the musings of a rollergirl activist
This is where I test if I’m as resilient a writer as I am a skater. Knock me down, I’ll keep getting right back up until you break both my knees. It’s Jam 1. Let’s go:
When I joined the DC Rollergirls in 2008, I immediately broke the league’s code of conduct just by signing my name. In it’s opening paragraph, the code of conduct stated “transsexual women are allowed to join if it has been at least two years since surgery, per Olympic Committee Rules.”
I find the idea that someone’s gender should be determined by what surgeries they’ve had to be appalling. I also prefer to refer to my gender with the term “transgender” rather than the more medicalized term “transsexual,” but as someone who was assigned male at birth and now expresses my gender as female, both terms apply to me. In 2008 I had not undergone any form of so-called “gender reassignment surgery,” but I signed up to be a DC Rollergirl anyways–because I knew I was a woman, and I wanted to be a part of the amazing sport of women’s flat track roller derby.
In the Winter 2011 issue of Five on Five magazine, the official magazine of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), I published the article “Transgender Policies: My Story.” In the article I describe what it was like skating under such a transphobic code of conduct, and how my team helped change that code of conduct to be more inclusive. Here’s the most important part of my Five on Five article, which takes a look at the bigger picture–how my story is related to WFTDA’s Gender Policy:
WFTDA is now about to implement a gender policy for inter-league play that is far more inclusive than DC Rollergirls’ original code of conduct, a policy that is a testament to the increased visibility and acceptance of transgender rollergirls within WFTDA since I began skating in 2008. WFTDA’s policy for the first time officially recognizes the contributions of transgender women to the sport of roller derby, and should serve as an example to other sports as well. By not relying on surgical status in its definition of “female,” and instead relying on the testimony of an athlete’s healthcare provider as to whether or not that athlete’s hormone levels are within a “medically acceptable” range for a female, WFTDA’s gender policy leaves a lot of flexibility in its definition of gender, and is far more inclusive than that of almost all professional sports. But it also far from perfect, and it is my hope that it will be revised after implementation to be more inclusive, and furthermore, that any policy regulating hormone levels will apply equally to cisgender and transgender women, rather than singling out transgender women over concerns about how hormone levels affect athletic competitiveness.
When transgender inclusion has been discussed in other women’s spaces, it’s fairly common to see strong opposition based on prejudice and ignorance. It is remarkable that no such voice has emerged within WFTDA. On the contrary, the Philly Rollergirls have emerged as vocal critics of WFTDA’s Gender Policy arguing that it isn’t inclusive enough and that it “may potentially lead to wide-reaching problems regarding hormone testing,” leading to possible “witch hunts.” In June 2011, at the East Coast Derby Extravaganza, volunteers from the Philly Rollergirls asked participants to sign a petition asking WFTDA not to implement the gender policy as written and furthermore asked rollergirls in support of their petition to wear temporary tattoos with the transgender pride symbol to show solidarity with their cause. Hundreds of rollergirls responded favorably to their cause, and transgender pride tattoos were visible everywhere you looked—on arms, faces, even cleavage. It was a heartening sight that brought me to tears more than once. It began healing the anger I had harbored for so long from the witch-hunt that I had faced within my own league. The atmosphere their protest created made ECDX 2011 the first time I ever felt comfortable talking publicly about being transgender with other rollergirls, coming out to many DC Rollergirls for the first time and also sharing stories with other out transgender rollergirls including Rita “Jacquelyn Heat” Kelly from Philly and Melanie “Nameless Whorror” Pasztor from Montreal.
I am proud to be a transgender rollergirl, and I am optimistic as I look forward to the implementation of WFTDA’s gender policy in January 2012. I firmly believe that WFTDA is better off with the current gender policy than without one, and I sincerely hope the visibility the Philly Rollergirls’ protest brought to potential problems with the gender policy will lead to revisions in the policy to make it more inclusive
My article concludes by summarizing how roller derby has allowed me to be a role model to other women, including young girls, and how “through roller derby I have found a loving family like nowhere else, and a sport that has inspired myself and countless others to re-shape their lives in incredibly positive ways.”
I’m happy to share the full text of my article with you if you contact me. And I hope you come back to this blog. Because I have many other stories to tell.
I’m not just a rollergirl, and I’m not just a transgender woman. I’m a human being obsessed with human rights and humanism. I’m a geek obsessed with Gothic Literature and Gotham City. I’m a feminist obsessed with MichFest and Michel Foucault. I’m a poet, a pundit, and a Poe fan.
I’m a jammer, and I’m calling off this jam.
It’s Jam 2.
Time to rest, scheme, strategize. Think back on what has come before. Assemble my experiences. Next post: Christopher Hitchens, humanism, and links to my writing published by the American Humanist Association. I hope you leave here with something meaningful. If have something to add to the discussion, I’d very much appreciate it if you could leave a comment. Thanks.