Hida Viloria is a writer who holds a degree in Gender and Sexuality from U.C. Berkeley. She is also an activist for intersex people -- (formerly known as hermaphrodites) Her memoir "Mighty Hermaphrodite" will be published next spring.
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A lot of people have been outraged by the gender verification testing that South African athlete Caster Semenya has been put through, and have been trying to be supportive of her; but in doing so, they often further prejudice against the very thing which she appears to be: intersex.
Intersex people (formerly known as hermaphrodites) are those born with bodies that are difficult to classify as either "male" or "female."
Since results of Semenya's tests were apparently leaked, it seems that her body doesn't conform to the definition of "female" as one who has ovaries.
I'm intersex because, while I have ovaries, menstruate and can get pregnant, my genitalia is somewhat male-looking (simply put, I have a clitoris that's much larger than average.)
Throughout my childhood, I never thought I was anything other than "female" because that's what I was labeled and raised as. While I felt more aggressive than other girls, I didn't think that anything other than male and female could exist. So I just thought of myself as a "different kind of woman." Ultimately, my assessment was pretty accurate.
I was raised in a strict Catholic home, where nudity and sex talk was unheard of, so having no one to compare my genitals to, I was unaware that mine were different.
I'm very lucky to have escaped the "corrective" surgeries and/or hormone treatments that are the norm for intersex infants, because my father went to medical school before these practices began (in the mid-late '50's), and knew that you shouldn't operate on a baby unless it's absolutely necessary.