South African runner Caster Semenya’s extraordinary performance in the 400 meter race, leaving her nearest competitor almost three seconds behind, was also chased by peculiar questions about her gender.
Several of her competitors and their coaches at the World Championships in Berlin charged that she was actually a he. “Just look at her,” said the Italian runner, left far behind by the masculine-looking woman who barely broke a sweat as she won her gold medal.
But what was truly disconcerting about the controversy was that the race officials announced it would take as long as three weeks to determine Semenya’s gender.
Three weeks? I kept thinking about those nights in the 1970s, roaming the spring break bars on Fort Lauderdale beach, in search of a woman sympathetic to my yearnings. I was making snap judgments on gender. I had no idea that it would need three weeks and a panel of doctors and scientists to determine gender.
It’s a frightening thing. I had to decide in moments. No consultation. No panels. My God . . . I might have been deceived by those wenches.
Except, in retrospect, all those rejections – an unbroken string of “get lost!” and “leave me alone” - made the gender problem, circa 1978, slightly less urgent.