who found hormone therapy intolerable. In an essay adapted from her new memoir, The Race to Be Myself, she writes: “If I had internal testicles or whatever they were saying I had, they were mine. I was healthy, I loved my body, and it had made me a champion. Why must I go and mutilate it to conform to someone else’s rules?”

In one sense, it is only fair that someone who moves through the world as a woman be allowed to compete alongside women. “I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now what the medical findings are,” Semenya writes. “I was born a girl and raised as a girl.” But socialisation is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to defining womanhood in sports; science matters, too. And the concept of protected classes in sport also stems from a desire to be fair. Women, disabled people, the very old or very young: all of them compete on playing fields that only admit people who share certain characteristics, which is to say, certain limitations. The boundaries around these fields have always been human-drawn and hence imperfect, but they are also necessary; the alternative, as the International Paralympic Committee notes, is “one-sided and predictable competition, in which the least impaired athlete always wins”.

Semenya, in her book, puts scare quotes around the words “protected class” as if to mock the idea that it could apply to women, but the argument doesn’t land — not least because her presence in women’s sports has more often than not given rise to exactly the sort of one-sided, predictable outcome the IPC works to avoid. Semenya mops the floor with her competitors, and the women who have raced against her have noted that it doesn’t feel like a fair fight. And while nobody likes to think that half the planet can be reasonably classified as impaired compared with the other half — that womanhood itself is something akin to disability — the truth is: the acceptance that women are weaker is the essential foundation of women’s sports. Men jump higher, run faster, kick and punch harder. And if women’s sport is a ghetto of sorts, it is a necessary one, not just for fairness or safety’s sake but for the sake of sport. Nobody wants a one-sided and predictable competition; we want drama and excitement. This is why we play sport, and why we watch other people doing it. We love to see them fight; we love a win against the odds.

There’s something viscerally distasteful about the inverse: somebody with too much strength clobbering someone who has too little. An able-bodied athlete dunking on a guy in a wheelchair; a grown man winning a sprint against a bunch of 8-year-olds. A ringer parachuted into an amateur competition. We watch in pursuit of the kind of fairness that makes for a good game.

This doesn’t mean that the line where an attribute becomes an unfair advantage is always easy to discern. Years ago, the Olympics governing body became embroiled in a debate over whether Oscar Pistorius’s bionic legs gave him an unfair advantage, leading to months of rigorous study that culminated in the following remarkable conclusion, published in The Journal of Applied Physiology: Pistorius, the scientists agreed, was “physiologically similar but mechanically dissimilar” to an athlete with normal human legs. (Pistorius was allowed to run.) But to the general public, fairness in sport is like obscenity as famously defined by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: we know it when we see it.

This is what makes Semenya’s case so complicated. The notion of her being some sort of cheater is flawed. When she balked at suppressing her hormone levels, it wasn’t because she wanted to win; it was because it felt like lying: “I wasn’t going to take on an identity that did not fit my soul because some doctors had taken my blood and images of my organs. I was not a hermaphrodite or anything other than a woman.”

In her memoir, Semenya is largely describing events from over a decade ago. But the book has been published into a world where a related, ongoing battle is raging, over the place of trans women in sports. These issues are not identical, of course: Semenya never imagined she was anything other than biologically female, while trans women are seeking admission to a category they know full well they were not born into. But both have been plagued by allegations that they’re trying to game the system, that they’re cheaters. Often, trans women are presented as just a bunch of grasping, avaricious men who’ve found the easiest possible pathway to a gold medal. When ESPN aired a special about trans swimmer Lia Thomas, her former competitor Riley Gaines slammed both the network and the athlete as complicit in the destruction of women’s sports: “Lia Thomas is not a brave, courageous woman who earned a national title. He is an arrogant, cheat who stole a national title from a hardworking, deserving woman.”

This knee-jerk demonisation has always seemed wrong to me — morally, but also logically. The humiliation, the opprobrium, the physical and mental burden of transitioning: all seem like a wildly disproportionate price to pay for the sake of a college swimming championship. Instead, what has always struck me about Thomas’s case is that elite swimming is one of the few arenas where the women celebrated are broad shouldered, long limbed, and tall. Perhaps swimming represents, to her, a chance to feel not just like a winner, but like she belongs.

This is the tragedy: that what is fair at the macro level is not fair, as in compassionate, to an individual person. Lia Thomas cannot fairly compete in the sporting category known as “women”, and arguably neither can Semenya, whose memoir presents this as an obscene attempt to deny her identity. No doubt it felt that way to her: to alter her body to compete with women would have amounted, in her mind, to a tacit admission that she wasn’t one.

And as long as women’s sports are seen as having the power to validate or invalidate one’s innate sense of self — for as long as we see the regulatory bodies as not just deciding who can compete as a woman, but who is one — this issue will remain intractable. The best hope is a future where the category of “woman” in sports is treated in much the same way as the IPC treats the category of “disabled”: “If an athlete is not eligible to compete in a sport, this does not question the presence of a genuine impairment,” the committee website assures readers. “It is a sport ruling.”

The truth, unfortunate but inevitable, is this: the most carefully drawn lines, the ones that need to not just include but protect, will always leave someone on the outside.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago

“The humiliation, the opprobrium, the physical and mental burden of transitioning: all seem like a wildly disproportionate price to pay for the sake of a college swimming championship.”
No. If you want to transition, then do so, but do not visit your male body on female competition.
If you are concerned about humiliation, then don’t get on the world stage.
And if Lea Thomas was concerned about humiliation and opprobrium, then he wouldn’t strut around the women’s changing room with an erect p*nis. And he certainly wouldn’t want to step onto a podium towering above the female swimmers, flaunting his wide shoulders – showing the world what a cheat he is.
And college swimming is elite – these women have spent their whole lives training and competing to make the grade in the hope that they can then further their dreams to represent their country.
And does the author honestly believe that Lia Thomas would stop swimming at college level? No, if allowed he would continue his cheating through all levels of the sport.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago

There is a lot of gobbldygook in this article. The term “intersex” does a lot of heavy lifting because it seems to create an image of a person who really is “between” sexes. This is simply untrue in this case, Semenya is male, with a developmental disorder that affected the development of normal male external genitalia and facial hair, but otherwise has a male body and went through a normal male puberty. Babies born with this disorder today in Europe or the UK, or I imagine a South African hospital, are recognized and raised as boys.
Some might also question self-identity as a woman, there is some reason to think the nature of the problem was understood by the time puberty hit or even before and Semenya was treated socially as a boy. Given that the sporting authorities carried out genetic testing before Semenya was competing internationally and understood what was going on, there are a lot of questions that could be asked about their motives.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

