Saturday, September 26, 2009

OII - Uganda

The Organisation Intersex International welcomes Julius K Kaggwa, founder of SIPD, to our international family. You can visit OII-Uganda at the following link:

For a list of all English speaking associations of the Organisation Intersex International: Click here

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Indian runner knows about gender-test backlash

PUDUKKOTTAI, India — Considering suicide after being stripped of her medal and shunned by the people around her, Indian runner Santhi Soundarajan knows a bit about what Caster Semenya is going through.

Soundarajan failed a gender test after finishing second in the women's 800-meter race at the 2006 Asian Games and was forced to return her silver medal. Semenya, the 800 world champion from South Africa who has been going through the same type of test to prove she is eligible to compete as a woman, is facing the same future.

"I pray that Semenya does not go through what I've been through, it almost drove me to committing suicide," Soundarajan, now 28, told The Associated Press on Saturday in an interview in her southern Indian hometown. "I've suffered immensely due to the stigma of the failed gender test."

Soundarajan, who came from a poor family, was forced to drop out of competitive athletics after she failed the gender test in Doha, Qatar. Finding a job and earning enough money to eat became a daily struggle.

Semenya also comes from poverty, but she managed to win the 800 at the worlds in 1 minute, 55.45 seconds — 2.45 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. It was the best 800 time in the world this year.

Before the race even started, however, the IAAF said it had ordered gender tests to be done on Semenya because questions had been raised about her muscular physique and recent stunning improvement in times.

The IAAF has refused to confirm or deny Australian media reports saying the tests show that Semenya has both male and female sex organs. It has said the test results are being studied and a decision on whether she will be allowed to compete in women's events is expected in November.

Soundarajan, however, wasn't surprised the issue has come up again so soon after her own ordeal.

"With so much of workload athletes go through, there will be hormonal changes. It's bound to happen," said Soundarajan, who has been coaching poor children for the last two years. "The authorities should bear this in mind when they take decisions.

"I cannot forget what I had to go through after my Asian Games medal was taken back. I hail from a poor family, and no one would give me a job. My entire family suffered as people began looking at me with a jaundiced eye, treating me like a cheat."

Soundarajan is hoping Semenya doesn't have to go through a similar experience.

"I do not know about Semenya's family conditions and support, but I hope she does not lose heart," Soundarajan said.

It was through coaching children that Soundarajan was able to change her life for the better.

"It was a tough decision. I was still reeling under the impact of a trauma, but had no available options or choices to make ... so coaching it was," Soundarajan said. "Coaching has given me immense satisfaction, especially as these young boys and girls are now competing for medals in the state competitions.

"During school vacations, I get to train more than 60 boys and girls. The facilities are not very good, but I was delighted when my wards secured the first and third positions in the three-mile run during last year's Chennai Marathon. This year, they'll win the top three places."

Getting her own medal back would be a dream come true, she said. The Athletics Federation of India has said it might consider asking for its return from the Olympic Council of Asia.

"I'll run miles to accept it back. It will change my life," Soundarajan said. "I do hope that people will treat me better when I am relieved of that stigma."


Santhi 'medal should be returned'

Indian athlete Santhi Soundararajan's 2006 medal should be returned to her if Caster Semenya is allowed to keep hers, an Indian athletics official says.

Soundararajan was stripped of the 800m silver at the Asian Games after failing a test and later attempted suicide.

Tests on Semenya, who won 800m gold at the world championships in Berlin last month, are likely to show that she has an "inter-gender condition".

BBC Sport understands that Semenya will not be stripped of her medal.

Lalit Bhanot of India's Amateur Athletic Federation told the BBC that India will take up Soundararajan's case if Semenya was allowed to keep her medal.

"Rules should be equal for every one. Why should not Soundararajan get her medal back? If they give the medal to Semenya, we can think of fighting [Santhi's case] with the international authorities," he said.

