Monday Jun 07, 2021

Episode 71: On Trans and Non-Binary Sporting Inclusion with Verity Smith and Abby Barras

For this episode, Johanna interviews two experts from the UK: rugby player and diversity and inclusion leader for the International Gay Rugby and other organizations, Verity Smith, and scholar of trans- and nonbinary sporting inclusion and exclusion, Abby Barras. The discussion focuses on the barriers that trans and nonbinary athletes face broadly and specifically within the UK, what we need to be to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community broadly experience full inclusion on the field, and Verity and Abby’s fantastic efforts to improve inclusion.  

In the interview, Verity shares his experiences witnessing the World Rugby Federation ban transgender athletes. He details how the lived experiences of trans and non-binary athletes are very often overlooked when sporting organizations update their policies on inclusion, and why we all need to work together to help reduce barriers to participation.  Abby walks us through her piece in the journal British Mensas’s: Androgyny about the BBC1’s documentary featuring athlete Martina Navratilova. We discuss how ‘mundane transphobia’ helps us understand how Navratilova reasserted her gendered power to control the language, discussion, and public conversation over the women in ways that focused on their bodies and transition stories, and not their humanity and full selves. We end the conversation by articulating how transphobic people use the words ‘fair’ and cheating’ in sport really means as tools for exclusion and oppression, and the superb work that Verity and Abby are doing for Mermaids, which supports and connects transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse children, young people, and their families to supportive resources.  

Verity Smith is a rugby player who holds numerous important roles in his work on gender inclusive and expansive policies in sport, such as the diversity and inclusion leader for the International Gay Rugby, the chief diversity officer for the World Barbarians Foundation rugby club, and as the Trans Inclusion in Sport Youth Worker for Mermaids. You can find him on Twitter @VeritySmith19.  

Abby Barras is a researcher at Mermaids and an academic. Her recently submitted PhD explored the lived experiences of trans including non-binary adults in everyday sport and physical exercise in the UK. Her publications include “Hostility to elite athletes is having a negative impact on participation in everyday sport” for The Conversation, and “We just want to be listened to:’ Mundane transphobia in BBC1’s ‘The Trans Women Dispute with Martina Navratilova” for British Mensa’s: Androgyny and others. You can find her on Twitter @abbybarras.  

For a transcription of this episode, please click here. (Updated semi-regularly Credit @punkademic) Research Assistance for The End of Sport provided by Abigail Bomba. _________________________________________________________________________

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