You may have more information than I do about Caster Semenya, but from what I’ve read, her case is not as clear-cut as you say. She seems to have a 46 XY disorder of sexual development (DSD) where she is genetically male but born with a vagina, c******s and vulva instead of a p***s, s*****m and testicles.
As I understand it, parents after consulting with doctors understandably often do choose to raise such genetically male infants as girls, sometimes with the internal testes surgically removed during infancy from the pelvis or abdomen where they remained undescended.
Cases of androgen insensitivity like that are rare, but they do happen. About 7 in 1,000 elite women athletes appear to have this condition, much higher than in the general population, so it can give an athletic advantage. From both appearance and performance, Caster Semenya clearly does have an advantage from her unusual biology, so I don’t think it unfair to ban her from running in elite women’s races.
On the other hand, saying that she is a male and implying that she and others cheated does seem a cheap shot with the evidence that has been made public. From all I’ve seen, this is a hard case, not the simple one you make it out to be.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

No you really haven’t understood this disorder. Or maybe it’s more that you don’t understand sex in mammals.
This disorder means there is a very specific insensitivity. The individual is male, with male internal organs. But during the development of external genitalia, they are formed incorrectly because the right chemical message isn’t received. SO the external genitalia looks more “female”. But that isn’t what makes a person male or female. The same lack of responsiveness to a specific component in testosterone means the individual doesn’t grow faical hair.
At puberty, the testicles begin to produce more testosterone and there is an otherwise normal male puberty. No breasts, no periods, but wider shoulder, sometimes growth that makes the genitals look more “male”, and the voice deepens. There are the same gains to strength, muscle mass, heart and lung capacity, and no widening of the hips which affects the gait of female runners. Some people with this condition are able to father children with medical intervention to extract sperm.
Years ago these kids were sometimes raised as girls, organizations for people with DSDs capaigned against this for years (and against the term intersex, btw) and it’s no longer considered good or even acceptable practice. A boy who has no p***s, whether due to developmental disorder, or some kind of accident, is not therefor a girl.
It’s also pretty clear that this was understood well before Semenya began to run competitively; playing only with boys (including swimming nude,), wearing the boys school uniform, and being excused from girls chores, and eventually dating girls in what is a very traditional and often homophobic culture were all part of the package, as outlined in the book itself.
Caster wins against elite women runners for exactly the same reason that thousands of high school boys every year break the women’s world record for fastest time.

Kayla Marx
Kayla Marx
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

The article didn’t mention that Caster Semenya is now married to a woman, and they have had a child. Caster Semenya is the biological father. I’m glad that the couple could have a child. But that should tell Semenya something about herself, even if she was raised as a girl. The same thing that made her able to father a child (her undescended testicles, which produce male gametes – and testosterone), also makes her capable of easily beating any biological woman. That her intersex condition has made her life difficult at some points, I don’t deny. But it’s nobody’s fault.
Lia Thomas is, at this point, just one of several men competing as women who have easily won titles. Instead of recognizing the essential unfairness of the contests where they have triumphed, they think they’re super heroes, destined for glory. This tunnel vision seems to me to require a certain amount of excess narcissism.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

There was a famous US Supreme Court Justice who used to say that “hard cases make for bad laws”. Learned Hand?

Robert Detlefsen
Robert Detlefsen
8 months ago

Leaned Hand never served as a Supreme Court Justice.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

You may have more information than I do about Caster Semenya, but from what I’ve read, her case is not as clear-cut as you say. She seems to have a 46 XY disorder of sexual development (DSD) where she is genetically male but born with the genitals of a girl rather than a boy.
As I understand it, parents after consulting with doctors understandably often do choose to raise such genetically male, genitalial female infants as girls. Sometimes the internal testes is surgically removed during infancy from the pelvis or abdomen where they remained undescended. Then nothing male is left.
There’s nothing gobbledygook about a baby born intersex. It’s very real, not just semantics. And it can be a tough, tough thing to deal with, at birth for the parents, and for the person when they grow up.
Cases of androgen insensitivity like that are rare, but they do happen. About 7 in 1,000 elite women athletes appear to have this condition, much higher than in the general population, so it can give an athletic advantage. From both appearance and performance, Caster Semenya clearly does have an advantage from her unusual biology, so I don’t think it unfair to ban her from running in elite women’s races.
On the other hand, saying that she is a male and implying that she and others cheated does seem a cheap shot with only the evidence that has been made public. From all I’ve seen, this is a hard case, not the simple one you make it out to be.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Thanks for your informed post. M. Jamieson is not informed.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

I had an acquaintance, also from South Africa, whose eldest son was born with ambiguous reproductive organs. He had XY chromosomes, looked and behaved like the boy he was, and was thus raised as a boy. However else? He was born in the late 80s and his parents decided that medical treatments for his very unusual condition would become sophisticated in the future.
Well, they have done, but they aren’t being used to treat this condition. They are instead being urged on mentally ill children by venal medical ghouls who like a lot of fashionable virtue points to make their lucrative medical mutilations seem like the Lord’s work.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
8 months ago

“Testing eventually revealed her to be intersex, possessing an XY chromosomal makeup and a pair of internal, undescended testes, which among other advantages meant she could produce performance-enhancing testosterone at levels that an ordinary female could not.“

Whilst we certainly can have sympathy for Caster Semenya’s predicament. Raised as female and believing themselves to be so, only go through the psychological trauma of later being told that not only is this not the case but that this also effectively ends a glittering sporting career must have been painful and humiliating. Yet it remains the case that any human born with XY chromosomes and undescended testicles is not female, they are a male with a developmental disorder.

That this was not detected till much later in his life must have been hugely upsetting but it does not change the fact, Caster Semenya is male and the author should say so.

Marc Ambler
Marc Ambler
8 months ago

The writer overlooks an important fact, Semenya is married to a woman with whom he fathered a child. But why let facts get in the way of an ideology.

He is the victim of an unfortunate but rare condition. That, together with his disadvantaged background make it understandable that he would seek an angle to make a mark in life. What cannot be fathomed are the intellectuals and athletics officials that pretend that a man can be a woman just because he decides or feels so.

Last edited 8 months ago by Marc Ambler
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Marc Ambler

If you can father a child without medical help you ar definitely male. Bur CS children apparently were conceived by artificial insemination, so that does not apply. No info on the source of the sperm, but does it really matter? Near as I can see there is no practical difference between CS and any other lesbian whose partner gets a child by medical technology.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  Marc Ambler

He, Caster Semenya, has fathered two children now

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago
Reply to  Marc Ambler

I don’t think anyone knows if they are related biologically or used donor sperm.

Kayla Marx
Kayla Marx
8 months ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

The sperm was harvested from Semenya’s testicles. She’s the father.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago
Reply to  Kayla Marx

What are you basing that on?