Soundararajan told the BBC Tamil Service that the Indian authorities had not fought her case after she was stripped off her silver medal at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.

"I was not given a chance like Caster Semenya. I don't have the capacity to fight a lonely battle due to my economic condition," she said.

Soundararajan, 28, said she was shunned by her local community after being stripped off her silver medal and banned from competing by the Indian Olympic Association.

"Had I been given a chance, I would have won a gold medal in Olympics. Because of the discriminatory attitude of the sports officials I was left alone and all my sports career ruined and my dreams shattered once and for all," she said.

She participated in eight international competitions and won 12 medals before being banned.

Soundararajan now runs a small training academy for athletes in her native district of Pudukkottai in India's southern Tamil Nadu state.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Semenya’s case - an ugly show of gender prejudice

By Julius K Kaggwa, Ugandan intersex activist and founder of SIPD

I have been following the story of Semenya and the controversy that has arisen from her outstanding achievement at the world games simply because her athletic ability and appearance are perceived to be too masculine for her to be a woman.

One of the greatly disturbing details is the irregularity in gender judgment by IAAF between the time Semenya registered for the games and the time of her win. Is it possible that Semenya looked more of a man than a woman after she won the gold medal than she did when she was entered into the games? Are chromosomal, hormonal, and gynaecological tests a standard “requirement” for participating in sports as a woman or a man? One would wonder which is a worse violation: – exclusion from event participation or denial of the gold medal on the basis of Semenya’s body type, yet none of the two compare to being forced to undergo humiliating invasive “gender verification” tests.

Even more disturbing is the implied gendering of performance in sports, particularly depicting women as having less sports competence and the suggested exclusion of intersex and gender non conforming individuals in mainstream sports participation. This unwarranted uproar around Semenya’s gender can only mean further isolation and discrimination of intersex and gender variant people and perhaps the introduction of patronizing ‘special’ sports events for people like us just like there is a sports category for the ‘physically disabled’. Even so, subjecting Semenya to humiliating, invasive non-consensual ‘gender verification’ tests just to satisfy IAAF’s stereotypical binary gender dichotomy, is committing both gender sadism and a major human rights violation against Semenya and against all intersex and gender variant individuals in Africa.

As an intersex rights advocacy voice in Uganda, SIPD condemns both IAAF and The Guardian’s decision to turn Semenya’s physical appearance into an unnecessary gender identity controversy; and the conjecture that she perhaps is intersex and if so, then she needs surgery to be a ‘real’ woman.

Many athletes of every gender are muscular owing to the amount of physical exercise and nutritional specifications their bodies are subjected to. Several of these graced the line up at the world games and to single Semenya out of all of them shortly after a gold medal win appears pre-meditated and is outright discriminatory. What seems to be Semenya’s crime? Is it that Semenya’s body is more masculine than is socially desirable for a woman? Is it that her athletic ability matches that of men? Or is it that she is suspected to be intersex? The charge against Semenya is simply that she is a human being whose gender presentation is traditionally non conforming. Does she have a problem with it? Certainly not! But IAAF does and with this gesture, IAAF is encouraging gender violence and discriminatory treatment towards African gender variant people.

We condemn this gesture by both IAAF and “The Guardian” as racist, and offensive to African gender non conforming people and particularly intersex people. Having been born intersex in Africa, I know first hand how those desperate to justify social injustices against people like myself and Semenya who are different will either equate or compare us to every falsehood imaginable. How for example could a conversation between Semenya’s grandmother and a reporter negate Semenya’s identity as a woman? Scarier than this falsehood is the verdict Semenya awaits after the tests by the “experts”. Who can determine if she is a woman or a man except Semenya herself? And what if she is neither man nor woman? Because that too does exist! Which ‘expert’ will determine for me which side to stand on if God has crafted me uniquely in between or all-embracing? The plain question is why is diversity too painful to embrace? After all, diversity is a divine key characteristic of the universe.

