24 February 2021

LGBTQ+ History Month: The history of gender in sport

Women were barred from the original Olympic games, yet Rome had women gladiators.

Down the centuries, the question of who can partake in sport has always been controversial and not least for the LGBTQ+ community. In the 20th century, thanks to advances in medical science, the focus has switched over to definitions of womanhood.

The 1930s saw numerous controversies over women athletes, including Mark Weston from Plymouth who had competed in the Olympics as a woman but, after an unspecified procedure at Charing Cross Hospital, began to live as a man.

These early controversies primarily featured people with intersex traits, and this pattern has continued. More recently there have also been controversies over the participation of trans people in sport.

Our panel discussion will look at the LGBTQ+ history of gender segregation in sport, and what that means for intersex and trans athletes today.

Panel members

Cheryl Morgan (chair)
Cheryl is a science fiction critic and publisher. She is a co-chair of OutStories Bristol, and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature. Cheryl is a regular presenter of the Women’s Outlook show on Ujima Radio in Bristol and LGBTQ+ community activist. She is a director of The Diversity Trust for whom she run trans awareness courses.

Sonja Erikainen
Sonia is a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society. Their research and publications examine the relationship between gender, sport, and science. This focuses on gender diversity issues and the right of intersex and transgender athletes to participate and compete in sports. More recently, their research has focused on non-binary athletes and the challenges they face when most opportunities are restricted to mutually exclusive men’s or women’s sporting categories.

Samantha Walker
Samantha is a lifelong football fan and high-level player in the top tier of the women’s national league. She gives talks and consults on the importance of diversity and inclusion both independently and as an associate of The Diversity Trust. She also writes for a variety of publishers, creating written articles on LGBTQ+ issues and trans experience, as well as covering football matches and Football Association policy.

Noah Riseman
Noah is a professor of history at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, where he specialises in the histories of race, gender and sexuality. He is currently conducting a research project on the history of transgender people in Australia. This examines the changing legal, medical, social, media and, most importantly, living histories of trans and gender diverse Australians. Through this research, Noah has had the pleasure of interviewing several trans athletes, and has recently drafted an article on the history of trans people in Australian sport.

Verity Smith
Verity is a proud gay trans man who was a former female premiership rugby union player and women’s elite rugby league player for 26 years. He currently plays Wheelchair rugby league for Leeds Rhinos following a rugby injury that left him with spinal and nerve complications. Verity works in inclusion for sport and is the Trans inclusion in sport officer for Mermaids. He is also the Diversity and Inclusion lead for the IGR and World Barbarians, and works on the Gay Games.

How to take part

This free, online talk will be held over Zoom. Please book your place below. Details of how to join the session will be in your registration email. Please check your spam folder if the email does not arrive. Bookings close at 7am on Wednesday 24 February.

Although this talk is free, we would be grateful if you could consider making a donation.

Please visit the Zoom website for guidance on joining meetings. Please allow extra time before the talk begins to make sure everything is working correctly. It’s up to you whether you turn on your video but all guests will be muted once the talk begins. You are welcome to ask questions in the chat box throughout the talk.

With thanks to our Equality and Diversity programme sponsor: UWE Bristol.

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