I’m an enormous roller derby fan, and I love BHRG just to absolute pieces. One of the reasons I love my local team so much is that its skaters are all up in gender’s grill. It’s an extremely queer league, with tons of genderqueers peppering the roster.
Which is why I’ve been so confused by BHRG’s silence around the new gender policy passed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The policy (included in its entirety at the bottom of this post) embraces a draconian, limited, and limiting view of gender. Basically: if you want to skate, you have to a.) be biologically female; b.) be able to prove that your hormone levels are within the “normal” range for biological females; and c.) be living as a female.
If I wanted to join roller derby (and I think I’d make an excellent jammer), I would be ineligible according to the WFTDA policies. This is because I am not living as a female–I identify as genderqueer, and many of my friends refer to me as “Jake” and use male pronouns to refer to me.
Additionally, several of my friends–many of whom skate for various roller derby teams–have hormone levels that are outside of the “normal” female range. They are cisgendered females, living as women, but would be disqualified to skate under WFTDA policies.
On today’s radio show, I asked the panelists how they felt about the gender policy; they stated that they disagree with it. I followed up with a question in the chat box about why BHRG doesn’t therefore protest the gender policy like some other teams are doing; their response suggested they did not know that other teams were protesting.
I am helpfully including a link to an article about the Philly Roller Girls, who are skating under the WFTDA gender policy but are concurrently protesting the policy. As the team’s general manager Jocelyn Jenik points out, the policy not only appears to be developed out of fear but also places an undue burden on transgender skaters:
“I personally bristle at the idea that because someone is born male, they have an inherent advantage in flat-track roller derby. That is not the case. Roller derby is a team sport and no individual skater makes or breaks how a team performs,” she said. “I think this policy was probably produced out of fear, and that fear was then projected onto transgender skaters in a discriminatory way. The only demand for producing health-care records or private information is on transgender skaters, no one else.”
Philly’s approach to protest included sending a letter to member organizations opposing the policy, circulating a petition that gathered several hundred signatures from players, distributing a brochure explaining the issues with the gender policy, and making “transgender pride” temporary tattoos available at bouts.
I would love to see BHRG recording its opposition to the gender policy in a systematic way, especially since the panelists today went on record as opposing the policy. I’ll be happy to help organize this protest, since as a huge fan I attend most BHRG home bouts and some away bouts.
I’ll be waiting for my marching orders from BHRG folks, and I’ll let you know when I hear back from them.
Update: 3/9/2012, 2:48 p.m. EST: I want to add a recognition for the folks at BHRG who led the fight for an alternate gender policy: Several people affiliated with the league worked together to draft and submit a policy that was considered and voted on alongside the policy that was ultimately accepted by WFTDA voters. Though I haven’t seen their proposed policy, I have heard that it was far more gender-inclusive than the policy included below.
It’s because of that work, and the continued frustration on the part of some members of BHRG regarding WFTDA’s gender policy, that I think BHRG would be a great league to help continue the fight to change the rules. The Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls have proven themselves to be eloquent, articulate, and forceful in making their opinions heard, and they are therefore ideal for continuing the fight on behalf of all roller derby skaters whose voices wouldn’t be heard or hearable.
Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Gender Policy
The purpose of this policy is to designate a set of criteria that applies to chartered team skaters in sanctioned interleague games so that athletes are able to compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive, and friendly environment, free of discrimination. Fundamental fairness requires Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (“WFTDA”) to provide intersex and transgender athletes with equal opportunities to participate in athletics while still maintaining integrity as a women’s sport. This policy creates a framework in which this participation may occur in a safe and healthy manner that is fair to all competitors. This policy does not consider whether an athlete has undergone sex reassignment surgery, as such surgery is not considered medically necessary or linked to competitive equity.
For the purposes of this policy, the following definitions apply:
- Gender Identity. One’s inner concept of self as male or female or neither.
- Transgender Person. An individual whose gender identity does not match the sex assigned to him or her at birth. A Male-to-Female Transgender Person was assigned the sex of male at birth but has a female Gender Identity.
- Intersex Person. “Intersex” is a general term used to indicate an individual born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
- Female. Living as a woman and having sex hormones that are within the medically acceptable range for a female.
- Health Care Provider. A licensed practitioner who provides healthcare to patients independently or pursuant to the prescription of a healthcare provider as recognized by his/her state regulatory agency. Includes (a) doctors of medicine or osteopathy authorized to practice medicine or surgery under State law, and (b) Nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and physician’s assistants authorized to practice under State law and performing within the scope of their practice as defined under State law.
III. POLICY AND PROCEDURE
- This policy only applies to chartered team skaters in sanctioned interleague games.
- To participate on the chartered teams in WFTDA-sanctioned games, an athlete must be Female, as defined herein. Male athletes may not participate, nor can those born female or Intersex who identify as male.
- Transgender or Intersex athletes who meet the definition of Female, as defined herein, are eligible to compete provided that, upon request, the athlete can produce a signed original statement, on office letterhead, from the athlete’s attending healthcare provider. The statement must include:a. Healthcare provider’s full name;b. Healthcare provider’s license or certificate number;c. Issuing jurisdiction of medical license/certificate;d. Address and telephone number of the healthcare provider;
e. Language stating that he/she is the attending healthcare provider for the athlete and that he/she has a doctor/patient relationship with the athlete; and
f. Language stating that the athlete’s sex hormones are within the medically acceptable range for a female. It is solely within the healthcare provider’s judgment to determine what range is “medically acceptable” for a female.
- Leagues will attest that the rostered athletes meet all eligibility requirements set by the WFTDA, which includes eligibility as a Female competitor, as defined in this policy, when submitting their chartered rosters.
WFTDA will maintain such information and documentation submitted pursuant to this policy in confidence, with only counsel, WFTDA’s medical advisor(s), the Board of Directors, and, in the case of an appeal under Section V, the Grievance Committee, having access to such information and documentation.
Should a league accuse another league of not properly determining eligibility of its athletes for participation pursuant to this policy, WFTDA will review the matter pursuant to its current Grievance Policy.
- moving beyond the gender binary (or: why I wear men’s clothes)
- request from AERA Queer Studies SIG for gender-neutral bathrooms
- on sexism and gender performance: it’s the bathrobes that’s outrageous?
- boys can wear skirts, girls can wear tuxes: let’s rethink school dress codes
- why I identify as genderqueer