There is Always Someone More Oppressed Than You

Athletics Semenya Gender TestI’m going to keep this one plain and simple:

There is always someone more oppressed than you!

I’m sure you all have probably heard of the controversy regarding the Gold medal winning South African track star Caster Semenya, who after winning the 800 meter race at the World Championships held in Berlin, Germany, was requested to take a gender test to figure out if she is indeed a female.

The results came back.

She is both male and female – hermaphrodite, intersex or disorders of sexual development to be technical.

In July at the Cornerstone Festival, I had the opportunity to meet (with Tony Jones) an intersex female. She has continued talking to both Tony and I over the last few months, and it has been something that has opened my eyes to a whole new world that I never, ever knew someone to be a part of! Listening to her – to her life, the abuse she has taken, the confusion (emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally) she has had to deal with (as literal as “Which bathroom do I go in”) and the course of her life because of her outward appearance and genetics, has made me question God more than a few times recently. In my recent memory, I haven’t come across anyone, or any story that has broken my heart more than hers. And you know what amazes me more than anything? She still loves the Lord and still goes to church; even, as she says,

“No one at church understands me or wants to understand me. But I keep going anyway because I love the Lord and I am trying to live as best as I can!”

Tony has recently done a few great posts on ‘The Complexities of Gender’ here. Without wanting to duplicate much on Tony’s words, I want to add a separate thought:

My wife lived in Africa for 3 years – 2 in Niger and 1 in South Africa (where Caster Semenya comes from). As I showed my wife the article stating the results of the genetics test, Brenda had the most horrific look of fear on her face. When I asked why, she said the following:

1. Because of South Africa’s historical racial divides, mixed with the black African’s traditional African culture, having or being anything different is extremely dangerous. It’s already bad enough for woman in general (thanks Oprah for working on that), but because she is a black woman and now can’t have any children of her own, the stigma against her as less-human (even within her own black African culture) is greater than ever.

2. She is not 100% female, and therefore in many cases will be treated as less than females are already treated. 

3. It is so sad that this all played out in the world media – in many cases people from her own country believing she has brought shame to herself, her family, their ancestors/village/etc.

None of us can know what she faces from here on out, as it doesn’t look like there can be anything to undo the horrific attention this has brought to her – as she found out for the first time of her genetic make-up with the rest of us. The only thing that might save her is her celebrity status as a world class athlete – but even that might not be enough. Therefore as we all move forward I want to stress to myself and to you as well, we must keep Kingdom lives in perspective to everyone who surround us.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    New development – South Africa sticks up for Semenya to the world! http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/trackandfield/news/

  • Courtney J White

    Once again Andrew, you have spoken beautifully into the suffering of yet another human being….I only hope to add that we are called to remember Psalm 46:1 in times/situations like this…"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (NIV). I remember back in 1997 when my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer while my mother was already dying from another form of cancer; a friend shared a verse/poem with me that has helped me make "sense" of God and His ways ever since….I hope I remember it correctly….God is too good to be unkind, He is too wise to be mistaken and when you cannot trace His hand that is when you must learn to trust His heart."

    All I know is that none of this has caught God by surprise and I pray for Caster that there will be or already are people in her life who will show her and shower her with God's love that she; like the other young intersex female that you had the privilege to meet; will one day stand and sing the praises of God inspite of her trials!

  • Mrs T

    Let’s remember to pray for her. Is there some way the Marin Foundation can communicate with her?
    Another sin to consider in this situation is the sin of gossip. Can’t the media leave this poor girl alone?
    Welcome back! I missed you, but was glad you had the opportunities you had! I’m looking forward to hearing how God blessed the ministry.

  • Br. Michael

    Intersex is NOT a disease! I, myself, am not all male…. It happens at birth.

    If you are uneducated, please ask a biologist with a PhD about the God-given blessing of birth including blessings of biology.

  • http://sassygranny.blogspot.com/ Kathleen Flanagan

    This story really gripped me from the git-go. I’m old enough to know that there are many things in life we (believer and unbeliever alike) just don’t understand, much less appreciate. It’s so easy, if not compelling, to flip through the news and form opinions from snippets of rubbish.

    My heart goes out to this athlete. It is obvious she has exercised both talent and time to achieve her amazing “win”. To have it dashed in such a sensational and hurtful way is tragic.

    Keep us focused. Your words are so important.

    Kathleen

  • Audrey

    I don't think any person is a disease, but each group sure has to fight to have the majority get over this idiotic idea. Imagine, back before 1973 or so, gays and lesbians were considered a people who were mentally ill.

    That was when I was a teenager. The majority is clueless!

  • williams

    thanks andrew for posting this story but I wish it had never come to light becuse I know just living a life of knowing somethings differnt in object obscurty is touph enouph but to have it nationly known & exspetioly in a sosity that is so opposed to irregerlartys puts more pressure & danger on this sweet soal. I personly think now that it has been forced into the light the team, federation, & anyone else that can should pull out all the stops & immidly put her in protective custody & make sure her life & well being is tended too. I truly send my prayers, & well wishes to her. Being intersexed is a exstreamly hard road to travil in generl but this poor soal has to do it in frount of all the world & she will need the stringth of the ages to make it.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    “God is too good to be unkind, He is too wise to be mistaken and when you cannot trace His hand that is when you must learn to trust His heart.”

