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Section 6. Sports

This section focuses on how trans and gender diverse young people experience sports in schools. In the first instance, please watch the video conversation between Andy and Gordon about sport.

This section also contains key findings from research, impactful quotes from parents, starting points to think about what you can do as well as resources for further study. Please navigate through this section and complete the corresponding worksheet in the workbook.

[He] had always played on the [sports] team but felt really uncomfortable this year about playing with the girls’ team. I think he'd felt that through last year that everyone had got to know who [he] was and no one was asking questions about, “if you're a boy, why are you on the girl's team?” […] And so he really, really didn't want to play. And he doesn't do any other physical activity so I was really disappointed about that.

(Esther, Parent of a Trans Boy, Age 15)

Sports

Research

Trans and gender diverse youth highlighted how:

  • Teachers privileged students who were good at sporting activities and participated in school teams.
  • They encountered barriers to sports participation at school due to:
    • Feeling uncomfortable and/or unsafe using school changing facilities
    • The gender-segregated nature of sporting activities and teams.
  • Trans boys/men encountered specific challenges due to wearing binders to compress their breast muscle.

International research has shown that:

  • trans and gender diverse youth often experience exclusion and harassment when using sports facilities (Caudwell, 2014)
  • Experiences of exclusion and harassment lead trans and gender diverse youth to disengage from and sports (and therefore miss out on the health and social benefits that come with participating in physical activity) (Devís-Devís et al., 2018)

Consequently, researchers have called on schools to provide trans and gender diverse youth with:

  • safe and appropriate access to changing rooms (Gower et al., 2018)
  • to ensure the availability of single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms and changing rooms (Porta et al., 2017)

So, they had allocated [my son] the wheelchair-accessible toilet and changing area for getting ready for P.E. […] And the boys and girls then got changed up the corridor. […] Either they would come down from the corridor dressed for P.E., and he'd already be just standing in the gym waiting, or they would be there, and he'd have to walk out of his different room into them. So, either ways, he was very much ‘othered,’ different, not with the gang. And it was really tough.

Joanna (Parent of a trans man, Age 21)

What you can do

  • Discuss with the trans or gender diverse young person and their parent/guardian their wishes regarding sport participation and ensure that their gender identity is respected and facilitated
  • Ensure your school provides gender-neutral, single-stall changing rooms close to sports facilities
  • Ensure trans and gender diverse students have access to communal changing facilities that align with their gender identity
  • When facilitating a trans and gender diverse student’s change of changing facility, schools should work with the student and prioritise their safety
  • Ensure that PE participation and groupings within PE lessons are mixed gender and not gender-segregated  

Resources

Next steps

Complete ‘Worksheet 6: Sports’ and then continue to Section 7: Names and Pronouns.