Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22, 2009--Horsing Around

Admittedly mornings are not my best time. Though I am a poor sleeper and wake very early, don’t ask me to operate heavy equipment before 9:00 much less make much sense of what I might be reading. This even applies to something undemanding such as the sports section of the New York Times—the Jets and Giants somehow on the same day managed to eek out victories, the Yankees lost as usual on the west coast, and of course the Mets lost by relinquishing the lead by making a raft of errors late in the game.

And, to quote from another story:

Martha Maxine might seem like an ill-fitting name for a 5-year-old, but there is an explanation. He used to be a she.

A 5-year-old who used to be a she? This sort of story will jolt one into full consciousness. I pride myself on being a liberal sort, including in the sexual-preference-transgender realm, but what parent, I wondered, would allow their 5-year-old son to become their 5-year-old daughter?

Rona was stirring in the bed next to me and, so startled and disturbed by this story, I muttered something loud enough to rouse her in order to share my outrage.

“What’s going on?” she asked, half awake and barely audible. “Are you OK?”

“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I fibbed, “but there is something that’s disturbing me.”

“A bad dream?” She struggled to sit up under the heavy quilt. “Something with your stomach?” A few years ago I had a serious intestinal problem and frequently woke up earlier than usual and thus Rona was having a sort of flashback to that distressing time.

“No, no. I’m all right. Go back to sleep.”

“But there is something wrong. I heard you moaning to yourself.”

“I wasn’t moaning but there is something in the paper that . . .”

“How many times have I told you not to read the paper so early in the morning? The healthcare debate can wait until later. And so can all the wars and murders.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t, but this time it’s about something else.”

Rona by then was sitting fully up and switched on her bedside light. “All right. I’m listening.” So I read to her the opening paragraph about the 5-year-old. This time without leaving anything out, realizing why it was in the sports and not the news section:

“Martha Maxine might seem like an ill-fitting name,” I read accurately, “for a 5-year-old male horse . . .” I paused, “Oh my, sorry, this is not at all about a boy, but a horse. A male horse who became a female horse.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“I said I’m sorry. You see, I thought that this was about . . .”

“For this you woke me at 5:00 AM?”

“Sorry, but . . .” I heard her light switch off and she rolled over so forcefully and even angrily that she pulled all of the blanket to her side of the bed, leaving me uncovered except by the other sections of the Times. Which I continued to read.

It seems that Martha was doing so well racing against fillies that track officials, noting that “she” “carried a lot of muscle tone” for a female, suspected that she was being given illegal substances since, from a genitalia perspective, she looked totally female. While the doping tests showed no traces of steroids they did reveal elevated levels of testosterone and, after further examination, they discovered that Martha Maxine had testicles in her/his abdomen. (Story linked below.)

She was thus thereafter required to race against colts. Last year, competing against females, she did quite well for a trotter, earning more than $200,000. How would she do, racing against colts? At first, not so well; but two weeks ago, in a prep race for the $125,000 Tony Maurello Stakes, Martha won, covering the distance in record time for her . . . or him.

Please do not find fault with me for struggling with which pronoun to best use when writing about him. Even her trainer and co-owner is having problems. Erv Miller still refers to Martha Maxine as “she” and “her.” He said, “I tried it the other way for a bit, calling ‘her’ ‘he.’ It just mixed me up.”

Then there is the case of Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old South African runner who won the women’s 800 meter race at the 2009 world track and field championships. For some time she has been suspected, minimally, of being of mixed gender. If you can forgive the comparison, like Martha Maxine. And thus sports officials want to test her. If she is found to have both ovaries and testicles . . . what to do?

This case is fraught with more than integrity-of-the-sport baggage. Semenya is a black South African and, after their appalling racial history, some are claiming that she is being persecuted and suspected of, in effect, cheating by doubters who are acting in a sexist and racist way.

The inquiry has so angered many South Africans that they are comparing her plight to that of Saartjie Baartman, an African woman taken to Europe in the early 19th century and exhibited like a wild beast under the name “Hottentot Venus.” While in Europe scientists in public scrutinized Baartman’s genitals in the same that some assert sports officials are now wanting to humiliate Caster Semenya.

Rona, of course, is right—I should try to do something about my sleeping problem. Further, she says that if I can’t figure out what to do with myself when I wake up so early, I should do my blogging. Which I’m right now doing.

It is 6:29 AM, I’m done, and I think I’ll post this and try to go back to sleep.


Anonymous Jeff said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this blog!
Brother Len put me on to it.
I plan to be an avid follower.
I also read the one from 2005 that referenced your family background.

Jeff Horowitz (jhortho@aol.com)

September 22, 2009  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home