    Those words (not quite accurate, but close) were spoken by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Victorian preacher. I drew comfort from knowing he suffered from depression, like I once did. Another great quote of his: “Most of the great truths of God have to be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall never truly receive them.”

  • AM

    Andrew,

    I was born intersexed in this country (U.S.) at a time when it was even more secretive than today. And, yes, it is secretive today — the Houston Chronicle ran a front page article of a 21 year old woman this past year — with her face cropped.

    In my case, I was left to die by my mother in Texas Children’s Hospital in 1967. But, my dad believed that I should live and kept vigil night after night as I hovered between life and death. (I was “salt-wasting” — dehydration common to intersexed persons.)

    Fast forward to today: After God took me on this journey to understand that my “same sex attractions” were not exactly that easily understood, I wrestled with HIm about coming forward.

    And I have: but I have found that cutting edge Christians do not want to take my story on. I contacted Wendy Gritter with great hopefullness but received a definite “no”. So, where do I go? To Exodus? Hmm…I think not. ;-)

    I have said for quite awhile now that someone who is intersexed, somewhere *will* come forth in the Church, *to* the Church. Obviously that prophecy has been fulfilled with the above story.

    I’m still waiting to tell mine in a cohesive, dignified matter on a much broader scale than the Internet. Until that time, I remain in His Grip.

  • Mrs T

    AM: I’d love to hear more…. Who raised you? How did you become a Christian? etc……..
    I’m sure Andrew would be a wonderful person to take time to talk to you, respect your anonymity, help you, & teach others.

    BTW, maybe it is time for athletic organizations to have a new category of competition where anyone can complete. Strong women can compete against men, while intersexuals can stay anonymous, weaker men can get some dignity, etc….. Those more experienced in sports competition can thrash out the details.
    It is a shame that this talented S. African woman may lose her title & even more, her peace. But that’s where God comes in!

  • AM

    Mrs. T,

    This is exactly my point: I do not want to share the details of my life on a blog. Quite honestly, the reality of intersexism is too important as a teaching tool for the church to understand about homosexuality, transgenderism, etc…

    And I am not looking for “help”: My desire is to give the Church and Christianity at large a reality check that not all are born male or female.

    Pardon my succinctness, but that is my point(s) in commenting. We are here; we exist.

  • Audrey

    It seems that life is a lot more complex, thanks to the discovery of DNA and all its attendant revelations. Some day, with proper training, and equal facilities and adequate support, women will be running as fast if not faster than men. We’re already closing in on the marathon. Someday, all of this won’t matter.

    Someday, people aren’t going to be so obsessed with how people dress, what their personal interests are, and none of this ever has much to do with sex at all. Gender is simply the code of conduct enforced on men and women, but it is socially constructed, and irrelvant most of the time to actually people.

    Butch lesbians often get questioned as restroom doors, because we don’t fit the gender police codes either. Who benefits from gender policing?
    Who benefits from freedom?

    In any instance with any ideology or theology, it is always good to ask: well who benefits most from this policy and why?

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    AM – Thank you for sharing your life and message. As with talking to my friend over the past few months, I am truly humbled by your life and strong will to survive in the face of so much oppression and misunderstanding from even your first days here on earth. If you ever feel inclined, feel free to email me at andrew@themarinfoundation.org. I’m not here to “help” or “fix” I just want to be “with” if that is what you intended from Wendy or Exodus. And if you would want to get your life experiences and message out there on a broader scale, I’d be more than happy for you to write a series of posts for this blog as it is definitely a topic I don’t personally know any Christian (except for my friend and now you) to want to, or have to grow within. Thanks again AM, seriously. Much love.

  • http://www.xanga.com/djfree Darren

    I think this is absolutely deplorable. This HAS to violate all kinds of health codes, as Semenya's personal health information has been disclosed to the public. If this happened to an American, we'd make sure that whoever leaked the information never had a dime to their name, and never practiced in healthcare again! I really hope that the S. African government is successful in their investigation!

    AM,

    Thank you SO MUCH for your boldness in wanting to share your story. I do hope that you contact Andy, so that he can share your story here. I've been intrigued by the moral question "how do we make the intersexed feel accepted, whole, and just as God created them to be" ever since reading Brian McLaren's "The Last Word and the Word After That" (In his New Kind of Christian trilogy). My interest to know more was further piqued by following Tony Jones' blog, and Peterson Toscano's blog (both of which should be easy to find via a google search). I think that they too would be more than happy to give you a platform to share your story, if that's what you desired. Lord knows the Church needs to hear it!

    Blessings,

    Darren

  • williams

    thank you so much AM I so apreate your stringth. I am in a fairly supportive church & recorvery invirment but within my self I have much shame becuse of my intersexism, I too was on the brink of death at birth but never understood why till you mentiond it being common amongst the intersexed. I was also a faild abortion were saline was used so it being conected my gender got over looked. I too have a passion to have the church as a whole welcome ALL but that seems insermontible sometimes to me, so I am sad to admit most times I just am thankfull that even though my church admidly by them don't really know how to understand me they do accsept me, and I become content to help them understand & let people know there is one church at least that teaches the bibilical truth & accsepts people for themselves just the way Jesus did. I feel too old to take on the world anymore. thanks for still haveing the fire within to be willing to still be in the fight.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X