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LGBT issues in sports 101

College curricula starting to include gay athletic topics

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Team DC, Cleveland Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade

International competitions such as the International Gay Games have helped raise the visibility of LGBT issues in sport, leading some colleges and universities to address related issues in curricula. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A lot has changed in the realm of sports in terms of LGBT athletes and the role sports have in international LGBT politics. The call for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics in light of recent Russian laws making illegal any kind of “public” declaration of one’s sexuality is a perfect example of the important discussions about international human rights happening around sports.

Not only are more and more athletes coming out in sports, but there are out athletes entering sport and willing to be spokespeople for LGBT issues. Further, many national and international sports bodies and organizations are taking a stand on promoting inclusion and speaking out against homophobia.

Some colleges and universities are now tackling the role of sports and LGBT issues, with courses designed to talk about the history, present and future of this important pairing.

The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, will offer a course next year called “Sports and Sexual Diversity” in its undergraduate program.

“This course will explore the role of sports and wellness programs in promoting or impeding social inclusion, as well as their role in community building among sexual minorities,” says Scott Rayter, associate director of the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. “It will consider the ways that sexuality has been framed or regulated in sports, as well as the challenges to such limits from among athletes, LGBT community activists and others.”

The course’s coverage will range from local community and school-based programs, to national amateur and professional sporting activities, to international competitions.

Rayter says the course came about partly as a way of building on the expertise at the university in the areas of sexuality, gender and sport, and to reflect what is a growing body of research and field of study, plus an increasing interest and demand from students to study this area.

“Sport is an interesting place to study issues of sex, gender and the body, since bodies in sport are ‘ideal’ or non-normative in the sense they do not reflect what most bodies look like or are capable of, and yet sport is also a space that demonstrates an extremely rigid split between male and female bodies,” Rayter says. “There is also a growing body of research about sexual and gender violence (and hazing) in sport; it seems every day we hear about some new sex scandal in professional sports.”

At some higher learning institutions, there may not be a specific course, but inclusion of the LGBT community and sports is embedded in the curriculum itself.

Laura Burton, associate professor of sport management at the University of Connecticut, says she includes aspects of diversity and inclusion in both undergrad (Intro to Sport Management) and graduate (Management of Sport Services) courses.

“This includes sections on effectively managing diversity in sport organizations. I include examples of LGBT employees/fans/participants in sport as important constituents,” she says. “In our Issues in Sport course I will include a chapter on issues faced by the LGBT community. That section will include the experiences of athletes (participants), employees in sport organizations and fans/spectators.”

Burton understands that the LGBT community has been and will continue to be an integral part of the larger sport community and feels it’s important that they are represented in the sport management curriculum.

“Our students will work with, and some also identify as, members of the LGBT community, and this constituent group is as important as any other group of individuals with an interest in working in, participating in, or being fans of sport,” she says. “We also recognize that the LGBT community has been a marginalized/ostracized and silenced constituent within the domain of sport; it is important that we give voice to this marginalization and work toward a more inclusive sport environment.”

In the 10 years she has been including LGBT examples in her courses, Burton says she has never received a negative comment from a student.

“I have had numerous students (gay/bi/straight) tell me that they have enjoyed the openness and inclusiveness of the courses, the course content and of the program in general,” she says.

Momin Rahman, a professor at Trent University in Ontario, notes that in classes he teaches on the sociology of gender and sexuality, sport is one of the themes discussed both because it interests students and because it is often regarded as one of the last institutions of gender binaries and homophobia.

“Sports are one of the biggest entertainment industries worldwide and an everyday experience of living and seeing gender and sexuality,” he says. “Sports are a part of the socialization of childhood as well, so it is an important and wide-ranging experience that needs to be addressed seriously as a location of gender normativity and homophobia.”

Rahman says he’s touching on new topics all the time and is sure to discuss the latest LGBT issues in his classes.

“For example, trans issues have become a difficult one for organizations such as the Olympics, who are traditionally invested in keeping a binary division between men and women,” Rahman says. “We also look at how homophobia operates in sports, particularly as a normalized part of bonding in men’s sports, and how this makes it difficult for gay athletes to come out. The widespread community organization of LGBT sports, and international versions such as the OutGames, are partly a response to this.”

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Sports

DC Aquatics Club swimmers reflect on world title win

Team took 125 gold medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC records

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The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo courtesy DCAC)

The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) world championships in Palm Springs, Calif., in April on a mission to capture their first world title since 2013.

It was a long road back to international competition for the DCAC swimmers after the disruption of training and travel brought on by the worldwide pandemic.

When the team returned from IGLA in Melbourne, Australia in March of 2020, their training pools were closed, and all competitions were canceled.

By May they had established a training site in the South River in Annapolis where they swam until November of that year. Eventually, pools began to reopen, and the team was faced with battling for training time in COVID-restricted pools.

Following the postponement of the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong, the IGLA community scrambled to put together a competition in Palm Springs that would be hosted in tandem by West Hollywood Aquatics and the Long Beach Grunions. 

DCAC’s swimmers in Palm Springs consisted of a mix of veterans and rookies ranging in age from 22 to 76 years old. Each swimmer was eligible to enter five individual events and three relay events.

With 67 teams in attendance, DCAC jumped out to an early lead on day one in the large team category with West Hollywood Aquatics and San Francisco Tsunami in close pursuit. 

Despite the disqualifications of two of their winning relays for early takeoffs, DCAC held on to their lead over the remaining three days to claim their first world title in nine years.

Three DCAC swimmers, Grant Casey, Carmen Robb and Jerry Frentsos, won gold in all five of their individual events. In total, the team won 125 gold, 66 silver and 35 bronze medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC team records.

