Professional Tennis Star, Born A Hermaphrodite, Ignites Controversy

Germany’s Sarah Gronert is a professional tennis player who competes on the same level as the Williams sisters and Maria Sharipova. The thing is, Gronert was born with both male and female sex organs (i.e. she’s a hermaphrodite), though she had surgery a few years ago to remove the male genitalia. Her story ignited controversy in her own country and within the professional tennis world, but she was able to plead her case with the WTA (the group that oversees the sport) so that she could continue to play among her female peers. But her critics believe that the fact that she was born both as a man and a woman gives her an unfair advantage competing against women. “There is no girl who can hit serves like that, not even Venus Williams,” said Schlomo Tzoref, who coaches rival player. “When I heard her story, I was in shock. I don’t know if it’s fair that she can compete or not. She does have an advantage, but if this is what the WTA have decided, they probably know best.” Apparently, Gronert is so good, she’s expected to be crack the Top 50 players in the world this year.

This story is fascinating to me, as I think it highlights how much is misunderstood about hermaphrodites. For starters, the medical community prefers the term “intersexual.” Some people who are intersexed may outwardly appear completely female or male, but would have the sex hormones of both genders. Others who are intersexed have an outward appearance that goes against the “norm” that’s identified at birth or a younger age — like a sexual organ larger than a clitoris and smaller than a penis. The common misconception is that hermaphrodites/intersexuals are walking around with both a full formed penis and fully formed vagina, but that’s not the case.

Additionally, hermaphrodites who “lean” in one gender direction biologically are not the same as transsexuals who are born one gender, but identify emotionally and mentally with the other. The insinuation that Gronert doesn’t serve with the muscle power of a female implies that she has the muscle power of a man — but by looking at pictures of Gronert, it seems obviously to me that while athletic, she’s hardly Andy Roddick with a long wig. Maybe, just maybe, she’s got all that talent because she’s worked for it and her critics are just preying upon the misconceptions and negative attitudes towards intersexuals because they’re intimidated? If Gronert was not allowed to play against female competitors, who would she play against? Men? How is that any more “fair” or just? [wowOwow]