Whilst male athletes undergo simple blood tests to detect the use of drugs, a young African woman has to be forced to undergo extremely invasive and traumatic tests to ‘detect’ her gender! This is not simply outrageous, it is a violation, it is wrong, and it is a direct attack on Semenya’s person and on all of us born with bodies that are not typical and we strongly contest it.

'I'm human, I’m not from Mars'


Many traditional African communities explain the birth of intersexed babies with cultural beliefs such as interventions by ancestors after the parents have broken customs. Sophia Grootboom and Karabo Keepile spoke to two intersexed Africans who have experienced severe discrimination and whose sexes were wrongly identified at birth

Complete article: Click here

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One Woman’s Fight against the Intersex Stigma

By Mary Beth Sammons

Thea Hillman, who has fought the label "hermaphrodite" for most of her teen and adult life, says she was “heartbroken” Friday morning when she heard South African runner Caster Semenya could be banned from competing as a woman after new tests showed she is a hermaphrodite, having both male and female sex characteristics. Semenya, who reportedly had no idea prior to these tests, has made a very personal discovery in front of the whole world.

“My heart goes out to her and her family, because it is an awful stigma,” says Hilman, 38, of Oakland, CA. “It’s shaming and hurtful. For her to now have to think the whole world is focused on her genitals is so wrong. She is a scapegoat for people’s anxieties around medical gender issues that are confusing.”

Hillman tracks her own “coming out process” as an “intersex,” and her medically chaotic childhood and teen years, in her book Intersex (for Lack of a Better Word.) (Manic D Press.) “I can completely feel the pain of her family,” says Hillman. “People make you feel like a freak. I spent my childhood going from doctor to doctor, always knowing I was different and that something was wrong.”

Complete article: Click here

Breaking down the myth of two sexes

Nicky Phillips says gender is not either/or


Nicky Phillips never thought of herself as anything but a girl.

As a child, growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, she wore little-girl dresses, shiny shoes, and bobby socks. When she got a bit older, she started to wear lipstick and pearls and fuss about her hair.

Puberty brought with it the same uncertainty and awkwardness it brings most young women. But in Phillips’s case, her body wasn’t changing in the same ways it was for other girls.

Complete article: Click here


Intersexuality quite common

The following article uses very pathological language. However, it does give a more accurate account of how common intersex people are. We often think that intersex people are so rare that we don't know anyone who is intersex. That is probably not true. As a matter of fact, the person you know might not even know they are intersex. Often the individual is the last one in the family to find out because our sex is so pathologized and often altered without our consent that we don't know and those of us who do are often so ashamed that we will not disclose this information.

To read the article: Click here

'I prize myself as being a human being'

Caster Semenya's public humiliation has touched people of all races, creeds and genders across the world, but for one South African, Caster's pain has been hers too.
Sally Gross, however, has a better idea than most - because, like the young Limpopo athlete, Gross is intersexed. And she has lived through the ostracism, confusion and denial of the condition by others.
Gross has ambiguous genitalia.
"I don't know how it feels to be a woman. I don't know how it feels to be a man. I feel like me, and that's what's important."
Aged 56, Gross is at the forefront of intersex activism in the country and is the founder of the lobby group Intersex South Africa. She also works for the Religious Land Claims Commission.
Complete Article: Click here

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Julius K Kaggwa - Program Director, SIPD Uganda.

SIPD is a grassroots not for profit human rights organization in Uganda, which through community outreach and engagement, provides reliable and objective information on the plight of persons with DSD (Disorders of Sex Development - also preferrably known as Intersex conditions) and gender non conforming characteristics in Uganda. SIPD particularly addresses the human rights, sexual health, and social support of intersex children and people.