Evan Heneghan
Evan Heneghan
8 months ago

Riley Gaines, what a legend. Kat Rosenfield, what a limp-wristed article. Pretending you think men like ‘Lia Thomas’ are really women does nothing to protect the real women you claim to represent as a feminist. Don’t leave all the heavy lifting to the Riley Gaineses of this world. At least we agree men shouldn’t be in women’s sports, that’s progress I guess.

Sacha C
Sacha C
8 months ago

Someone with XY chromosomes, testes and elevated testosterone should not be able to compete as a woman, it’s really very obvious, when sport is based on biology and physicality. It’s a very difficult situation for the athlete, as it is for any individual who discovers they have this condition.
This does not mean that other women need to suffer as a result, and just move over (down the podium) and shut up.
I’m sorry they have hidden testicles, but their secret testicles should NOT be allowed to damage other women’s careers.

Would you be happy if your whole career and future was negatively impacted because someone didn’t know they had testicles???
NO. Be fair, be kind, to all the women who dedicate their lives to sport.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  Sacha C

It’s a bit like racing in the Tour de France and discovering the cyclist in front of you has a hidden battery and electric motor.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 months ago

Hard cases make bad law, but unlike Caster’s, Thomas’s case is an easy one: he is not a woman by any objective measure.

Last edited 8 months ago by Martin Smith
Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
8 months ago

I’m disappointed to read Semenya is apparently as solely self-interested as trans-identified men like Thomas (who is not a she, nor a woman, and who should not be validated in his narcissism by being referred to as such). Maybe it’s the testosterone.

The larger realm of sport, which relies on fairness for integrity and meaning, seems unimportant to these individuals. Only their experience matters, and they seem to feel no shame over winning through unfair advantage. Natal males do not belong in female sport, period. Rare ambiguous cases like Semenya’s require more nuanced consideration, but the priority must always be fairness for all, not the asserted “rights” of one.
(See Ida March’s comment below; apparently, Semenya’s case is not as nuanced as I assumed.)

Last edited 8 months ago by Colorado UnHerd
po go
po go
8 months ago

And let’s ignore the IG account Thomas has that reveals his AGP / fetish angle that propels him to cheat and get off on violating women’s boundaries. CS is male. Male puberty advantage. Full stop. What an awful milquetoast article. Standards exist for a reason. Categories exist for a reason. Life isn’t fair. Grow up.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
8 months ago

It is not only Semenya, but there are a lot of competitors who are persons with DSD (disorders of sexual development). The silver medal in the woman’s 200M at the last Olympics went to C Mbona. “She” came from the back of the pack to 2nd place in a way that is not typical, because “she” is XY and is physically a male. This runner should be banned as well.

Ida March
Ida March
8 months ago

But the truth was more complicated: Semenya is a woman — by her own definition, and in virtually every social context that matters — but she is also not exactly female. Testing eventually revealed her to be intersex, possessing an XY chromosomal makeup and a pair of internal, undescended testes……”
The truth is not complicated. The author of this article is confused, that’s all.
With his XY chromosomes and having fathered a child, Castor Semenya is a man whose genitals did not develop properly. He has undescended testicles and no p***s. He possesses no ovaries or uterus.
Having been brought up as a girl, this must be hard for him to accept. But I don’t think he should be blamed for gaming the system. The system is obviously ripe for being gamed, given the amount of confusion surrounding his situation. As a father, he has a wife and child to support.

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
8 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Biologists I respect — Colin Wright is one — say biological sex is determined by the type of gamete — sperm or ova — one’s reproductive anatomy is designed to produce. This is no less true for intersex people. Semenya has testes that produce testosterone and, possibly — it’s unclear whether his sperm was used to impregnate his wife — sperm. In any case, he has at least partly functioning male internal reproductive anatomy and no female corollary. So while it’s understandable that he’d choose to live as a woman, he should not be permitted to compete as one. Even the most “breathtakingly butch” lesbian lacks the equipment to father a child.
Thanks for this relevant information, omitted by the article’s author.

Last edited 8 months ago by Colorado UnHerd
Ida March
Ida March
8 months ago

My mistake. Caster and his wife now have two children.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ida March
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
8 months ago

It’s wrong to link Semenya with Lia Thomas. Thomas has known from the outset that he is male and chose to change that (to the extent that one can). Whether his prime objective was to achieve peace of mind or to achieve medals in swimming isn’t relevant.
I have considerable sympathy for Semenya, who afaik has behaved with dignity throughout, has worked hard to develop her natural talent and has not sought to cheat. (She may well have been exploited by the SA sporting authorities though.) Sadly for her, she has a DSD and cannot fairly compete against women. Most of us don’t have the physical attributes to become top athletes. Semenya just has a very rare variant of the multiple ways in which 99% of us are unsuited for top-class sport.
Mammals are either M or F notwithstanding the existence of rare cases where external genitalia are ambiguous. Each individual has either the means to produce sperm or ova. That is the only satisfactory test and it means Semenya is male.

R M
R M
8 months ago

Semenya is not “intersex” because “intersex” is not a thing, except as a fashionable shorthand used by people who want to pretend that sex is a spectrum. Semenya is biologically male but with a disorder which blocks the development of external male genitalia. For obvious reasons this disorder only affects males and sometimes leads to misclassification as female.
I do not have a problem with Semenya living her life as female, she has a medical condition which deserves our sympathy. But we play sports with our biological bodies, not with our “gender” or “identity” or “true souls”. Having a male body gives Semenya a tremendous advantage over women and that is not fair on them.
Those who argue for males to be allowed to compete in women’s sports on the basis of inclusion, whether because of some development condition like Semenya or because of “trans-rights”, are guilty of ignoring that the existence of the women’s category at all is the most important inclusion measure in the history of sports. Without it there would be virtually no women’s Olympic medallists, no women’s Wimbledon champions, no Women’s football world cup winners and so on.
Women’s sports must be protected for biological women, except where they are not impacted by sex (e.g. equestrian events).

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
8 months ago

I feel for Semenya, as his sex was misinterpreted at birth by his village elders. And if Semenya wants to live as a woman as a result, that is his choice. But Semenya is a man. He was not born with a vagina. A vagina is a functional canal that leads to a uterus. It is not just an absence of a p***s. Semenya does not have female genitalia, just the lack of a developed p***s.
As for the sporting, as a biological man, XY chromosomes and testicles, it is obviously unfair for Semenya to compete with women. It defeats the entire point of women’s sports.
As for Thomas, that is ridiculous. He is a man who intentionally intimidated young women in the WOMEN’S locker-room by walking around naked, all 6 feet 1 of him. He was a poor swimmer in men’s swimming, and only won because he was a man swimming against women.
Women’s spaces and sports need protection from men like Thomas.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

Why is a person claiming to be “gender-non conforming” being referred to as “she” and “her”?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago

Because “their” pronouns are idiosyncratic too. Many also have a problem with the re-purposed plural. I don’t love it but it don’t “believe in” my opinion, and have to admit that it doesn’t seem to matter in any major way. Concocted pronouns like ze/zir/zirs, on the other hand, seem like too silly a bridge to cross, and will probably never become common.

