Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya, who generated international controversy due to questions about her sex and gender, has been chosen to bear the South African flag at the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Friday night.

“It’s such a privilege for me to do such a big thing like that,” Semenya told the Guardian. “To carry the flag for the team, it’s such a big thing.”

The 21-year-old middle-distance runner and world champion made a splash in August 2009 when she won the 800 metres at the Berlin Athletics World Championships.

Her success was marred by news that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) would test her to asses if she should compete as a woman and she was suspended from running.

The international media focused on the young athlete who became the subject of investigations, medical tests and brutal speculation.

She was further humiliated when an Australian newspaper claimed to have a medical report stating that Semenya does not have a womb or ovaries but has internal testes.

South African athletics officials were widely criticised for the shoddy way they handled the controversy.

In July 2010, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) finally gave Semenya the all-clear to compete as a woman.

The humiliating dissection of Semenya’s gender continues today. An Atlantic Wire article last month described her as now looking “feminine… relaxed, poised and, it must be said, pretty” due to medical “treatment” that keeps her testosterone levels under the prescribed IAAF levels for a woman.

Despite the fact that results of the tests assessing her sex were never officially made public, nor her identifying as intersexed, she was adopted by many in the LGBT community as one of their own.

In 2010, British magazine New Statesman listed Semenya as one of its “50 People That Matter” for unintentionally instigating “an international and often ill-tempered debate on gender politics, feminism, and race, becoming an inspiration to gender campaigners around the world”.

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