Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

"FTM Means Female to Me": Transgender Athletes Performing Gender

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

"FTM Means Female to Me": Transgender Athletes Performing Gender

Article excerpt

Abstract

Viviane K. Namaste (2000) argues that trans-individuals have been culiurally erased and rendered invisible. She contends that academics should begin to explore the realities of transgender individuals' lives. Transgender identified athletes have begun to garner more media attention in recent years, particularly with the 2004 International Olympic Committee's ruling allowing transgender atbletes to participate in the Olympics. Despite this increasing media attention, there is a considerable lack of academic work focusing on the experiences of transgender athletes, as well as a paucity of any serious the-oretical consideration of these experiences. The purpose of this paper is to present trans athletes' narratives of their sport participation, with attention to how gender identity and performance was or was not a part of this participation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four trans identified athletes. The narratives of these athletes portray a way of thinking about gender as a category that is transmutable, unstable, and constantly written and rewritten through embodied performances. Queer theory will serve as the theoretical perspective used to analyze these narratives.

**********

In 2004 the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in a surprising move, announced their policy to allow transgender athletes to participate in the Olympics. The policy stated that individuals who have undergone sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for at least two years are eligible to participate in the Olympics, and to be recognized as their appropriate gender (Carlson, 2005). While Renee Richards, former professional tennis player, is arguably the best know transsexual athlete, she has recently come out in opposition of the new IOC policy and the participation of transgender athletes in sport (Duthie, 2004; G, 2004). Mianne Bagger, a professional golfer has been competing on the women's golf tour, and her presence on the tour allegedly prompted changes in March of 2005 to the United States Golf Association's (USGA) policy, which now is consistent with the IOC policy. These policy changes have not been entirely popular, prompting Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, to state "The USGA has now surrendered to the decadence and political correctness that is sweeping over Europe ... One would have thought that the USGA would have had more back-bone. The women's golf tour should be about women, not castrated males" (Crossmap, 2005). Canadian downhill mountain biker, Michelle Dumaresque, a male-to-female (MTF) transsexual, has been competing in internationally sanctioned downhill mountain biking events since 2000 and has been named to the Canadian national team (Carlson, 2005; Duthie, 2004). She has encountered teammates and opponents accusing her of having an unfair advantage because she was born male. Because of the hegemonic discourses of male superiority in the sporting and physical realms, there are rarely concerns or discussions of transgender men participating in sport, and never is this raised as an issue of "unfair competition." This is true despite the IOC rules that require female-to-male (FTM) athletes to take testosterone (ordinarily regarded as a banned performance enhancing substance) to qualify under current policy.

While high-profile events such as the Olympics and exceptional world-class athletes tend to attract attention, everyday exercisers, recreational, and competitive athletes who are looking for a place where they can play their sports and do their workouts, in the bodies that feel the most comfortable to them, are far more numerous. However, negotiating locker rooms and sport fields for non-elite recreational athletes has not been previously considered in the sport literature. Society, and to a certain extent, theorists, have not yet "decided" where trans bodies are located, and what they mean in terms of the deconstruction, or perhaps, reconstruction of gender (Butler, 1990, 1993; Halberstam, 1994; Hausman, 1995). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.