Friday Jun 09, 2023

Episode 111: How Women’s Swimming Got So Transphobic

In this episode, Johanna talks with repeat guest and one of our favorite sports journalists, Frankie de la Cretaz, about their incisive piece for The Nation, "How Women's Swimming got so Transphobic." Per Frankie's research, "Almost no other sport is as hostile to trans athletes - and that's because its culture created the perfect conditions for transphobia to take root." Frankie first discusses the confluence of 3 main factors upon which the sport's dangerous transphobia has emerged: the sport's whiteness and related anti-Blackness, its history of rampant mainly cisgender heterosexual white men's sexual abuse of mainly cishet white girls and women, and the East German state doping program against its female swimmers during the Cold War. The sport's whiteness is not just a dangerous condition that impacts many people today (check out our 2020 episodes with Kevin Dawson and Matt Hodler if you haven't already); people also use it as a shield to claim that swimming "doesn't have a race problem" in a way that gives foundation to denying cishet Black female swimmers as well as trans women their gender. The invocation of the GDR's doping scandal for transphobia is a misappropriation of East German women's suffering that inaccurately denigrates their experiences and silences trans girls' and women's experiences today too. We also talk about USA Swimming's use of white women on its staff as a possible cover for its sexual abuse history, and how cishet white women are always the main beneficiaries of "diversity" schemes due to their proximity to the white patriarchy. Frankie moreover details the challenges they encountered in finding an outlet that would accept their pitch, and contextualizes the sport's transphobia compared to how other sports are responding to anti-trans activity. Johanna ends with a call to action to fellow cishet white women to directly challenge transphobic rhetoric and policies as they support the resurgence of violent fascism and its attempted genocide of transgender people today. 

Read the Sports Illustrated piece that Frankie mentioned about Lia Thomas here

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