In sports, there are often just two teams: the men’s team and the women’s team. This binary structure can leave transgender and gender expansive athletes unable to access sports or the benefits that come from them. This exclusion can be due to a number of barriers, but is often a product of limited knowledge, discriminatory policies, or rigid and non-inclusive league structuring.
However, leaders in sports have the ability to make the structure of teams, leagues, and competitions more inclusive. This week, the LGBT International Powerlifting Championships announced the introduction of a third gender category for their competitions in 2018 and onward -- the Mx Category.
The Mx category is designed to include transgender, gender expansive, and intersex athletes that don’t feel they have a place in sports -- either due to lack of knowledge about their identities, or an inability to play on a team that is congruent with their gender due to policies or the structure of leagues.
This is a historical development in athletics that will open the door for countless athletes to experience the joy and community that sports can bring. There is a lack of appropriate space for gender expansive people, and exclusion often occurs when systems operate within a rigid gender binary, such as in athletics. Even if there is an appropriate team for a trans athlete to play on, discriminatory policies and lack of education can prevent them from participating.
This discrimination doesn’t end off of the playing field. In 2017 alone, we saw countless legislatures attempt to attack transgender and gender expansive youth and athletes through harmful laws designed to prevent them from accessing restrooms, teams and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
Over the summer, HRC, our in-state partners, and athletes across the country fought back against Texas’ SB3, an anti-transgender bill that would overturn LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances protecting millions of people across Texas in cities including Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth insofar as those ordinances protect people from discrimination in bathrooms. It also prohibits these entities from forbidding discrimination in athletics on the basis of any characteristic not currently reflected in state law -- an obvious jab at transgender athletes.
HRC is proud to have helped defeat such a discriminatory bill and will continue to mobilize athletes, fans, coaches, and parents to take a stand when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion in sports. Sports are about diversity, cohesion, and teamwork - not discrimination. The power of sports as an agent of social change cannot be understated — when we make athletics more inclusive, we communicate the value of respect to everyone, everywhere.