Support the Trans Folks on Your League

Originally posted Dec 2019

There are many ways to support the trans skaters, officials, and support staff on your league — and hopefully that is something you care about! If you don’t already have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, start one and put these items on your priority list!

Create a Safer Space for Trans People

  • Require coaches to facilitate introductions when new folks join/visit & include names and pronouns.
  • When addressing a group of people, don’t use gendered language like “hey ladies” or “hey guys.” Use “hey everyone,” “hey skater,” or “hey ya’ll.”
  • Do not use gendered language or names of sexualized body parts for drill names: “Vagina Triangle of Death” or “Boob Buster Block” or “Big Boy Jammer Drill” (I made those up, but you get it, right?!)
  • Provide pronoun stickers for helmets.
  • Allow trans folks to genuinely speak about their experience.
  • Do not tone police when someone is communicating their experience of transphobia. This is when a person criticizes someone for having an emotional response or criticizes how someone responds to something, which is typically a silencing tactic used against marginalized people. (More on tone policing.)

Do not use trans people as a prop for your league’s diversity

  • Celebrate holidays that lift up and give voice to trans people.
  • Allow trans folks to lead social media marketing or event planning that is focused on celebrating trans folks and bringing awareness to trans issues.

Make sure all policies use gender inclusive language

  • Change she/her or he/him pronouns to they/them pronouns
  • Remove gendered language (feminine-specific or male specific) and use gender neutral language.

Address Issues in Your Code of Conduct

State that your league is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people.

Explain what transphobia and gender discrimination is in detail: malicious and/or negative comments or actions toward individuals who identify as transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer, nonbinary, and other non-cisgendered identities (more on gender identities).

Provide clear examples of transphobia and gender discrimination:

  • Misgendering (regardless of intent) — assuming someone’s gender and/or purposefully using the wrong pronouns.
  • Using someone’s dead name (More on dead names).
  • Asking personal questions about physical anatomy, surgery, hormones, clothing, etc.
  • Using bioessentialist language — Equating physical anatomy to gender or personality traits or skills (e.g., “women have vaginas” and “that takes balls” and descriptions like a “real woman” or a “real man”) (More on bioessentialism).
  • Using language that adheres to and reinforces the gender binary (e.g., co-ed instead of all-gender)
  • Discussion of biology/physical anatomy, gender assigned at birth, or hormones as a judgement of style/level of play
  • Accusing a trans person of being too aggressive, hyper-aggressive, out of control, and/or reckless
  • Epithets, jokes, ridicule, mockery or other offensive or derogatory conduct focused on an individual's gender identity

Require everyone on your league to be an ally, and do not tolerate transphobia or transphobic microaggressions, whether they are intentional or not.

  • Educate folks on how to be an ally
  • Example of allyship: if someone is using the wrong pronouns for a person, an ally can make a quick correction in the moment and privately let that person they are using the wrong pronouns and ask them to be mindful and make sure they are careful to use the correct pronouns.
  • Require cis folks to call in people who need to be educated about their behavior or language.
  • Require everyone to report transphobic behavior.
  • Require people in positions of power or influence to use their position to advocate for trans folks.
At your games
  • Ask visiting teams for a list of their skaters’ names and pronouns.
  • Share all skater names and pronouns with your announcers and require them to use correct pronouns for home and visiting skaters.
  • When skaters are in the pack and communicating another skater’s location, defer to the pronoun “they” or use their position. Example: “Jammer is approaching the pack — they are on the inside.” “Offense is coming back on you.” “They are passing the helmet cover.”
For away games

Before signing a contract with a team, ask the interleague contact:

  • What education has your league received about trans folks?
  • Do you regularly provide a pronoun list to your announcers?
  • Do your skaters default to “they/them” when referring to an opponent they don’t know?
  • Do you provide an all-gender bathroom at your facility?
  • Is the afterparty held at a trans-friendly location? If so, what is this location?

If you feel like the answers you’ve received demonstrate that the league is safe for trans folks who are traveling with the team (as skaters and/or officials), make sure you share all skater names and pronouns with the interleague contact prior to arriving.

These are just some ways to create a safe and inclusive space for trans folks. Continue to educate yourself and your league, so trans folks can feel welcomed and safe. 

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Dear Roller Derby: We Can Do Better
Originally published Dec 2018