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The Positive Impact of Trans Inclusion in Team Sports: Men’s Roller Derby

Abstract

In November 2015, the International Olympic Committee, from whom many sporting bodies take their gender policies, agreed that “those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction” (International Olympic Committee, IOC consensus meeting on sex reassignment and hyperandrogenism. Lausanne, International Olympic Committee, 2015). However, this does not mean that the entry of transmen into male sporting spaces is without challenge, with many transgender athletes having negative experiences of sport (Cohen & Semerjian, The collision of trans-experience and the politics of women’s ice hockey. International Journal of Transgenderism, 10(3), 133–145, 2008; Jones et al., Sport and transgender people: A systematic review of the literature relating to sport participation and competitive sports policies. Sports Medicine, 47(4), 701–716, 2016; Hargie et al., ‘People have a knack of making you feel excluded if they catch on to your difference’: Transgender experiences of exclusion in sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 52(2), 223–239, 2017). Led by women, and operating away from the centre, the full-contact team sport of roller derby has the potential to ‘do’ identity, and gender, differently (Messner, Taking the field: Women, men and sports. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), tending to attract a diverse group of men whose actions align more closely with an inclusive model of masculinity (Anderson, Inclusive masculinities. London: Routledge, 2009).

Using the example of a men’s roller derby team in northern England, this chapter uses thematic analysis to explore how the inclusion of transgender members impacts the social identity of members. Suggestive of Halberstam’s argument of the “transgender figure as a central player” (2005, p. 21) in gender debates, the conclusion is that accepting and welcoming transgender members has a positive impact, both encouraging members to develop a more nuanced and reflective understanding of gender and effecting changes in typical communication styles, with a move away from, and a greater willingness to speak out against, sexualized and potentially homophobic banter. Welcoming trans members also seems to allow for the acceptance of a wider range of masculinities, allowing for a freer expression of self, unbound by gender norms.

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Fletcher, D. (2020). The Positive Impact of Trans Inclusion in Team Sports: Men’s Roller Derby. In: Magrath, R., Cleland, J., Anderson, E. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Masculinity and Sport . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-19799-5_10

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-19799-5_10

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-19798-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-19799-5

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)