On Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Caster Semenya, the two time-Olympic champion and professional athlete who has competed in track and field since she was a child, lost an important battle in the fight around gender and sports. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled that Semenya would have to take hormones that would lower her naturally occurring testosterone levels in order to “ensure fair competition in women’s sports.” If Semenya declines the suppressants she cannot compete in the 800-meter races at the Olympics, as well as other international competitions. The ruling concluded that “discrimination is necessary, reasonable and a proportionate means of achieving the IAAF requirement to preserve the integrity of female athletics.”
Tag Archives: Gender Equality
“I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.”
So said the reigning Olympic champion in the women’s 800-meter last year, in a statement challenging rules that could threaten her athletic career.
The rules, issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), require some female runners whose bodies produce high levels of testosterone to take medication to lower those levels. Many saw the rules as a direct effort to target Semenya, who is believed to have a condition that produces high testosterone. The runner appealed the new regulations, but on Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against her.
Semenya’s story is about the ongoing efforts by sports governing bodies to develop gender divisions that are fair to all athletes. But it’s also about what happens when an athlete — especially a black athlete — doesn’t conform to other people’s ideas about womanhood.
I spent much of this week reading and trying to absorb the new and devastating book by one Frédéric Martel on the gayness of the hierarchy at the top of the Catholic Church, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy. It’s a bewildering and vast piece of reporting — Martel interviewed no fewer than “41 cardinals, 52 bishops and monsignori, 45 apostolic nuncios, secretaries of nunciatures or foreign ambassadors, 11 Swiss Guards and over 200 Catholic priests and seminarians.” He conducted more than 1,500 interviews over four years, is quite clear about his sources, and helps the reader weigh their credibility. He keeps the identity of many of the most egregiously hypocritical cardinals confidential, but is unsparing about the dead.
The picture Martel draws is jaw-dropping. Many of the Vatican gays — especially the most homophobic — treat their vows of celibacy with an insouciant contempt. Martel argues that many of these cardinals and officials have lively sex lives, operate within a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture, constantly hit on young men, hire prostitutes, throw chem-sex parties, and even pay for sex with church money. How do we know this? Because, astonishingly, they tell us.
There is nothing more newsworthy in today’s media economy than an attractive young woman who has committed a violent crime, except possibly an attractive young woman who is deemed to have gotten away with it.
Imagine the expression on the faces of the nation’s editors when news broke that Lavinia Woodward, an exceptionally gifted medical student at Oxford University, had been spared jail for stabbing her boyfriend in a violent rage last September. Imagine being faced with a hundred dispiriting Getty images of Donald Trump’s orange face, and then learning that not only has a pretty young blonde with a name like an Agatha Christie character gone stab-happy at an Oxford college, she’s also got an Instagram feed and a taste for very short shorts.
Ma Baoli was accustomed to secrets.
By day, he was a police officer in northern China with a wife and a knack for street chases. By night, he led a life as a gay man, furtively running a website for gay people across China at a time when many were viewed as criminals and deviants.
For 16 years, Mr. Ma kept his secret, worried that coming out would mean expulsion from the police force and estrangement from his family. Then in 2012, his superiors at a police department in Qinhuangdao, a coastal city in Hebei Province, uncovered his website and he resigned.
When the US supreme court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage last year, the White House welcomed it with rainbow-coloured lights and many people celebrated by adding a rainbow tint to their Facebook profile.For the authorities in Saudi Arabia, though, this was cause for alarm rather than celebration, alerting them to a previously unnoticed peril in their midst. The first casualty was the privately run Talaee Al-Noor school in Riyadh which happened to have a rooftop parapet painted with rainbow stripes. According to the kingdom’s religious police, the school was fined 100,000 riyals ($26,650) for displaying “the emblem of the homosexuals” on its building, one of its administrators was jailed and the offending parapet was swiftly repainted to match a blue rainbow-free sky.
Less than 24 hours after committing the worst mass shooting in US history, Omar Mateen’s narrative was crystallising along two contradictory but familiar lines. On the one hand, the man who murdered 49 people at Orlando LGBT club Pulse was seen as a typical radical Islamist terrorist – despite the secular American life he had apparently led, and the absence of any links to ISIS beyond his own declaration of “allegiance”. In parallel, and despite this ostensibly cancelling out the first narrative, Mateen was also stereotyped as a self-hating closet case
One day in June 2014, Dutee Chand was cooling down after a set of 200-meter sprints when she received a call from the director of the Athletics Federation of India, asking her to meet him in Delhi. Chand, then 18 and one of India’s fastest runners, was preparing for the coming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, her first big international event as an adult. Earlier that month, Chand won gold in both the 200-meter sprint and the 4-by-400-meter relay at the Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Taipei, Taiwan, so her hopes for Scotland were high.
Chand was raised in Gopalpur, a rural village in eastern India with only intermittent electricity. The family home was a small mud hut, with no running water or toilet. Her parents, weavers who earned less than $8 a week laboring on a government-issued loom, were illiterate. They had not imagined a different life for their seven children, but Chand had other ideas. Now, as she took the five-hour bus ride to Delhi from a training center in Punjab, she thought about her impending move to Bangalore for a new training program. She wondered if she would make friends, and how she’d manage there without her beloved coach, who had long been by her side, strategizing about how best to run each race and joking to help her relax whenever she was nervous. She thought little of the meeting in Delhi, because she assumed it was for a doping test.