Misgendering of Female and Transgender Athletes

Recently, Russian tennis president Shamil Tarpishchev was fined $25,000 and suspended for a year for calling tennis stars the Williams sisters the “Williams brothers.” The language from this high official was very condescending and attacking in tone towards the Williams sisters. Thankfully there was a quick and timely response to Tarpishcev’s remarks.

This is one of the many problems that female and transgender athletes, and even spectators and others, face in the sporting world. Especially from a high position, these sort of comments have the potential to trickle down into the general sports world. It fuels the transphobic and anti feminist rhetoric made by some.

And not only are female and transgender athletes, but male athletes are as well. Comments made about male athletes putting them down as feminine or unmanly hurts both genders, spreading that idea that women are somehow lesser than men. And it humiliates athletes, plain and simple. There is a negative reaction to athletes pegging certain genders with certain attributes and dismissing the individuals themselves and who they are.

But there has been a steady adaptation of a positive and open environment in the sports world, both through the reaction of fans and supporters as well as higher up officials and organizations. Whether it is through this issue in regards to misgendering or domestic violence or a cumulation of various problems, outcries against this behavior is beginning to come to light. The sports world at this crucial time needs to stand up in protecting athletes and fans alike in every way possible.

The sports world extends past the American arena, or even simply the Western region. It is important to address this issue and cover this behavior across the world and outside our realm. The attacks against the Williams sisters has brought forth a continuing problem into the mainstream media. And it is not only beneficial to female athletes to address this issue but also for transgender athletes.

While the coverage and stance on the misgendering of the Williams sisters has been substantial, there has been a lack of attention when it comes to misgendering transgender individuals. There has also been a lack of reinforcement to correctly gendering an transgender individual. There are those media outlets that cover the stories of transgender athletes, yet use the wrong pronouns or refer to them by their birth name. Stories on misgendering cisgender individuals typically receives support and bewilderment at someone mistaking their gender. However, stories dealing with transgender athletes/individuals have a tougher time gaining support or wide spread attention. There is this embedded binary in our society dealing with gender that is causing this problem.

One of these transgender athletes, Zeam Porter from a Minnesota High school, has noted that they have been constantly misgendered. They also have been forced to play on the basketball team which does not correspond to their gender.

And this goes into many regions and across other athletes like Fallon Fox, Chris Mosier, and Tony Bias

It is these comments misgendering individuals, regardless of their identity, that have the means of perpetuating negative stereotypes and hostile environments for both female and transgender athletes. And it is also the dedication and the positive response from fans and officials that have the greatest effect at creating a better space for these athletes.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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