THE Caster Semenya she was told from a young age, before she even became a star due to her performance in track and field and specifically in the 800m, to learn to stand up for herself and respond or not respond to every comment she heard about whether or not she is a woman.
The harshness of these questions that she received when the rumors made the then IAAF (note World Athletics) ask Semenya to prove to them that she is a woman, made her reach the present day and talk without being interested in anything anymore. Calling the president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, an “idiot” and calling on those who made the decisions about her body back then to try the drugs they gave her, she explains how she came to be free today. Now, she also answers the question of whether she is a woman: “I am African. I am a woman. A different woman“, as she said in an interview with the Guardian.
Semenya began by reminding everyone that it was the period when she was forced to undergo the hormone treatment imposed by the World Athletics Federation so that she could continue to compete. She first used a gel before switching to birth control pills: “I would describe (the effects of the drug) as living every day with a sore body. Your stomach burns, you have panic attacks, you sweat. It was … it was crazy. I had to sacrifice myself to be the best me. There were days when I lived in darkness. Days I didn’t want to wake up. These are the things that people don’t understand when World Athletic says, “Take this drug.” Damn them. These bastards should go take the medicine themselves and then tell us how they feel.”
He names both World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, whom he calls “that idiot,” and the organization’s director of health and science, Dr. Stefan Bermon: “They’ll say, ‘Oh, these drugs were well supervised.’ Shit, they don’t know anything about it.
These drugs are not good for anyone, for anyone’s health.”
Semenya, however, appeared very strong in the face of such a big “challenge” and managed to heal while continuing to train and win medals. Her stubbornness and will to prove that nothing they force her to do matters and has nothing to do with her talent in the distances, put her on the podium as long as she spent several moments… in the dark:
“That was life, at the end of the day. Is life. I have to deal with it. I have to pick myself up and face this nonsense.
At the time I wasn’t having an easy journey, but I had to make it look easy. I had to learn how to enjoy it, how to live with it, no matter what it made me feel and how it made my body change. That didn’t matter. What mattered most was to run the race, upset (World Athletics), make sure I won medals and got all these awards. To make sure I never failed. They tried to bring me down and I never failed».
To be precise, from 2009 to 2017, Caster Semenia was a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time World champion in the 800m. while constantly improving her performance, until in 2018 she ran an amazing 1:54.25 (No. 4 all-time in the event).
“Disorders don’t make you less of a woman”
The scrutiny, ridicule and sometimes abuse Semenya faced is shocking to remember. In 2009, after finishing sixth in the race that launched her career, her rival, Italian runner Elisa Kusma, said: “For me, she’s not a woman.” Then WA general secretary Pierre Weiss awkwardly declared in July 2010: “She is a woman, but maybe not 100%”. After years of deflecting questions about her gender, Semenya wants to make one thing clear: she is a woman. He was born with female genitalia and raised as a female. As she reached puberty, she realized that there was something different about her in the way she wanted to project her feminine nature.
“In this world, we are all different. We shouldn’t question how we look or how we speak. Once you start questioning yourself, you’ll never get an answer. You will never know why you have that huge nose or big forehead. This is the stuff you are made of! You have to embrace them. But instead, people in our society are starting to question what women should look like because they want women to look a certain way. That’s the story that goes around with me,” he explains.
Trans, intersex, not female. These were the terms many used at the time to describe Semenya, without knowing anything at all. The test results that had been leaked by World Athletics had led the public and even gynecologists to believe that Semenya is not 100% female and the majority put her in the category of intersex people.
With so many categorizations, does Semenya identify with one? “I don’t fit these conditions. These are your (the media’s) terms.
I am African, I am a woman, I am a different woman. That’s the only term I can use.
She’s intersex, she’s this, she’s that. That is their belief – not mine. If I have a “disorder”, I don’t give a damn about it. The disorder does not define me as a woman. Disorders don’t make you less of a woman – you’re just different».
Semenya had loved herself since she realized she was different when she was still a teenager. However, the turn the situation took for her and the release of information about her was probably a… grace for her after all:
“If you want to hide the person you are, you are a prisoner. You will always live your life holding yourself back thinking that if others saw something in you, what would they think. No, be yourself. It’s OK to talk about how different you are.
Yeah, I’m not happy with how this all came out with me, I should have been the one to do the revealing, but they did me a favor. Yes, they did me a favor. And now I can live my life without looking back.”