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

With all due respect, language capture precedes policy capture. Gender ideology would never have progressed as it has had people not capitulated on pronoun nonsense, thinking it was kind, or didn’t matter. It’s not kind, but a validating of illusion, and it certainly does matter, as girls and women whose spaces are now routinely trespassed by “she” males will attest. Not to mention that it’s presumptuous unto narcissistic to dictate others’ speech.

Last edited 8 months ago by Colorado UnHerd
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago

Dictated or mandated versions don’t take in a prevailing or lasting way. The version of they that is used in place of the “general he”, e.g.: “don’t tell someone how they must speak” however, has been known for centuries and common for decades. Punctilious defenders can and do object–attempting to insist on he or she, one, or he–but they are rarely heeded. Usage is not conclusively manufactured on a college campus or in an activist think tank.
Where is your evidence for the cart before the horse phenomenon you assert, that pronoun muddling fueled gender ideology and trans-rights overreach? “Mistakes were made” in many institutions, but they are not so neatly terminological in origin. Now if we lived in a society truly given over to the many censors at either political extreme, who could actually obliterate history and orchestrate private usage in the manner of Big Brother Newspeak, we’d have a much bigger problem.
For now you can say your peace– however unpopular–in most places, with unfortunate exceptions like corporate meetings, activist campuses, and Florida classrooms. I’m not saying its a good or speech-tolerant time in America, or a matter of no concern, but looking around the world and into the historical record we see that there have always been repressive and extremist forces at work–like McCarthyites and Judith Butlerites (gender radicals)-even here in the good ol’ USA.
The majority of Americans won’t hold their tongues forever. Not those that are anything like me. Just listen to us these days: not exactly a great hush of shamed silence about gender and pronouns, is it?

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
8 months ago

The people complaining about Caster Semenya were women. How then is Semenya’s exclusion the work of the patriarchy?

Gwen Kime
Gwen Kime
8 months ago

I’ve read some very different things about CS. She has an intersex condition so has no agency in this situation. I have read that she was raised as a boy; could be wrong. I suspect Caster is male ergo has an advantage over female athletes and whether or not she has agency that doesn’t make the competition fair. Rio Olympics women’s 800m all the people on the podium, 1st was Caster, all had this condition, or something similar. This means all the winners were male. This can’t be fair.I have also read that the people with this condition are “scouted”. None of them would get anywhere against male athletes. Someone is making money. Like I said, I I can’t verify these issues with cold hard facts.

Betsy Warrior
Betsy Warrior
8 months ago
Reply to  Gwen Kime

Brittany Griner makes millions for their basketball team so who wouldn’t want to recruit someone like that!? Griner may have all the attributes of a man, but no one dares question this too deeply. To upset the apple cart would bring swift retaliation. Many other Americans in Russian custody were bypassed to get Griner back on the basketball court.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

We often have to put things in binary bins. Right or wrong? Fair or unfair? True or false? Guilty or innocent? On or off? Black or white? Right or left? Male or female? Donald Trump or Joe Biden?
Making binary choices works in the abstract, where we can reduce complexities to simplicities. But the real world is messy and unavoidably complex. So when we have to make binary choices, we struggle.
These days, many questions have no yes-or-no answers, but only yes-and-no answers. In that case, we have to turn from dualistic thinking to nondualism. We have to accept, as economist Thomas Sowell says, that there are no solutions, only tradeoffs.
Trouble is, we still have to make a binary choice. So we oversimplify the issue, thinking we can reduce and eliminate the uncertain and the unknown, the mysterious and the ambiguous.
Our deductive tools of experiment and logic fail us, so we rely on inductive tools: anecdote, opinion, belief, statistics, observation, analogies, emotion, guesses. But the answers we get remain unsatisfying.
That’s okay. We should do the best we can. Most importantly, we should allow for trial and error, and realize that mistakes will be made. That means that we should try to do as much as possible from the bottom up than the top down.
We saw that with the pandemic. The people at the top made decisions based on fuzzy and uncertain information and imposed them from the top down. Lockdowns and vaccine mandates turned out to be poor decisions. It would have been better to let people make those decisions for themselves, from the bottom up.
We see that with the free market which works better with people making decisions from the bottom up than being told what to do in the top down of a planned economy.
We see that in our legal systems that work best when judges apply the law to specific cases and let precedents build up rather than try to impose them from the top down.
We see that in science where the edict of Richard Feynman that “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” works better than letting the “scientific-technological elite” rule (a danger Dwight Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address).
We see that in government where putting political power in the hands of the people in a democracy works better than putting it in the hands of an elite in an autocracy or oligarchy.
The best thing to do with cases like Caster Semenya is to not worry about whether she is a man or a woman, or whether she is a woman or not. That’s an abstraction that doesn’t matter. Just decide whether she can run in elite women’s races or not, and realize that either answer is not right or wrong (so her dignity should be respected in either case).
Seems to me that is what was done. I’m glad to see that.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
victoria valentine
victoria valentine
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Sex is binary. There are men and women, there are no in-betweenies. Semenya is biologically male with all of the physical advantages that go with that which is why males and females have separate categories in sport. It is unfortunate for Semenya and the women she competed against that she was born with undescended testicles and therefore raised as a girl but other women should not be punished for that. Life is often accidentally unfair but that is not a reason to perpetrate deliberate unfairness by allowing a man to compete against women.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

It’s not the internal testes that would make Caster Semenya a woman. It’s the fact that she was (apparently) born with a vagina, a c******s and vulva, with no p***s, s*****m or testicles. “Down there” she looks like a woman, not a man.
Many women like her have their testes surgically removed as an infant or even later. In others their testes has naturally and spontaneously turned into ovaries. This kind of birth defect is very rare and very odd, but it tests the definition of man and woman. Genetics are not the only consideration.
I agree with you that Caster Semenya should not be allowed to compete in elite women’s sports. But I think denying her claim to be a woman needlessly adds nastiness to that decision.