Founded by a Ugandan with an Intersex/DSD background backed by other advocates for the rights of people affected by DSD as a response to the needs of Ugandan children and people with DSD and as a result of the lack of social and legal space for children and people with DSD in Uganda, we advocate for the sexual health and human rights of children and people with DSD throughout Uganda. The objectives are to advance the rights of children and people with DSD through public education and awareness, medical and social support services referrals, and advocacy; and to network with various organisations throughout Uganda and East Africa to more specifically address the sexual health and human rights of children and people with DSD and gender variant characteristics. A primary goal of SIPD is to end the stigma and secrecy surrounding children and people with DSD, affording them freedom of choice and decision regarding their gender identity.

SIPD is dedicated to creating awareness on DSD/intersex issues and advocating for a more open, tolerant, and supportive society towards children and people with DSD; and to advocating for respect for the human rights and welfare of all such persons in Uganda.

What we do

  • Create Awareness
  • Provide Public Education on intersex conditions and related sexual health and human rights.
  • Provide Capacity building for stakeholders working with our target clients
  • ·Develop objective and relevant information for the Ugandan/African public on the subject of intersexuality/DSD
  • Provide direct support as well as referrals for medical support for intersex children and people
  • Provide spiritual and general counselling
  • Network with healthcare practitioners to develop appropriate care and support for intersexed children /people in Uganda
  • Mobilising local and international human and sexual health rights allies to amplify the voice of intersex children and people in Uganda.

SIPD Guiding Principles

  • Respect for Diversity
  • Compassion
  • Confidentiality

Visit SIPD

Gulf War Vet Discusses Being Intersex

National Geographic has put out a documentary featuring Gulf War veteran Rudy Alaniz, who discovered through an MRI that he possessed ovaries and a womb. The short clip below shows the ordeal and results that come from lies and shame perpetrated by the medical establishment.

HEALTHbeat 18.09.09

HEALTHbeat, which takes an holistic view of issues concerning health and well-being. The world press has recently been paying much attention to the ‘questionable’ gender of the record-breaking South African athlete Caster Semenya, and even the politicians are stepping in to the fray. Leaked reports claim that she has been diagnosed as being a hermaphrodite or ‘intersex,’ a condition that the ANC Youth League has stated, ‘in South Africa and the entire world of sanity, such does not exist.’ Emily Craven is Coordinator of the joint working group for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) groups in South Africa, and she talks about the condition and how they view the unfair treatment of Caster. Fadzai Muparutsa, who is the Programme Manager for Gender with Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), also shares her views.

To listen to the programme: Click here

For Caster Semenya, with Love.

This is an outpouring of love for Caster Semenya. Wrong is not her name. What is wrong is the way she has been treated in global media. As three queer women, we have struggled with our own relationship to the feminine as it has been constructed in mainstream society. As a black woman set adrift in a sea of whiteness, it was hard to see myself as beautiful. My curves and skin color made me unattractive in my world. As a white, feminine woman who is also intersex, I have struggled hard to come to peace with my body. Doctors and the world around me have told me I am defective or have denied my existence entirely. As a disabled Korean adoptee, I grew up as an outsider, rarely seeing people who moved like me or reflected me in my community or in the media. I was constantly told that my body was something that needed to be “fixed;” that it was “wrong;” and that it, that I, was “undesirable.” We engage with each other as comrades, three queer women uniquely shaped by our lived identities and experiences. We were the odd ones out, queered by our bodies, but later we claimed our queerness with fierce intention and pride. Now we choose our difference, embrace what sets us a part from a constrictive mainstream. It is for these reasons that we feel a deep kinship with Caster Semneya. Her story unfolded internationally without her consent and knowledge. We write to right wrongs done to someone whose only crime was daring to be all that she is.

Read the rest here

Friday, September 18, 2009

Commentary: My life as a 'Mighty Hermaphrodite'

By Hida Viloria
Special to CNN

Hida Viloria is a writer who holds a degree in Gender and Sexuality from U.C. Berkeley. She is also an activist for intersex people -- (formerly known as hermaphrodites) Her memoir "Mighty Hermaphrodite" will be published next spring.

