Transgender women in roller derby - another look?

A couple of years ago, I had written on the record both through the rollergirls Yahoo group and in other conversations as well as answering inquiries by various leagues and the OSDA in regards to the status of male-to-female transgender women in the sport of amateur flat track roller derby.

Just as a quick background on the sport, many of us older folk remember the sport of roller derby as it was shown in television.  It was on a banked track and had what appeared to be pre-staged moves and between period soap opera drama, similar to professional wrestling.  Today’s sport of roller derby is played mainly on a flat track (several leagues do play on a banked track) and it is an amateur sport.  The resurgence of roller derby started in the early 2000’s in Austin, TX and then eventually spread to Los Angeles and Arizona.  Today, there are hundreds of leagues in the USA, Canada as well in several other nations.  The resurgence of roller derby was founded by women as a women’s sport.  It was seen as an empowerment for women.  Today, while some men’s leagues exist, the sport is still predominantly women.

This is where the issue comes in.  Just to give you a perspective about myself, I am a pre-operative (pre-op) transgender male to female.  Pre-op means that I have not had the gender reassignment surgery.  In other words, I still have a penis.  I was officially diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in 2005, I have been on hormones since January 2006 and have been full time since September, 2006.  I got involved in roller derby in mid-2007.  I am a lowsy skater.  Anything I write about here would not benefit me anyway since I have no intention of joining a roller derby league as a competitive (bouting) skater.

Back in 2008, there had been some major discussions about transgender women in the sport and whether a league should accept someone who was not born female but who now identifies as female.  Many arguments that opposed transgender women in the sport were valid such as concerns about body strength, testosterone and body frame and then there were the outlandish claims that a transgender skater was more likely to spread HIV through bodily fluids.

I had participated at the time and give my insight and thoughts on the issue from the eyes of a transgender woman who has knowledge of the sport.  My comments resulted in one national association, the OSDA to have me consult them on this issue.  I was then involved in an upstart league, the Valley Fever Roller Demons, an OSDA co-ed league that never got off the ground.  During my short time at VFRD, I had written a draft policy for pre-op male to female transgender skaters to play on single-gender home teams.  This policy also applied for female to male transgender skaters wanting to play on men’s teams.

The part of my proposed policy was that around when a pre-op was considered their identified gender where it comes to competitive sports.  I had suggested that the skater be committed to the process.  This included following the Standard of Care established by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, formerly the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association.  This means that they have been seeking therapy, they were diagnosed with GID and are following a hormone replacement therapy with prescribed medication.

My draft policy was that a potential skater must be on hormones for two years prior to being considered and that the Standards of Care are being followed (no self-diagnosis, no self-medicating).  I chose two years based on research and comments on both sides of the issue.  I felt the two years would give enough time for the body to cleanse chemically and for the mind to adapt to the female way of life and that proper social skills are developed.  I also needed to strike a balance between the transgender community (who cares if I am pre-op, I want to skate!) to the hardliners in the derby community (no uterus, no way!)

I ask members of both the transgender and the roller derby communities, is a two year waiting period from the start of hormones to the ability of competitive play to be reasonable?  When is a potential MTF athlete considered to be “female enough” to play in a competitive game where having the athlete is not considered as an advantage based on the birth gender.  I had figured at the time, if you are along two years for surgery, that should be a reasonable for competitive sports.

I also bring this up because with upcoming legislation such as ENDA where gender identity is still on the table but the fear mongers are saying that men (who are really not transgender) will be able to access women’s restrooms and claim they are transgender.  I feel that regulations like ENDA should only offer certain protections such as restroom access to those who are transgender but who have followed the process.  While I recognize that not all states will not change a gender marker on a driver’s license and unlike Nevada where they have embraced the REALID act, I feel that in those states that do allow gender changes, a driver’s license that was issued over a specific period (I suggested 2 years) should be considered as identified gender and cleared for competitive sports.

Now of course, for post-op players, I do not see any issue (other than time out of recovery before skating).  I feel that a post-op skater who’s physician feels they are in physically fit condition and ready to competitive play sports.

so… comments or suggestions?  Should I lower my recommended standards for pre-ops?  From a medical and mental perspective, is two years enough time (or too much time) to be exposed to the life in the identified gender to be considered that opposite gender for the purpose of full contact competitive sports?  Should higher standards be in place be in place in this case because it does involve a full contact competitive sport vs. employment or other activity where full-contact with other women is not done?

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