Eliza Mann
Eliza Mann
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

No testes have ever “spontaneously turned into ovaries.”

po go
po go
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Sex is one’s body’s organization for reproduction. If your body organizes to produce sperm, you’re male. If eggs, you’re female. It’s not more complicated that than. Testies produce sperm, therefore male. You can’t have testies and be female. ‍♀

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Right principles, with an occasional blemish. Bottom-up does not work well in a pandemic, where where it just means that the people who do not care whether they get infected set the rules for the rest – and vaccine mandates were an excellent decision. But you are quite right about Semenya,

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

What in heavens name are you going on about vaccine mandates (which were completely unethical in any case) in an article about Caster Semenya? It boggles the mind.
I must say I’m very surprised she didn’t have her internal testes removed, not because of testosterone levels or running performance, but rather because the risk of developing testicular cancer in undescended testes is extremely high.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Carlos Danger raised the point. I answered him.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

In other words, the ends justify the means. Because lives are saved, it justifies the infringement upon civil rights, including the right to bodily autonomy. In theory, you might be right, but we’re not living in theory. In reality, governments are not necessarily benign guarantors of public safety. The worst crimes imaginable have been committed by governments acting to promote the ‘common good’ because the ends justified the means. We accept the flaws of democratic systems based on individual rights because we’ve witnessed what happens when those rights aren’t respected or protected. Who decides what’s ‘justified’ and when it’s ‘OK’ to infringe upon basic rights. I don’t want any such responsibility because I’m humble enough not to place my life or my opinions above any of my fellow human beings, however stupid I may think they are, whether they do or do not care about infecting others. I choose instead to be humble and accept that we are all flawed, all working with imperfect information, and that the best way to conduct ourselves is with restraint and respect for the rights of others in all cases, even when the results are uncomfortable, because when we begin making exceptions, we take a first step down the slippery slope that has led humanity to very bad results far too often. There are no solutions, only tradeoffs. I don’t think trading freedoms for health and security is a good decision in the long term.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That is the old problem. It is easy to say that ‘Your freedom to choose ends when your actions harm others’, but who decides in practice? One might also say that if you want to ‘conduct [y]ourselves is with restraint and respect for the rights of others in all cases‘ you would observe the curfews, wear the masks, and get the vaccinations out of respect for other people’s rights to not get infected. So, what do you do about the people who refuse to do that? Or is forcing other people to take the risks from your personal choices OK as long as it is not (Shock! Horror!) dong by a government?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Some of it depends on what you view as a ‘right’. I personally have never heard of any ‘right not to be infected’, with any disease. For something to be a right, it must be something that can reasonably be defined, limited, and reasonably defended through laws protecting it, but nobody has any foolproof 100% effective defense for disease. None of the things you mention eliminate your chance to get infected with COVID. At best, they slightly lower the probability you get COVID, but so do a lot of other things, including your own behavior and many things beyond your control. If you got COVID and went to court, you could not now nor likely ever scientifically prove that you contracted COVID from a person who was unmasked or unvaccinated by choice in the way you could show evidence that someone infringed upon older, clearly defined human rights such as showing you were sexually harassed by a coworker or discriminated against on the basis of race.
The ‘right not to be infected’, sounds like something that was made up as a justification for impinging on a much older, very well established right of bodily autonomy, the right to determine what substances and procedures our bodies are subjected to. It’s one of the foundational values of modern medicine that people must consent to treatment. When a patient is unable to give consent, the patient’s parent/spouse/next of kin is generally sought. I don’t need to remind you of some of the ways this has been abused in history. You may not like it that some people have a fear of the vaccine. You may consider them irrational and stupid. You may personally resent that they are raising your risk for contracting COVID by some fractional percent. However, your opinion has no more value than mine or anyone else’s. When we begin to place the rights, values, and opinions of some on a pedestal above the rights, values, and opinions of others, regardless of how we define the categories, we begin the process of abrogating the entire notion of individual rights and allowing the majority, or whoever is the right political party, or whoever is the right religion, or whoever is the right race, or whatever other group is in charge to decide all questions for all citizens.
For the record, I did observe the social distancing rules and mask rules myself. I’m personally of the opinion that it makes sense for people to wear masks in hospitals and medical facilities during normal times and wouldn’t object to those mandates continuing indefinitely, but again, my opinion is no better than anyone else’s.
I did not get vaccinated because the vaccine I wanted based on old technology was slow walked through the approval process here in America by our government due to the lobbying of pharmaceutical giants determined to keep a national monopoly so as to recoup their investments in MRNA vaccine technology. I was sufficiently disgusted by this that I flatly refuse to get any MRNA vaccine, period, regardless of evidence of safety. I also have seen a lot of information that suggests that getting the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting or even transmitting COVID, but rather makes it slightly less likely, which makes it less of a vaccine in my view and more of a prophylactic treatment, which veers even further into the realm of an infringement upon individual rights. I’m also a bit of recluse who rarely ventures out in public and never in crowded areas so I actually am much less likely to given anyone COVID simply by virtue of my normal behavior, and the fact that I have to pick such nits as these just reinforces to me that the entire COVID wave was less a pandemic and more of an exercise in exploiting mass panic.
I also think there’s an element of apples and oranges in our respective views. The American system is not like what you have over in Europe. Our system is presently poisoned by monopolistic healthcare conglomerates, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies who insert their own profits into the question of doctors, patients, and human rights, and as much as I dislike the government impinging on people’s rights, I really hate private corporations doing it. With national healthcare systems, there’s at least a modicum of legitimacy given by the fact the system is directly overseen by the elected government. In America, we let our government outsource the entire enterprise to companies that add their own personal profits to the equation and feed off the system like ticks on the back of a starving dog. When/if we ever get a nationalized system, which is not ideal in my view but better than the present nonsense, some of my attitudes might shift.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Jolly
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Thanks for a thoughtful post. I shall have to wait to give a similarly thoughtful answer.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Just to round it off:
Your attitude make sense to me, and your facts pretty much stand. I just think you exaggerate – the vaccine does not make it slightly less likely that you get COVID, it makes it significantly less likely, which is why vaccination is a sensible anti-pandemic strategy, certainly based on what was then known.

Where we disagree more is in the philosophy behind it. I think it is irrelevant and damaging to get hung up on what is and is not a ‘right’. There is a right to property but no right to three square meals a day, but that does not make it illegal or immoral to use (forcibly extracted) taxes to feed the starving. In practice most rights are balanced by permitting exceptions that are ‘necessary and proportionate to a legitimate objective’ of similar importance. Making the discussion about rights moves the attention away from what is the right thing to do in context, and towards semantic quibbling. Whatever you think about abortion, gay marriage, gun control, the right of prisoners to vote, or whether Lia Thomas should compete as a woman, leaving the decision to a group of unelected and unremovable lawyers who concentrate on the linguistic details of old documents does not seem like the best way to decide.

