Thursday, September 10, 2009

First We Are Born. The Rest Is All Drag.

I shoulda seen this coming. Caster Semenya, the South African gold medal runner whose gender is being challenged, has had a “make-over” and her new safely feminine look is on display on the cover of a South African magazine. The accompanying text gushes, “We turn SA’s power girl into a glamour girl - and she loves it! Wow! Look at Caster Now!”

Caster is quoted, "I'd like to dress up more often and wear dresses but I never get the chance.” This feels so fake given everything we have been told about Caster in the media. She also says, “I am who I am and I'm proud of myself." This feels like an actual quote from Caster. Does anyone else see the contradiction here?

Poor Caster. She appeared to be quite comfortable with how she was expressing her gender prior to all the controversy at the World Championships. Her family supported her. Her community supported her. Her country supported her. Baggy pants, short hair, muscular build, That was Caster: “I am who I am and I'm proud of myself."
Now, this. It feels so phony and, in hindsight, so predictable. What better way to prove she is a real woman than to get a new hairdo, apply some make-up and fingernail polish, and don a little black dress.

I am not criticizing Caster here. Who knows what I would do if I were an 18 year old young woman from South Africa who suddenly finds my gender questioned on an international stage and is then subjected to all kinds of invasive and embarrassing medical exams by a team of strange doctors to determine whether or not I qualify as a woman.

This photo shoot feels like another invasion to me. The message is the same: Who you are and how you express who you are is not ok. We need to fix you up so you will be more acceptable to us (and we can feel more comfortable with you). And, of course, sell a few magazines in the process.

As if the traditional trappings of femininity, white western trappings of femininity, had anything to do with Caster’s sex, gender, gender expression or sexuality. Quentin Crisp was right – First we are born, the rest is all drag. Why is that so scary?

Thanks to One Sport Voice, where I first read about this.


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