Transgender Day of Visibility: Kal
Proud 2 Play first met Kal at our All Inclusive Cricket Sessions at Parkville Youlden Cricket Club, and he has been a great friend to Proud 2 Play ever since.
Proud 2 Play has felt so honoured to be able to support Kal and help him return to sport at a community level. As Kal recounts in his answers, there’s plenty that needs to be done to help welcome people like Kal into their clubs and support them on their sporting journey.
What pronouns do you use?
How are you involved in sport or physical activity? I’m not currently involved in any sports, as I haven’t found any clubs or teams where I have felt comfortable and accepted. However, I would love to be able to play soccer, AFL and in the past few months I’ve also developed an interest in playing cricket.
What is the thing you enjoy most about playing sport or doing physical activity?
In regards to sport I enjoy team sports. I love the way that team sports tend to rely on working together and helping as well as encouraging others to get better and be the best that they can possibly be. We all need people in our lives and having team mates that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone, not only tends to make you a better player but for me I find it also makes me a better person.
What is the most important thing about being involved in sport or physical activity to you? The most important thing to me about being involved in any form of sport or physical activity is to be able to have fun while feeling safe, comfortable and accepted.
Have you faced many barriers in being involved in sport and physical activity?
I’ve faced quite a few barriers throughout my life in regards to sport and physical activity. A major barrier that I have faced is the way that sports for the most part are divided into the two binary genders (male and female). I was assigned female at birth, but I have known I was a boy since I was 5 years old. From 5 years old all the way up until today (19), I have felt uncomfortable and uncertain with my place in the sporting world. People perceived me to be female so I was forced to play sports with girls, but I never felt like I belonged. However, I never felt like I belonged with the boys either, as I’ve always witnessed such toxic masculinity present in male teams and that also made me feel uncomfortable. When I was 8 all I wanted to do was play soccer and had a dream of one day being able to play soccer professionally. However, the only local teams that I knew of were boy’s teams. They probably would have let me play on one of their teams, but I didn’t want to be regarded as a girl playing on the boy’s team because I was a boy. For this reason, I ended up not playing soccer for any team and to this day I still would love to be able to play soccer for a team that is completely inclusive of people who are transgender. In high school I faced barriers that led me to dislike sport during that part of my life. We were expected to go to school in our school uniform and change into and out of our sports uniform in the change rooms. The situation with change rooms negatively affected my mental health as even though only my friends and teachers knew I was trans, I felt like everyone was staring at me. In year 10 I started refusing to change into my sports uniform, as I couldn’t handle having to use the female change room anymore. This let to my teacher giving me detentions, even though he knew about me being trans. It was also difficult to participate in certain kinds of sports, as I can’t leave my house without wearing my chest binder and after a certain amount of time exercising it starts to physically hurt me.
What more could be done by sporting organisations, clubs, or sporting spaces to recognise the needs of Trans people and make them more visible in the conversation around sport?
Sporting organisations, clubs and sporting spaces could consult or hire being who are transgender or gender diverse to be a part of their discussions on how to support people who are trans in the sporting environment. In order to engage and support a particular group of people it’s vital that people from that particular group that you want to engage have an input. There is no point in a group of people who are cisgender sitting around discussing how to support and engage trans people in the sporting world. Instead, that discussion needs to be had by people who are actually transgender. To make change occur, you have to elevate the voices of those who need to be heard.
How important is trans visibility in the sporting world?
Not only is trans visibility in the sporting world important, but trans visibility in general is incredibly important. I am grateful for all of my trans and gender diverse elders past and present whose visibility within society has paved the way for me to be able to live my life openly as a person who is trans and speak about my experiences. For instance the events of Stonewall have been manipulated over time to the point where so many people are unaware that it was transgender women of colour who were at the forefront. Visibility is always important when a fight for equality is still taking place in society. When the rights of people who are trans are constantly discussed within politics without a single trans person’s voice being heard, visibility is essential. Specifically in regards to the sporting world having visible trans athletes competing and being recognised for their achievements is vital. It conveys not only that trans people are capable of doing the same things as cisgender people, but it also helps pave the way for young trans and gender diverse people to have an easier experience in the sporting world. It allows for other people who are trans to see that it is possible for someone who is trans to be involved in sport. It has the potential to encourage other trans people to start participating and being more involved in the sporting world. Furthermore, by having visible trans people in the sporting world it has the potential to start conversations. Conversations not only about how to best support people who are trans, but also looking at the sporting world in general and trying to see how it could be made more inclusive for all people and not just some people.
However, visibility should always be a personal decision made by an individual. It’s important to respect the decision that a trans person makes in regards to whether or not they want people to know that they are trans. Some people can’t or choose not to be visible for a variety of reasons. For example, their safety could be jeopardised.
How do we all achieve a playing field where all people regardless of their sex or gender are accepted in the sporting world?
In order for all people regardless of their gender to feel comfortable and accepted in the sporting world, it’s important for education to be provided to sporting organisations and clubs as to how to be supportive of all people regardless of their gender. Through doing this it encourages discussions on the importance of pronouns and asking people what their pronouns are, rather than just assuming based on an individual’s presentation. It’s not that difficult to ask someone for their pronouns, but making it the norm to ask people could make life a lot easier for trans and gender diverse people who want to be open about the pronouns that they use.
A major barrier that some people who are trans or gender diverse face is the way that a lot of sports are gendered. Instead of having sports divided into the two binary genders (male, female), the ideal way to make sport more inclusive for all people (it is not just trans and gender diverse people that affected by the gendered aspect of sport) would instead have who will compete against who be determined by factors such as height, weight and ability instead of gender. This would produce a fairer playing field over all.