Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More on gender and sport in the not-so-binary system

USA Today ran this piece focusing on Lana Lawless, or rather leading with the golfer's story, but extending the discussion to gender in sport, i.e. when gender is not so neatly packaged. The LPGA was scheduled to gather for a players' meeting in which they would consider the "female by birth" rule that excludes Lawless and other transgender athletes from competing on the tour. But the USA Today article cites other cases--like GW b-baller Kye Allums--as well as some of my favorite people, Helen Carroll of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Dr. Heather Sykes of University of Toronto. There was also the seemingly obligatory call to Dr. Renee Richards who as a male-to-female transsexual sued for the right to play on the women's tennis tour in the 1970s. Richards, who is not exactly a vocal champion for transgender rights, simply said "It's a conundrum."
Sykes kind of summed it up well, I thought:
"The gender boundaries have never been clear, and sport is under an illusion that they can police or contain it."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What will become of this?

Little story I ran across--or that ran across me (my email anyway).
Seems that several countries have a problem with Equatorial Guinea's national women's football (soccer) team and have let Africa's football governing body know. The Nigerian Football Federation made it official in a complaint citing two specific players on the Equatorial Guinea team who they believe are men.
I wonder how little this story is...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coming out, being queer--and sport, of course

Oh gender and sexual identity, how you confound me! But in that good way I so enjoy.

Three things--but one thing--but kind of three.
Where to begin?
Well I've been thinking about queerness and homonormativity and voice and visibility of late. And not always in the context of sport. But all very applicable to sport.
This video has been bopping around Facebook this past week.

I like it. Because I like things that are thoughtful queer.
But I wonder what does it mean to not come out? As someone who passes in some situations, I wonder if I have a greater obligation to come out. I understand the rationale that not coming out means that the definition of normal has shifted. But does not coming out actually help in shifting the normative bar? I am all for questioning normativity. But do I reinforce normal by not coming out? And in what instances? And in this binary world we live in, can we even say normative without acknowledging that there must be a non-normative? (Questions left unanswered.)
I have taken a dislike to the "I don't like labels" and "I'm just the way I am so I don't need to come out" rhetorics when I believe there is not a lot of consciousness behind them.
Which leads me to sport. But first to Alison Bechdel.
In one of Bechdel's strips (from Dykes to Watch Out For) one of the characters says (something to the effect of--I don't have it in front of me) "Every time you don't come out, you let people think they don't know any gay people."
I don't know if this is true so much in the 21st century--at least in everyday life. (But perhaps I assume too much and am guilty of a middle-class (sub)urban conception of queerness.)
But then I thought about it in a sport context. If the queer me thinks, at least thinks she thinks, that coming out should--theoretically--be irrelevant, then why does queer me get so pissed when athletes don't come out?
Well, queer me still doesn't buy the they're out, they just didn't make an announcement because they don't need to argument. I call that the neoliberal closet.
And I just don't believe that the mainstream sport world is queer. So when an athlete doesn't come out s/he lets people go on thinking both/either that gay people don't play sports and that being gay is still something to hide or that it is some separate part of the self that does not exist on a playing field.
That's all I have right now.

The First Poetry Friday

I figure if other people can post pictures of their babies, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, food, etc. on Fridays, I can post poems. Poems that may or may not have anything to do with gender and sport. Because I kind of miss my intimate relationship with poetry.
So here goes.

I found this poem by Italian Patrizia Cavalli when I was a senior in college doing my honors thesis on American and Italian feminist poets. It is untitled and I am not sure who translated it.

I was told
there's no way
my poems will change the world.

Yes I say
my poems
in no way will change the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holy crap!

Well I take back all my previous criticisms of the LPGA.
Ok, I don't exactly take them back. But I give the organization--now under new leadership--major props, praise, and applause.
It appears that the recent lawsuit brought by golfer Lana Lawless challenging the organization's "female by birth" participation policy has inspired LPGA leadership to consider an amendment to its constitution.
The membership will address the potential change on November 30. Leadership is encouraging the members to make the change.
From the Golf Channel:

In a special “one-agenda item” meeting at the Hana Bank Championship in South Korea at the end of October, LPGA players were briefed on the upcoming vote and the vital nature of it. According to sources familiar with the meeting, LPGA players were told the “female at birth” provision was created “in a different time” and would be a significant challenge to defend legally today. Players were also informed that the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Golf Association, the Ladies European Tour and the British Ladies Golf Union are among sports organizations that have already amended their bylaws to allow transgender participation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A little piece of my feminist heart died (or Why it's so hard to be a women's b-ball fan)

Perhaps not upsetting news to some of you.

But seriously, sitting in the XL Center last night*, I cringed every time I heard the announcer boldly exclaim Lady Bears. Lady Bears? Sounds like a bad children's book.

And yet I rooted for them. Well I clapped whenever they scored and raised my arm up whenever Brittney Griner sank one of her free throws (note that my arms are not tired this morning. Never forget: Free throws win ball games!). I avoided the glares, as best as possible, from the nearly rabid UConn fans surrounding me. (I mean, yea! that women's basketball is popular in Connecticut, but seriously, little scary down there. The woman next to me did not come back to her seat after halftime. And I was being very good.)