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A lot of people have been outraged by the gender verification testing that South African athlete Caster Semenya has been put through, and have been trying to be supportive of her; but in doing so, they often further prejudice against the very thing which she appears to be: intersex.

Complete Article: Click here

Stop the Sex Scare in Sports


September 14, 2009

The salacious sports media and the puritanical zealots that run international track and field have joined forces to hit a new low. Someone in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) leaked to the press that Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old 800-meter track champion from South Africa, is, in the words of Oren Yaniv in the New York Daily News, both "a woman... and a man!"

After being subjected to a battery of "gender tests," which included invasive exams by a gynecologist, an endocrinologist and a psychologist, Semenya's private business is now presented for public consumption.

If the leaks are to be regarded as true, they show that Caster Semenya has internal testes and no womb or ovaries. She is possibly one of the millions of people in the world (one of 1,666 births in the United States alone) who are classified as "intersex."

Or she may have Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), which affects two to five out of every 100,000 births. The different biological gender classifications are complex, ever changing and, ideally, private. But to the drooling press, it's vulture time.

As Yaniv wrote, "The tests, ordered...after Semenya's 800-meter victory in the World Championships, determined she's a hermaphrodite--having both male and female organs." Now the story has gone international, and Caster Semenya has gone into hiding.

Forget for a moment that the term "hermaphrodite" is as outdated and offensive as "mulatto." Forget that these test results were leaked first to the Australian press, which also referred to Semenya as a hermaphrodite. Forget that Australia was the country that brought these accusations against Semenya in the first place.

Besides being a cruel and idiotic practice, sex testing doesn't account for the idea that gender is at least in part socially constructed and far more fluid than the iron categories of male and female. An 18-year-old woman is being torn apart in the press for doing nothing but winning a race. If it is the goal of the media and IAAF to destroy the life of a young, talented female athlete by outing her as potentially intersex then they are not simply pitiless; they are socially repugnant.

From the notion that women are somehow weaker and slower than men, to the not-so-subtle racism of Western standards of appearance, and on to their profound ignorance about the fluidity of sex and gender, these institutions are threatening to catapult women in sports back into the Dark Ages. We can't let them.

Being a woman--or a man--is not reducible to internal organs or chromosomes. Social, historical, political and economic forces shape who we are and how we perceive our gender identities, in addition to our biology.

We should be enraged by the indifference and crass opportunism at "sexy" headlines. We must demand an end to gender testing in sports as an ill-conceived endeavor that only results in tormenting its subjects and projecting garbage ideas about what men and women really are.

And after all the horror, outrage and ogling from the Daily News and its media brethren, Semenya's condition may very well be allowable under IAAF policy.

As Science of Sport reported, "While it may be suggested that being an intersex individual, or someone who is 'not entirely female,' is grounds for disqualification, it is not. In Atlanta in 1996, eight women 'failed' the sex verification test because they had a Y-chromosome (strictly speaking, they had the SRY gene or the Y-chromosome). All eight were allowed to compete."

Since 2005 eight athletes that we know about have been investigated for "sexuality issues." Of the eight, according to the IAAF secretary general, only four "were asked to stop their career."

Dr. Myron Genel, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at Yale University who was part of a special panel of experts the IAAF convened, said, "She's born a female, raised as a female through puberty. Whatever is found, with the exception of deliberate substance abuse, she's going to have to be allowed to compete as a female."

If Semenya's biology is not "normal," it's worth asking, what world-class athlete does have a normal body?

No one brands Shaquille O'Neal abnormal because he is seven feet tall. Michael Phelps, as was remarked by breathless Olympics commentators, has unusually large and flat feet that act like flippers in a pool. Usain Bolt has a stride that allows him to cover an insane amount of ground in only a few steps.