Addison Winger was a first time IGLA swimmer and hadn’t competed in 12 years. He had heard the tales from past IGLAs and wanted to join in on the fun.

“It was a great experience to compete for DCAC at an international competition. I had never been in a championship meet before where you go through the process of tapering, shaving, and suiting up in tech gear,” says Winger. “The relays were amazing, and I enjoyed taking advice and feedback from our coaches to incorporate into future races. It was also great spending quality team with my teammates outside of the pool.”

Olivia Kisker had competed with DCAC at IGLA Melbourne in 2020 and was looking forward to traveling with her team again.

“Even though the days were long at the pool, we still had time for Joshua Tree, the gondolas and all that Palm Springs has to offer,” Kisker says. “I love traveling and doing it with your teammates provides a setting for bonding and getting to know people better. I also enjoyed competing against my teammate Sarah. It’s like a friendship and a rivalry.”

Craig Franz restarted his post-COVID competitive swimming at IGLA Palm Springs and went on to a training camp and open water race in Hawaii this past month.

“The whole thing about this team is relationships and sharing swimming as a common denominator. The swim competitions legitimize building relationships and supporting each other in healthy ways,” say Franz. “Palm Springs felt like a more relaxed setting, and we needed this meet to rebuild the team. It provided a nutritional base for what we are about – swimming and friendships.”

Sarah Padrutt had not competed since 2019 and all the talk about past IGLAs prompted her to attend for the first time.

“I had so much fun, and it was cool having people cheering and being supported by teammates,” Padrutt says. “It was also a nice wakeup call, a reminder of how much I like competing. I like the pressure of racing and being on relays with my team. It was a very positive experience.”

Charles Cockrell has been a Masters swimmer for decades and is the chair of the Legislation Committee for United States Masters Swimming. He came out in 2019 and these championships marked his first time competing at IGLA.

“I wanted to compete at a swim meet that was a combination of the LGBTQ community and the sport of swimming. It was a fun, accepting and engaging environment,” says Cockrell. “The takeaway was that everyone was enjoying themselves and it was nice to be gathered together in a queer space. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie, and it was great being attached to a big team like DCAC.”

Coming up next for DCAC is the United States Masters Swimming Nationals in Richmond in August. Next year, the team will travel to London for the 2023 IGLA world championships to be held in the London Olympic Pool.

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Politics

Caitlyn Jenner celebrates FINA ban on Trans swimmers on Twitter

“[…] what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

Former Olympian and one-time California Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner enraged Trans activists Monday after she tweeted her approval of the FINA vote Sunday that essentially bans Trans women from participating and competing as collegiate swimmers.

“It worked! I took a lot of heat – but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted Sunday after the international athletic organization announced its vote to ban trans athletes.

The Swimming’s world governing body voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, said in a statement.

The organisation is maintaining that it was necessary to use sex and sex-linked traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between males and females during puberty.

Jenner’s appearances on the Fox News Network over the past six months have been unrelenting attacks on Trans athletes, especially University of Pennsylvania Women’s Team swimmer Lia Thomas. Jenner also appeared on the network to defend her attacks on Trans athletes.

“We must protect women’s sports. We cannot bow down to the radical left wing woke world and the radical politically charged agenda of identity politics,” Jenner tweeted. In another tweet she said;

“Thank you @seanhannity and @HeyTammyBruce for having a conversation grounded in common sense. All we want to do is protect women’s and girls sports! It’s that simple. And calling out the libelous, defamatory lies of @PinkNews and @emilychudy@benjamincohen

Jenner has been asked about her position on the multiple pieces of anti-Trans youth sports legislation across the United States. She responded that she saw it as a question of fairness saying that she opposed biological boys who are Trans- competing in girls’ sports in school.

“It just isn’t fair,” Jenner said adding, “and we have to protect girls’ sports in our school.”

In April the Fox network hired Jenner as on-air contributor role with her first appearance on Hannity.

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Sports

World swimming body FINA votes to ban Trans athletes

Says policy necessary because of ‘biological performance gap’

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FINA's president, Husain Al-Musallam, announcing the new policy Sunday in Budapest (Screenshot/YouTube 10 News First)

The Swimming’s world governing body FINA meeting in the Hungarian capital city voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

Enactment of that requirement effectively eliminates trans women’s eligibility to compete in the women’s category.

Tanner Stages describe the physical changes people undergo during puberty.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, said in a statement.

The organisation is maintaining that it was necessary to use sex and sex-linked traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between males and females during puberty.

“Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, we are very unlikely to see biological females in finals, on podiums, or in championship positions; and in sports and events involving collisions and projectiles, biological female athletes would be at greater risk of injury,” the statement from FINA’s new policy read.

Athlete Ally, which advocates for Trans athletes responded:

“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations,” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally.

“This sudden and discriminatory decision is a blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate for years without issue,” said Joni Madison, Human Rights Campaign Interim President. “This policy is an example of swimming organizations caving to the avalanche of ill-informed, prejudiced attacks targeted at one particular transgender swimmer. We urge the FINA to rethink its policy and ensure inclusion for all athletes — including transgender women – and allow them to participate in sports free from discrimination, abuse and harassment.

“To the young athletes who may be disheartened by this policy, know that we know and believe that every young person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that transgender kids, like their friends, deserve the same chances to learn sportsmanship, self-discipline, and teamwork, and to build a sense of belonging with their peers,” Madison added.

Swimming Body FINA Votes To Segregate Trans Athletes | 10 News First:

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