Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Transsexual and Transgender Policies in Sport

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Transsexual and Transgender Policies in Sport

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article examines developments in gender policies in sport in relation to recent changes in transsexual rights legislation and gender identity activism. The Gay Games has developed a gender identity policy about "men, women, transgender and intersex" athletes. In 2004, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced the Stockholm Consensus on sex reassignment surgery to allow "transsexual" athletes to compete at the Olympics. These developments do not indicate an overall increase in the acceptance of gender variance in the world of sport; rather, there has been ongoing resistance to inclusive gender policies in mainstream sport organizations. I argue this resistance is based on anxieties about the instability of the male/female gender binary and the emergence of queer gender subjectivities within women's, gay, and mainstream sporting communities.

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Gender-based oppression is not only or primarily accomplished through the power of the state: police, courts and laws. It's also accomplished through peer pressure, shame, ridicule, and ostracism. To make it possible for people to transcend gender lines, we must not only change laws and policies, we need to change social attitudes and raise awareness of gender harassment (Wilchins, 2004, p. 153).

The Uneven History of Gender Policies in Sport

The ways in which sport policies conceptualize, and therefore regulate, gender has undergone significant changes. At the Olympic games, from 1968 until 2000, the IOC used sex testing to verify that athletes competing in women's events were "women." In the United States, Title IX was introduced in 1972 to increase opportunities for "women" in college sport. During the 1990s the Gay Games developed a gender policy about "men, women, transgender and intersex" athletes. In 2004, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced the Stockholm Consensus to allow "transsexual" athletes to compete at the Olympics. These gender policies have an uneven history and do not reflect a universal increase in acceptance of gender variance in the world of sport. There continues to be tremendous resistance to any changes to the normative gender binary in many different sporting communities including many women's sports, the Gay Games, and the Olympics. In this article I argue that this resistance indicates a pervasive anxiety about the instability of gender categories in various sporting contexts. Queer theorist Diana Fuss (1991) explains how an excluded outside is always needed in order to stabilize a sense of identity, since identity is relational, defined in relation to "another." This excluded outside, or absent presence, has the potential to reveal a radical instability within the self. A key point here is that the "other" is needed, is never fully outside, and that whatever marginalized position we advocate for will produce another excluded outside. Here I argue that a normalizing anxiety about gender variance in sport has caused ongoing problems in the pursuit of gender rights in women's sport, in gay sports, and at the Olympics. In this article I examine these underlying psychic anxieties that occur at the limits of binary gender categories "man" and "woman"; specifically, when gender categories in sport policies become less essentialist, less intelligible, and less amenable to policies of liberal inclusion. I argue that gender inclusive policies, because they attempt to be universal, are necessarily limiting due to the multiple ways of inhabiting gender categories and the contradictory interests of diverse gender minorities. Drawing on queer, postmodern ideas of generosity (Diprose, 2002) and vulnerability (Schildrick, 2002), I contend that this requires us to reflect on our capacity to live with gendered instability and think differently about our political responses to otherness.

The politics surrounding gender rights in sport is being shaped from multiple locations with conflicting histories and investments. …

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