Proceedings of The 2nd Global Conference on Women’s Studies
The Cost of Disobedience: Resisting Gender Categorisation in Professional Sports
In the binarily sex segregated space of professional sports, sex-gender diversity is met with suspicion, derision, and exclusion. Globally, there has been a widespread attempt to regulate intersex athletes’ rights to compete and, in the US, legislation is being pushed to entirely ban transgender athletes at the school level. However, little scholarship has considered the implications of nonbinary athletes, those who identify outside the spectrum of man and woman, beyond the conversation of a “third gender” category in sport. In this paper, I seek to examine how nonbinary athletes embody disobedience by challenging the binarisation of sex-gender within professional sports. I explore the racialised embodiment of sex and gender in professional women’s sports, with specific reference to WNBA player Layshia Clarendon, and how disobedience is employed for both personal identity development and to incite resistance against the narrow categories that are forced upon athletes. Finally, I argue that embodied disobedience provides a key pathway for nonbinary athletes to undermine the regulatory nature of sex-gender categorisation in sport.
Keywords: nonbinary; material-discursive; sex-gender; embodiment; binaries.