It is true enough that everybody has different opinions and mine is not intrinsically better than anyone else’s, but it does not and cannot follow that society should give them all equal space. Some people believe the age of consent should be ten years, some believe that insulting the Prophet should be punishable by death, some believe that abortion is murder, some that homosexual intercourse is immoral and should be illegal, some want to permit heroin and some want to ban alcohol. For a society to work is has to select some set of opinions that are widely shared to form the basis of society, another set that are are ‘minoritised’ but accepted and given space, and a small set that are actively suppressed. And which is which unavoidably depends on majority opinion. Your examples of sexual harassment and racial discrimination as ‘clearly defined’ human rights shows you up. What one person sees as sexual harassment or racial discrimination another may see as normal social interactions that some people are hypersensitive to, differences of style, or as simply a perfectly egalitarian attitude acknowledging unavoidable facts. Society can certainly decide that calling someone a ‘f***ing black c**t’ is a hate crime while calling him a ‘f***ing disgusting c**t’ is legal rudeness – or standard ‘sledging’ behaviour among top sportsmen – but there is nothing objective or clearly defined about the distinction.

Last edited 8 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
Bill Strahan
Bill Strahan
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Fuzzy logic, clear virtue signalling and conflating issues to say nothing.

I had sympathy for Semenya once, then I learned the facts.

He’s a man, and a father who grew up one of the boys.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bill Strahan
Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
8 months ago

Where does all this nonsense go? Carried forward, it would yield an amorphous, faceless, meaningless and vapid existence. Clearly any kind of judgement, choice, delineation, let alone competition, becomes the exercise of oppression, thus forbidden. Good luck with that. Be careful what you wish for. This is a life sentence of oblivion.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago

Indeed. The very nature of reproductive (and therefore evolutionary) success depends on differentiation between characteristics; mainly physical in animals plus the added psychological factors in humans which in fact distinguish us from other animal species.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

I only wish more people could discuss this issue with the same calm, considerate and unprejudiced approach. It fully justifies UnHerd’s existence as a rare forum for rational debate and an oasis in the middle of the intellectual desert created by the culture wars. Personally, I find the zero sum, reductionist and scorched earth rhetoric of both many trans activists and radical feminists equally repellant. A few more issues would benefit from the same treatment, Bravo for both author and UnHerd.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Yes. And other issues too. It’s become so common to speak and write from a place of outrage, contempt, and foregone certainty, with hostility hurled across a left-right political divide, drawn in broad, bright lines to reassure our warring cultural encampments. Some want to see their own anger and fear mirrored in everything they encounter. But that cast of mind is not in any danger of under-representation, whereas a “calm, considerate, unprejudiced approach” is very much endangered, so to speak.
In the totality of your posts here, you model those politer qualities yourself, demonstrating faith in the potential value of debate and civil discussion, something you defended on another comment board. Cheers.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thanks. Very kind but – to restore your faith in human nature – in person I am a foul mouthed, opinionated and vehement individual tending towards the Dom Cummings model. It is just that I think everyone needs to act with self restraint when debating important issues and especially those issues which engender most emotion. I see constructive debate as a core engine of progress. So online I try to repress my normal predilections.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Interesting. I would have guessed you were more even-tempered and genteel sounding, rather like your online persona.
Restraint vs. repression. Hmm. Matter of degree yeah? For me, I think most of how I currently am, for better and for worse, comes out on these boards over time, especially because almost everything gets published here (often after a “time-out” and sometimes regrettably so).
As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t believe emotions, or what David Hume called passions, should or can be banished from rational discourse. Nor that rational and calm exchanges hold all the marbles. We need not, should not, and (for the great majority) cannot be be governed by detached calculations alone. Such a practice would be both superhuman and inhuman.
But foulmouthed, opinionated vehemence is already covered by many other commenters here. And I guess that a measure of your unvarnished everyday self peeks through too.
*I admit that it heartens me in some way to hear that you’re less polished in person.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I like you more and more!

Michael Drucker
Michael Drucker
8 months ago

The title of this article is inappropriate and IMO distasteful. The author does not refer to choice of the word “Ghetto” (Like most of the comments here, I thought that the article was confused and the Lia Thomas stuff ridiculous, so maybe I missed it) and I cannot find another similar comment

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
8 months ago

2% of the population (give-or-take) is a psychopath of some description.
The author thinks that there are no people who would take hormone therapy or have body-altering surgery if they thought it would gain them status, fame, money, or gold medals?
I am a doc who did some work in max security institutions. I once had a patient who, in a fit of anger over restrictions on his activities (for having threatened a guard), sawed his own pinky finger off with a plastic serrated knife.
Trust me, there are many people in the world (Will/Lia Thomas being one of them IMHO) who indeed will take, and already have taken, advantage of the doors that have opened up to them because of the breakdown of morality and our inability in modern society to answer the question “What is a Woman?”.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Contradictory article. Trans women, or blokes who cannot win against other blokes, can’t just decide to steal medals from women. Semanya is male and if born in Uk would have been categorised as such. She does have an advantage and it is unfair. I am fed up with women enabling all these cheats. Tell them they can not compete with women and maybe make an open category for all those who do not care.

Geoffrey Kolbe
Geoffrey Kolbe
8 months ago

“…but she is also not exactly female.”
And that is the point. There are rules as to who can who cannot race as a “woman” and Semenya does not conform to those rules. How many female athletes have fathered a child?
Why should we have sympathy for Semenya because he does not conform to the rules?
And, nothing in this article about what other female athletes who have to race against Semenya (and who do conform to the rules) think… Is their opinion not worth a comment even?

Last edited 8 months ago by Geoffrey Kolbe
William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

Why does p***s get starred out but not vagina?

Filipa Antonia Barata de Araujo
Filipa Antonia Barata de Araujo
8 months ago

Semenya is a male. He knew he was a male. His federation knew he was a male. He knew he was a male when he was fathering children. He knew he was a male when he was cheating on women and playing the racist card.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
8 months ago

Since Semenya had undescended testicles, I’m actually very surprised that she wasn’t advised to have these removed (before puberty), not because of issues to do with testosterone, etc.., but rather because the risk of developing testicular cancer in undescended testes is very high.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
8 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If they were removed, Semenya would no longer win.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

Presumably, if Caster Semenya had undergone surgery as an infant, to remove her undescended testes, and therefore not experienced the sort of muscle growth usually seen in adolescent males, she would not have the advantage she does, but she would still be chromosomally male: would that mean it was acceptable for her to compete as a woman?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Without having the advantage she does, she probably would be granted a waiver. The governing body was trying to find a way for her to compete that was fair to other athletes, not to simply ban her from competing.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

How would [preferred pronoun] fare against elite male athletes? Sounds like this person simply took the easier path.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
8 months ago

Those banging on the door may not be cheats. But we may be very certain that if the door is opened, the cheats will start to sidle in behind.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

It’s interesting that we currently have at least one example of this kind of situation in American professional sports. Brittney Griner (the WNBA player held by the Russians) clearly has some similar intersex condition. Look at the shirtless photos or listen to Griner speak in Youtube videos. It is very obviously not the body or voice of a woman. It is long past time to do testing on athletes competing in Women’s sports!