As Tommy Craggs of Deadspin writes, "Great athletes tend not to come from the vast middle of human life. They're all freaks in one way or another.... But Semenya has nevertheless been portrayed as some lone oddity on the margins, like some Elephant Man of sports, with everyone obsessing like Victorian scientists over the presence of a couple internal testicles. It's funny: People seem to think her very weirdness is grounds enough for stripping her of her medal and drumming her out of track. But this is sports. Her weirdness is perfectly normal."

It's the "her" part that gets Semenya in trouble. Exceptional male athletes are treated like kings, not sideshow freaks. But for women to join them on the royal dais, you must appear as if you can step seamlessly from the court or track and into the pages of soft-core porn. Freaks need not apply.

There are real fears, expressed by Semenya's family, for her mental health in the wake of this maelstrom. We should stand without question in solidarity with Caster Semenya and express nothing but contempt for those who would get off, financially or otherwise, on seeing her destroyed.

About Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin is The Nation's sports editor. He is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and A People's History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports and The Progressive. He is the host of Sirius/XM's Edge of Sports Radio. more...

About Sherry Wolf

Sherry Wolf is an independent journalist the author of the new critically praised book Sexuality and Socialism(Haymarket Books). She is currently organizing for the LGBT National Equality March for full civil rights in October. more...

Reprinted with permission from The Nation

Apology to Intersex People for Anti-Greens, Anti-Intersex Ads

TheTimber Communities Australia (TCA) lobby group has apologized to all Australian intersex people for its political advertisements criticizing the Australian Greens’ policies on intersex, via Tasmanian human rights activist Martine Delaney.

For more information from OII-Australia: Click here

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Unreliability of Sex testing in Athletics

By Sophia Siedlberg, Genetics Advisor to the Organisation Intersex International
To download this article: Click here

Also of interest:
Homochromosexuality: A new psychiatric disorder
by Curtis E. Hinkle Click here

Ms Semenya, I Never Knew You

by Gina Wilson, OII-Australia Click here

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Caster Semenya Placed On Suicide Watch

South African runner Caster Semenya, who is at the center of a gender row, has been placed on suicide watch amid fears for her mental stability.

The Daily Star quoted officials as saying that psychologists are caring the 18-year-old round-the- clock after it was claimed tests had proved she was a hermaphrodite.

Leaked details of the probe by the International Association of Athletics Federations showed the 800m starlet had male and female sex organs - but no womb.

Lawmaker Butana Komphela, chair of South Africa's sports committee, was quoted as saying: "She is like a raped person. She is afraid of herself and does not want anyone near her. If she commits suicide, it will be on all our heads. The best we can do is protect her and look out for her during this trying time."

South African athletics officials confirmed Semenya is now receiving trauma counselling at the University of Pretoria.

Caster has not competed since the World Athletics Championships last month when the IAAF ordered gender tests on her amid claims she might be male.


Additional articles:

Activists say Caster Semenya's privacy must be respected and have called for South Africans to inform themselves on constitutional provisions for intersex individuals

Hats off to exemplary lady

Young SA team strike gold

Birth certificate backs SA gender

Caster Semenya faces sex test before she can claim victory

Semenya left stranded by storm

Semenya dismissive of gender row

Caster Semenya row: 'Who are white people to question the makeup of an African girl? It is racism'

Scant support for sex test on champion athlete

Coach: Gender tests not explained to Semenya

Makeover for SA gender-row runner

From clamour to glamour: Caster Semenya sets the agenda of a real golden girl

World Athletics: Caster Semenya tests 'show high testosterone levels'

Semenya 'almost boycotted medal'

Women's world champion Semenya faces gender test

Semenya told to take gender test

Caster Semenya's present and future

SAfrican in gender flap gets gold for 800 win

Shy country girl poised to win gold in Berlin

IAAF must stop casting doubts on our girl Caster

South Africans unite behind gender row athlete

Caster Semenya, South African runner subjected to gender test, gets tumultuous welcome home