Sexuality Policy Watch

Where were the trans bodies in the Rio Games?

by Leonardo Peçanha

The Rio Olympic Games were a landmark in regard to gay and lesbian athletes openly disclosing their sexual orientation. This visibility and expression is very important because homophobia in sports is still very strong and pervasive. Rafaela Silva, the Judoka gold medal, who is lesbian, black and comes from the City of God community, is one of these icons. The same can be said of Caster Semenya, the South African lesbian who had to prove that she was a woman to participate in a competition in Berlin in 2009. Semenya won the 800 meters race and broke the record for this modality. It is also known that, in recent years, intersex people have participated in the Olympics. In contrast, trans athletes had no visibility at all. No information has been given about trans people Olympic participation in Rio.

Better say perhaps that we really do not know, as no one has came publicly to declare himself or herself as a trans person. This silence occurred even when in January 2016, the IOC suspended the previous rules on the participation of trans and intersex people in the Olympics, by there temporarily eliminating the requirement of surgery and the use of hormonal inhibitors. Concerning this change of rules it is necessary, however, to develop a deeper understanding o the processes and challenges implied in body adjustments that may favor greater access, inclusion and permanence of trans athletes in sports broadly speaking. For that to happen more investment is needed in sports training, in better knowledge about the physiology of exercises and of health conditions, in general, from a perspective that recognizes the legitimacy of trans bodies. This investment will contribute for the trans presence gap in games to be redressed.

Leonardo Morjan Britto Peçanha is a professor of Physical Education and a specialist in Gender and Sexuality. He is the research coordinator of IBRAT – Instituto Brasileiro de Transmasculinidades (Brazilian Institute of Transmasculinities).

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