Azad Essa
Azad Essa

Is she the man she’s waited for all her life?

Once upon a time, a child was born to happy parents in Masehlong, in the Limpopo province, northern South Africa. As a young child, Caster Semenya understood she was different from the other girls. While the other petite girls were relishing their new socks at preschool, Caster was already the high jump champion in the neighbouring primary school. By the time she reached high school, she was the wrestling champion, the sprint champion and she even took on the boys’ tug-of-war team and won. The local newspaper even covered the story.

Semenya was not uninterested in boys. She liked that cute lad Sibusiso in school, but when he suddenly groped her one afternoon in an open field, Semenya’s knee-jerk reaction was to flatten his nose and break two of his ribs. She didn’t mean to, but he was weak. All the boys seemed weak, even weaker than the girls, except the boys were always “acting” strong and important and dangerous. Semenya understood, especially when the local pastor’s son asked what Snoop Doggy Dogg was doing in a dress at a birthday party that her chances at the Miss Universe pageant were always going to be slim. Instead the bright youngster discovered that she could run like a bat out of hell and followed her dream of becoming an athletic star.

It wasn’t long before Semenya was chosen to represent South Africa and her fairytale sports story continued as she went to Berlin for the World Athletics Championship. Her strong physique and powerful technique raised eyebrows from the start. She conquered the 800m race, winning by a mammoth margin; an incredible 2.45 seconds ahead of the runner-up and the former world champion. Everyone was happy. Even Helen Zille managed a smile from flooded Cape Town. But then like all Grimm stories, there was a twist in the tale.

The IAAF officials were stunned. They looked at each other in shock.

South African athletes can hardly make it from the hotel to the track on time, how did this woman make it to the finals and win without breaking a sweat?

They looked at her closely, and some of the male IAAF officials realised that Semenya’s biceps were bigger than their puny legs, but when one of them saw some facial hair on the spunky athlete, they looked at each other and nodded their heads with a wry smile.

This is the same athlete who refused to provide sexual favours before the tournament.

“She couldn’t be female,” they remarked, and she wasn’t allowed a victory lap.

“Hold the she-male,” they cried. “Take her to the gallows!”

“Until we know her status, she is not to meet with the media!” they called out.

Little did we know, the sinister IAAF masterminds had checked out Caster’s Spartan calves even before the competition and had decided to conduct a gender test to clarify if the un-pretty athlete was really just an average-looking bloke inside.

Meanwhile, as the tests were sent to the laboratory for results, an endocrinologist, gynaecologist, internal medicine expert, expert on gender and psychologist were roped in and placed on standby to deal with “the situation”.

Now these are big words for a fairytale so let me explain at least one of them.

An endocrinologist sounds like a doctor who fondles dinosaurs but they are really just harmless hormone scientists who specialise in, well, wait, let me just check Wikipedia … deviant hormones and other internal human structures that you won’t need to know about unless you get into med school. So these evil IAAF people, knowing that Semenya has a vagina, ask the specialists to find out if she has an overflow of male testosterone that makes her think of sex every 30 seconds (ie like a man). If that is proven, the evil men say “then we need to get that crappy medal back”.

But to sound like good people, the IAAF was kind enough to bring in the psychologist.

Her job is to ensure that no matter what gender Semenya turns out to be following the test, Semenya is to be made to feel handsome or beautiful.

But Semenya sits in chains in a five-star hotel room, soaking in the contradiction of her disposition. Finally reaching the summit of her career and yet at the depths of her personal life, she awaits to be told if she herself is really the man she has waited for all her life.

But back home in South Africa, millions gather and strategise her escape from the throngs of indignity.

News of her imprisonment moves the population into rethinking their world.

Women stop visiting the beautician and let their facial hair grow. Beauty magazines are trashed and make-up bottles flushed down toilets. Advertising agencies are given ultimatums to halt the inferiority complex industry or face immediate closure. Men look for depth, rejecting airbrushed FHM lasses and tell their partners that they are worth it without the heels, make-up and push-up bra. Daughters are told that weight-lifting is as accessible as netball. Boys are taught that cooking is as cool as football.

Women reconcile with their vastly different bodies, their looks and people begin to look beyond what people are supposedly meant to look like.

No matter what the verdict, the IAAF can’t hurt Semenya now.

Semenya returns home a hero and a heroine.

The End.