Transgender inclusion in sport.

Author:Corbett, Rachel

In mid-November, I participated in a literary event in Toronto hosted by Carol Off, a well-known CBC personality and the co-host of As It Happens, a nightly radio program. She was interviewing three authors of historical fiction. An audience member asked the question, "A hundred years from now, when future authors are writing historical fiction about our lives today, how do you think they will portray us?" The host offered up her view that a century from now, historians might wonder about today's preoccupation with gender, suggesting that gender divisions might dissolve away.

I found this remark insightful and startling--in a good way! This is because I have advocated for many years that to maximize its huge benefits to individuals, families, communities and societies, sport must be inclusive. Gender has stood out, over history, as the area of sport that is decidedly exclusive and restrictive, and for which sport has much explaining to do.

I have written in this magazine previously about the issue of gender and sport (link). I have also written extensively on my own website, Organized sport has long maintained a delivery model predicated on gender polarity and chronological age categories. Sport is also, by its nature, highly rule-driven, and it exists as a legally-sanctioned monopoly in all jurisdictions of the world. It is safe to say that it is one of the last domains to soften ever so slightly under the pressures brought by the transgender community, which has been very active in recent years asserting the rights of gender-diverse people in society.

Today, there are many people and organizations doing excellent work to foster more positive and inclusive experiences for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in sport. Many leading sport organizations have welcomed LGBT members, participants and fans. The CFL (Canadian Football League) recently partnered in an official Grey Cup party at a gay sports bar in Toronto. For years, the Blue Jays (and other Major League Baseball teams) having hosted "gay days" at the ballpark. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and one of its counterparts in Canada, the CCAA (Canadian Colleges Athletic Association), along with the Coaching Association of Canada have published resources and policy tools to promote the inclusion of LGBT athletes and coaches. The international Gay Games have been going strong for nearly 30 years, and the international OutGames for over a decade.

At this point, in Canada at least, efforts to promote inclusion of LG and B people into sport have been highly successful. The inclusion of T people (transgender) has been more challenging however, because of the historic regimentation of sport along gender binary lines, and because of the distinct competitive advantage of .... ironically, T (or testosterone). Physiologically, it is testosterone that makes men and women different, and it is the existence of testosterone that renders male athletic performances superior to those of females in almost all cases.

Here is a bit of history to create...

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