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago

The fairness argument is incredibly childish. Is it fair that some naturally run faster than others. Is it fair that some are born into situations where their talent will be nurtured. The Olympics are about excellence. The Olympics are about outstanding talent, gruelling training and also funding, not to mention luck. It used to be very different. My grandfather was a runner and county champion when he was 14. He ran in bare feet because there was no money for running shoes. He possessed raw talent which he developed by running in the countryside. He raced against Liddel and Abrahams and sometimes beat them. But then it was not professional, more of a level playing field, more fair if you like. Arguments about fairness sound petty. Having separate categories for women to encourage more women to take up sport to me sounds like a good reason. Similarly, giving the disabled opportunities and something to aim for is a good reason. Unlike the author, I think there are plenty of men who are willing to put on a frock and some make up, even reduce their testosterone levels, just to increase their chances of winning. But I am old and cynical, I have seen too much, and heard too much whining about things not being fair and generally the whiners don’t care about fairness at all, they just don’t like that in a particular system, they have not come out on top. I understand females being outraged at men taking part in women’s sports because it is cheating – not sporting, but I do wonder if Usain Bolt’s testosterone levels had been tested, would they have been found to be on the high side. I doubt there is a maximum testosterone level for men, though I could well be wrong. I think the Olympic committee should decide what the point of the Olympics is, the aim, and then create the rules to facilitate the aims. A woman will never be the fastest person in the world and I, a woman, am more interested in watching the fastest person in the world than the fastest woman in the world, which doesn’t mean I don’t watch women competing in the Olympics, just that fastest woman doesn’t have the same appeal as the fastest person.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
8 months ago

There probably is an upper limit for acceptable testosterone levels – it’s one of the substances measured when competition winners are tested for the presence of performance enhancing drugs. There are well-established range norms by age-group.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

It doesn’t mean Usain Bolt is not at the top of the acceptable levels. Also how could naturally high levels of testosterone be cheating? Nobody accuses abnormally tall basket ball players of cheating.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
8 months ago

You’re reading me wrongly – I’m not suggesting anything about Usain Bolt, simply suggesting that there is an upper limit to naturally produced testosterone. If there wasn’t an upper limit, there would be no concept of a performance-enhancing amount.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I found the answer to my own question:
‘Currently, males with higher end levels of endogenous testosterone are not restricted from participation, nor are athletes with other highly touted advantages such as large arm-to-torso ratios or high V̇o2 max. In fact, these physiological and anatomical differences that contribute to athletic success are lauded in the press.’
You have received at least three upvotes for your wishful thinking. I have long suspected there is a group of Unherd readers who upvote comforting fantasy and downvote uncomfortable reality. I interpret the response to your comment as confirmation of my suspicions.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago

Your last paragraph should be posted at the top of every Comments section, in perpetuity.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I know I am frequently perceived as betraying women but truth favours nobody. It’s interesting that these people choose to read Unherd (consider themselves not to be part of the herd) and then exhibit herd like behaviour.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
8 months ago

By the same token, I’m not clear why UnHerd even has up- and down votes for the reasons you have stated. I am also unclear why the default viewing for comments on Unherd is Most Voted. This is absolutely akin to Facebook and the like, I.e. herd-like.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

Yes, most upvoted. I have suggested up and down votes are recorded separately rather than neutralising one another so readers can see which comments are most controversial but my suggestion was ignored.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
8 months ago

What “wishful thinking”? What “comfortable fantasy”?

I merely suggested that there must be an upper limit of what can be produced naturally, or the sports’ bodies wouldn’t test for a suspicious excess.

Your reading is at fault.

Last edited 8 months ago by Sharon Overy
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
8 months ago

I think fairness and a reasonably even playing field is important. Of course some people are much more talented than others, and that’;s why you find the same small group of people winning Wimbledon or the Tour de France again and again and again. However, the performance difference between men and women at the elite level really is massive. As a simple example, take ice hockey where the women’s olympic team train against high school boys! Or simply take an average group of club, non-competitive cyclists, and you will find that very average men climb a lot faster than comparable women (although of course there are women, e.g. pro-women cyclists, who will outshine any male regular club rider, but they would be destroyed by the top epople in the men’s pro-peloton).

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

So life is not fair. That is why I suggested more robust reasons for having separate categories for women and the disabled. Children frequently complain about the unfairness of life. Growing up is accepting life is innately unfair and learning how to deal with it. When I was young, participation in sport was encouraged as it was believed it helped people learn how to lose well. Team sports taught how to function within a team and individual sports taught endurance and self sufficiency. When my grandfather retired, he taught underprivileged (as they were then known) boys to box as he believed it would keep them out of trouble. Sport had been good to him and he wanted to help other deprived boys benefit from sport. Being sporting, traditionally, was considered more important than winning. Cheating was frowned upon because it was not sporting. The obsession with winning is a relatively recent phenomena and was once associated with the ‘New World’ (Australia, the United States), which doesn’t mean victory was not celebrated. Nobody ever used fairness as an argument. I do wonder if this is a negative part of the feminisation of debate along with the objection to stating upsetting facts, the invention of hate speech, the obsession with feelings and the tendency of the left to elevate feelings above facts, bearing in mind women tend to lean to the left.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Nancy G
Nancy G
8 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

In her excellent book Unfair Play, Sharron Davies clearly delineates the enormous advantage that male puberty gives to men who participate in sports. Taking female hormones does very little to suppress that. There is no way that it is fair for a trans-identified male, aka a ‘transwoman’, to compete against women. And it is a violation of women’s dignity and privacy to force them to share locker rooms with intact males like the person who calls himself Lia Thomas.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Nancy G

The concept of fair play presupposes a set of rules. The rule being broken here is that women’s sports are for women, not for deluded men or men so desperate to win they are willing to pretend to be women (plus there is an element of sexual perversion). Everything would have been much simpler if the propagandists had not successfully replaced the term sex with gender. Sex is immutable and the meaning of gender is variable. Why the Olympic committee cannot just come out and state that women’s competitions are for natal females, I don’t know. Sharon Davies lost out on a gold medal because the East Germans cheated. The Olympic committee was unwilling to expose the East Germans as cheats and penalise them. The Olympic committee is now unwilling to call men who, by whatever means, are competing in the female categories, cheats, which they are. Fair play is about not cheating or finding ways around the rules which is effectively cheating but doesn’t actually break the rules, for example body-lining and ball tampering in cricket. Cheating and the position and purpose of sport in society was highlighted by the complaint ‘that’s not cricket’ generally applied to dubious behaviour. In fact, men pretending to be women and insisting on competing against women would definitely have been described as not cricket. It would have been considered creepy behaviour.

