Transgender Athletes: Challenging & Transforming Sports

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tucker Center 2017 Fall Distinguished Lecture

Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 7:00-9:00pm Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center University of Minnesota West Bank Campus

About the Lecture

In 2015, former Olympic Decathlon gold-medal winner Bruce Jenner famously announced her gender transition to Caitlyn Jenner. This unprecedented cultural moment created a public dialogue around what it means to be transgender, and in particular, how such definitions and transitions challenge our notions and practices of sex, gender and athletic participation. More than any other institution, sport is seen as a highly gendered activity: We have “women’s sports” and “men’s sports” and never shall that gendered binary be crossed. So what does it mean when someone who has been identified at birth as “female” transitions to being and living as male (and vice versa)? And how do such realities challenge and disrupt the sporting enterprise?

Because sport is built on the notion of an “equal playing field” there has been a particular resistance to male-to-female transgender athletes, beginning with Rene Richards’ deeply resisted attempt to compete on the Women’s Tennis Association tour in the 1970s. More recent examples of transgender athletes have included Kye Allums, the first openly transgender student-athlete to play Division I basketball [], and Minnesota native and transgender high-school student-athlete Zeam Porter, who testified before a Minnesota State High School League’s hearing as they shaped policy for transgender athletes []. On a national scale, those who oversee amateur and professional sports are adopting groundbreaking policies that determine who can play on which team and under what circumstances. As a result, a significant cultural shift is occurring: Transgender athletes challenge traditional beliefs and practices about sports as a “natural” extension of binary-based and biologically driven sex differences. These pioneering individuals are also challenging something more fundamental—the very essence of what it means to be, and to compete as, “female” and “male” in modern U.S. society.

The 2017 Distinguished Lecture features a panel of experts who will examine these complexities from a variety of perspectives: A scholarly critique that will highlight research on transgender athletes and their attempts to gain equality in the sportsworld; an overview of policies that are being developed and implemented in college athletics; and the lived experiences and insights offered by a transgender former athlete.

For more information, visit the Tucker Center website.


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