‘Fair go’ in sport: equal opportunity for transgender and gender diverse people
By: Sally Goldner
Sport: it’s Australian, mate…although in some cases if you are a trans or gender diverse Australian, you may not be given a ‘fair go’.
It is therefore a great step forward to see the release of Transgender People and Sport: Complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on 31 January 2014.
The publication dispels some of the common myths regarding trans people, e.g. that trans people will automatically have an unfair advantage due to strength, stamina and/or physique. Exemptions to state, territory and federal laws can sometimes see these myths perpetuated.
Where exemptions do exist, they can be misused to cover all of the of gender identity ‘kaleidoscope’. They can sometimes unfairly affect trans men (those recorded female at birth and who identify as male) who are generally smaller and would have no unfair advantage. Trans women are often stereotyped as automatically tall and ‘more muscular’ (however that is defined) and this is a generalisation; even if they are tall or more muscular it does not automatically lead to an unfair advantage they would have over other sports players. I would like to hear more from those identifying as non-binary about their experiences. I note some sports such as hockey, roller derby, and individual clubs across sports are at least taking a lead regarding trans and gender diverse inclusivity and are to be highly commended.
Most of the damaging myths surrounding trans people come from the combination of limited binary assumptions regarding body, gender identity and gender expression and also derive from gross double standards. I have yet to hear of a taller and more muscular cisgender male being accused of having an unfair advantage; if anything, there’s almost a response of “Oooh, wow, isn’t he amazing.”
It is therefore the aim of trans and gender diverse organisations to create a fairer balance for our people in sport. The publication by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission helps clubs that often struggle with this issue to achieve this aim; we ultimately trust the publication can lead to an overhaul of the overly-broad and unnecessary exemptions that exist elsewhere.
I’ll be honest and say that personally these issues do not affect me (my effort to make dog walking an Olympic sport over the years has never received an enthusiastic response…). But these issues do have a big impact on the trans and gender diverse community. Negative outcomes can include reduced physical health because of non-participation, loss of engagement and social exclusion, and even greater anxiety/ depression on top of all the other issues faced by trans and gender diverse people.
While the publication and this article do not cover people experiencing intersex, issues can often be parallel to those faced by people with trans and gender diverse identity. Visit OII Australia for more information.
Sally Goldner’s involvement in the queer community for sixteen years includes time at TransGender Victoria (where she is now executive director) and presenter of 3CR’s Out of the Pan.
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