Last edited 8 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Nancy G

It’s not just a violation of women’s dignity. It’s a violation of everyone’s dignity and sense of decency. Just seeing him on a podium next to the women that he “beat” is an insult to society!

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
8 months ago

Of course there are wide ranges of differing hormone levels within the categories of male & female, in sport as in many other things. But there is no need to set a human-made boundary. It already exists. There may well be some women with higher testosterone levels than some men & some men with higher oestrogen than some women. But there has to be a line somewhere – and there it is, naturally, right between ‘male’ and ‘female’.
Given the massive confusion and the unfairness going on to the detriment of the vast majority of women, maybe we should start testing babies’ chromosomes at birth for the avoidance of doubt?
As for Lia Thomas, I’m very sorry that he felt he didn’t ’belong’, but why should women be punished for that? His insistence on swimming against them is unfair & selfish – as if his personal bid to win and his comfort are far more important than that of all the women who lose to him. No one is stopping him swimming in the men’s team. That is where he ‘belongs’.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

The argument about testosterone levels is a red herring, it is indulging trans activists, giving them power and leverage they should never have acquired. The categories are men’s and women’s and when the categories were introduced nobody ever thought that what a woman is would ever be in doubt. It demonstrates what ridiculous times we live in. The vast majority of people have absolutely no doubt what a woman is and it doesn’t involve testosterone.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
8 months ago

It seems to me to be quite a sad situation, before puberty she thought she was a girl. On reaching puberty it would have been obvious to her that she had only one female part. Understandably, she, as we all would be, was incapable of accepting the fact – so sad. Luckily this situation would be determined much earlier in her life. The outcome should be no different but its a completely different situation from Thomas.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

This case was always interesting because CS possessed both male and female genitals with a singular physical performance driven by a unique hormonal mix.
Given the frenzied cultural politics that have emerged since, she has actually become the best ‘material’ justification for a 3rd ‘trans’ category in sports.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

No he wasn’t. He has 5α-Reductase 2 deficiency. This results in developmental differences where the appearance of the genitalia can be ambiguous but it does not lead to the development of both male and female genitals.

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Lacking a p***s is not the same as having a vagina. A vagina leads to a uterus.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

I’m not familiar with the case, but it sounds to me like Semenya has girl parts and always identified as a girl. She just happens to have some hidden male organs that she didn’t know about it. If that’s the case, she should be treated as a female athlete. Males who transition as females should not compete against females – full stop – but once we start measuring chromosomes I think we’ve went too far. Almost every exceptional athlete has some kind of genetic advantage over everyone else. Life ain’t fair.

andymorgan22
andymorgan22
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

If she has hidden male organs she’s not a girl. Surely measuring chromosomes is the most obvious and definitive test, not a step too far at all?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  andymorgan22

If she was born with external girl parts and no external boy parts, is she then not a boy either?
It’s complicated because a human will develop into a female unless its cells respond to high levels of androgen. In some cases genetics don’t play much of a role.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
andymorgan22
andymorgan22
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

No, because she has XY chromosomes. With regard to sports specifically, it’s the male chromosomes that elevate her performance.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  andymorgan22

When you say, no, do you mean she is not a girl and not a boy? Or that she is a boy and not a girl?
And what about women who have XY chromosomes but not elevated levels of testosterone, and thus no enhanced athletic performance?

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
andymorgan22
andymorgan22
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Semenya is male as is anyone with XY chromosomes. In the absence of elevated testosterone the person in question may or may not have athletic advantages as testosterone is not the only relevant factor.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  andymorgan22

I have XY chromosomes, and a p***s. I don’t consider CS to be as male as me.

andymorgan22
andymorgan22
8 months ago

So what?

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago
Reply to  andymorgan22

CS clearly isn’t as male as anyone with XY chromosomes, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this debate; that’s what.

victoria valentine
victoria valentine
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

If you have XY chromosomes you are not a woman so there is no such thing as a woman with XY chromosomes. This is very basic and simple biology all humans with a Y chromosome are males, a very small minority of them have some fault in their sexual development so that their testes do not descend and they are mistaken for girls when born. This mistake does not MAKE them girls they are still genetically male with all of the physical advantages the high testosterone produces. Smenyas’s internal testes are still churning out testosterone which makes her look like a mand and perform like one.

Art Markham
Art Markham
8 months ago

I agree that your analysis is “very basic and simple”, but that’s about all.

For almost everyone on the planet, sex is binary. For Semanya, it isn’t exactly. In the way that has mattered most of all throughout history until the 20th century – what your bits look like – she’s a girl.

I’m not saying there’s no issue here, but to pretend it’s simple is just nonsense.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

And if you don’t have a p***s (from birth) does that make you not a man? For the record, I don’t think CS should be competing against women, but her case is different from all the trans nutters who just need to see a psychiatrist.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Would she have been considered a girl before there was technology capable of detecting internal male organs, or measuring and detecting chromosomes?

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

But Semenya has normal male testosterone levels and normal male puberty. People with this disorder produce sperm.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

“
women who have XY chromosomes
”?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

It is complicated. There’s not a binary answer with an extremely rare exception like this.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  andymorgan22

But what if she had visible female organs? Does that still mean she’s not a girl

Samantha Stevens
Samantha Stevens
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Lacking a p***s is not the same as having a vagina. A vagina is a female canal that leads to the uterus. It is functional, not just a random opening. Castor has no female parts.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Does she not have a vagina or naturally occurring breasts? I honestly don’t know this.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

No breasts, there are no female hormones. The body apart from the improperly formed genitals is exactly like any other male body. There is a photo in the book of Caster swimming, in swim trunks only, as a teenager, and it looks like any other photo of a 15 year old boy.
The genitals with this kind of dsd aren’t female as such, they are improperly formed male genitals. Which may look female to the untrained eye, because the physical structures are related. Sometimes at puberty when testosterone levels rise they become more normal looking. There may or may not be a canal, but it is not actually a vagina because there is no uterus. It’s generally shorter than a vagina.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
8 months ago

Then it seems CS has neither a p***s nor a “true” vagina. Perhaps there should be an intersex category for people like CS, and trans athletes to compete in? Or maybe a completely open “anyone can have a go” category.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I believe she has multiple male parts and only one female part