I rooted for them knowing that Baylor is a Baptist school and their anti-homosexuality policy. Knowing that it has driven at least one successful player from the team, and wondering the circumstances under which star senior guard Kelli Griffin left right before the season began. Knowing that coach Kim Mulkey might herself be harboring some homophobia.

And what forced this feminist conundrum? Pretty much my utter distaste for all things Geno Auriemma--which I will not rehash here. This isn't news after all. I know. I sound bitter. But it's not because I lose the March Madness pool every year because I just refuse to put UConn in that winner's spot. It's something deeper. Something about...that guy. Someday. Someday the world will know what I and Pat Summitt and few select others know.

Until then, enjoy this pic from the game last night. In case you couldn't spot her--that's Kim Mulkey in the very gold blazer down there.

* Dear Mechelle Voepel, I really like and respect you. But if you could please set an example for other media and reporters out there and not use the term "Lady," even when the team does, that would be great.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How do we talk about her...um, him....or is it her?

I guess I should be okay with the fact that the worst (that we've heard of) that has happened to George Washington's Kye Allums after his announcement of his gender change is that the media doesn't quite know how to talk about him.
Nevertheless, confusion within the media likely reflects confusion in society generally over gender identity and its intersection (or not) with sexual identity.
This article out of Minnesota, Allums's home state, was a little problematic. In addition to the offensive lead ("Kye Allums just looked like one of the gals Saturday afternoon" *le sigh*), the writer basically gave Allums a sex change halfway through the article.
Allums was referred to as a she for several paragraphs: "she dipped her shoulder;" "her season debut;" "she looked stylish."
And then magically she became a he.
Allums is a man. He made the announcement. He came out as transgender; explained the situation; explained his name change and pronoun preference. Just respect it and use it.
This also goes out to GWU coach Mike Bozeman who was very supportive of Allums when the announcement was made a couple of weeks ago. But Bozeman continued to refer to Allums as a she when he gave interviews this past weekend in Minnesota where GWU was competing in a tournament.
Actually others who played with or coaches Allums in Minnesota continue to refer to Kye as a she.
I know it takes a smidge of getting used to. But it's an interview about your transgender friend--not a casual conversation. A little bit of deliberate thought combined with respect for Allums's decision should result in proper pronoun use.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Women's soccer: Damned if you cruise, damned if you lose

I promised Dr. Pants I would write something about the calamity/catastrophe (depending on which source you read) in Cancun otherwise known as the US Women's National Team's loss to Mexico last weekend. The team placed third in the CONCACAF tournament (Canada won earning a berth in the World Cup next summer) which means they must play on in order to get to Germany themselves.
I watched the third-place game on ESPN3, after the fact, mostly because I was interested in the commentary. Pretty much the first words from commentators: "It is literally do or die" for the American women. No; because literally do or die means someone dies. I know Abby Wambach has a bunch of stitches in her head from the game against Mexico, but no one is dying.
And of course, it didn't matter because the US soundly beat Costa Rica 3-0. It will play Italy in Italy and then in Chicago (who chooses Chicago in late fall?). Most goals goes to Germany.
The US has strong competition whenever it plays in a tournament, i.e. it is never a guarantee that they will win the whole thing. But often I hear commentary about how the game isn't interesting or worth watching because the US dominates.
But things get interesting when the US loses a game they were supposed to win. So interesting that ESPN opted to actually cover this game against Costa Rica. According to the television schedule, they weren't even going to carry the final--which again, the US was expected to be in. Of course I am glad that ESPN aired it.
But calamity in Cancun? Do or die? Not airing a final of a World Cup qualifying tournament?
Such a rhetorical commotion amidst ESPN's practice of virtually ignoring women's soccer.
Also found this little blip about how FIFA officials once predicted women's soccer was the future of the game and yet shares so very little about the women's game on their very own website.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Great timing!

I am in San Diego getting ready to give a presentation on genderqueer athletes playing women's sports--just two days after news that Kye Allums, who plays on George Washington University's women's basketball team, has just come out as transgender. The news broke earlier this week on smaller websites--or at least those are the links that friends sent me with the "what do you think about this?" messages.
But now the story has gone national. I was in the hotel fitness center this morning and CNN had a teaser and then story about Kye Allums's recent announcement that he is transgender and will continue to play on the GWU team with the support of his coach and teammates and the approval of the NCAA (because Allums has not started hormone therapy yet).
From what I have read, the comments on some of the posted stories about Allums's gender identity have been pretty disgusting (though I have not read them myself--just heard second hand).
So Allums's announcement comes not only right before my own presentation, but on the heels of the report issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Women's Sports Foundation about the participation of trans athletes in high school and intercollegiate sports.
I don't think I have too much to say about this actually. I think it's a great thing. I hope Allums continues to be supported by his team, school, and the NCAA.
I will note, though, that the CNN teaser this morning continued to call Allums a she. "Her decision" to transition...yada yada yada. It will be interesting to see 1) how long the coverage continues, 2) if any other angles are introduced and 3) who, and how, and in what arena the next trans person will come out. Because I know we are not done talking about this issue.