Liars, Cheaters, and Short-Haired Girls: Gender Identity Denial of Young Athletes

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
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Gender-based discrimination in sport is omnipresent and manifests in various forms, including unequal pay, disparate access to facilities, and imbalanced media exposure. This discrimination also extends to those female athletes who do not meet stereotypical notions of how females should look and how they should move on the sporting field. Four gender nonconforming youth athletes who have faced gender and gender-identity discrimination in sport were recruited for this study, as well as their families and two of their coaches. A qualitative case study was conducted and data from in-depth interviews with each participant, one focus group with the young athletes, and observational field notes are analyzed. Through the lens of Critical Feminist Theory, this study examines the gender and gender-identity discrimination these young athletes have endured, the perpetrators of which are adults charged with organizing and regulating youth sport. The study finds that these athletes are repeatedly accused of lying about their identities, that they are often subjected to gender identity denial, and that their bodies are routinely policed and objectified. Implications for institutions of higher education, sport management, coaches, referees, and fans are discussed and include targeted education on nuanced understandings of gender, sex, misgendering, and gender identity denial. This study also calls for sport to believe youth athletes regarding their identities as well as for a re-examination of the gendered structure of youth sport.

Minikel-Lacocque (minikelj@uww.edu) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI, USA.

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