A History of Debates Over Trans Women’s Inclusion in Elite Sport and Trans Athlete Activism in Canada

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Karacam, Mustafa
trans inclusion in sport , trans athlete activism , trans athletes , trans women athletes in sport , trans athletes and human rights , trans activism in Canada , transphobia in sport , transfeminism , history of debates over trans inclusion in sport , trans studies , transfeminist methodologies , trans agency in sport , trans resistance in sport
Since Renée Richards became the first known trans woman to compete in a sport event (tennis) in 1976, trans women’s inclusion has been a contentious issue in sport. This dissertation project pieces together a (not the) history of debates over trans women’s inclusion in sport, with a focus on the activism of trans athletes in Canada. The project has been influenced by Foucault’s archeological and genealogical forms of historical analysis, transfeminist theories, and trans studies scholarship. As evidence, I draw on a wide range of primary sources, produced between 1976 and 2022, related to trans athletes in sport including print and online English Canadian newspaper and magazine articles, autobiographies, blog posts, documentaries, interviews, podcasts, written court decisions, and policies, guidelines from sport organizations. This research demonstrates that arguments against the inclusion of trans women athletes are shaped by sexist, transmisogynist, and racist myths and by discourses through which understandings of sex, gender, transness are created. In particular, I focus on scientific and popular discourses about testosterone and athletic performance. Grounded by transfeminist theories and methodologies, this dissertation aims to shift the themes of analysis and the interpretations of trans inclusion in the sport studies literature. My analysis does not centre on trans women’s embodiment or forms of gender expression. Trans women athletes do not appear in this study as tropes who reinforce female inferiority or the gender binary in sport or elsewhere. I argue that trans athletes have been active agents of resistance and change, confronting their critics, engaging in activism, and producing discursive (e.g., policies, guidelines) and material (e.g., access to fields, rinks, tracks, coaches, equipment) changes for trans people in sport. Their resistance and activism have been key to making possible the increasingly trans inclusive and gender expansive sporting environments that we see today in Canada.
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