The treatment of Caster Semenya, the South African athlete whose victory in the 800m at the World Championships in 2009 ended in acrimony after she was accused of being ‘a man’, once again raises the issue of how intersexed athletes are treated by the various international sports bodies. Many people are unaware of the existence of ‘intersex’ conditions, whilst others talk in whispers about ‘hermaphrodites’. This talk, although focusing on the history of gender testing in sports (an issue that only began in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics), also intends to raise awareness of issues that affect people who are labelled as ‘intersex’ and have to negotiate their way through a society that insists that only two sexes are possible in nature.
Dr Louise Chambers is an associate lecturer in the Department of Media & Communications, Goldsmiths College, London. She is particularly interested in the gendered relations that emerge in and between theories of embodiment, psychology and the mass media.