Marginalized in sport science research, but prevalent in sports itself – this book brings queer issues to the fore

Anna Adlwarth
Faculty of Social Sciences, Nord University, Norway

Vikki Krane (red)
Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Sport: Queer Inquiries
254 pages, paperback, ill.
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2019
ISBN 978-1-138-07061-5

Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Sport, edited by Vikki Krane, includes 13 chapters about queer issues in sports, whereof the main body discusses the situation of lesbian, gay male, bi, trans* and inter* persons with regard to sport. Following the introduction, LGBTIQ in sport research is conceptualised in three chapters, followed by a second part of four chapters in which sexual orientation and sport is discussed. Part three and four of the book each include two chapters that cover issues that trans*athletes face (part III) and discuss the term of intersex and sport (part IV).

Krane and the contributing authors set out to critically explore the status quo of research on sex, gender and sexuality in sport with a cultural studies lense. Their aim of providing “a social critique of sport for LGBTIQ sportspeople which ultimately can pave a path for greater inclusion and support (p.9)” is embedded in a queer perspective which critiques the binary categorisation of sex, gender and sexuality. With this perspective the authors also consider intersectional perspectives and issues such as racialised bodies, able-bodiedness and reproduction of classed western whiteness in sport.

First out in the conceptual part, Jennifer J Waldron explores four research perspectives beyond positivism. She introduces the application of feminist standpoints, feminist cultural studies, post-structuralism and queer theory on the study of LGBTIQ athletes’ experiences. Waldron includes a table of the four research perspectives’ key concepts, which is helpful for evaluating their applicability for one’s own research. Thereupon, Dafina-Lazarus (D-L) Stewart introduces intersectionality study in chapter three. Stewart calls upon a framework and analysis that goes beyond identity convergences and unveils how multiple systems of oppression operate and which influence they have on the life experience of LGBTIQ sportspeople with multiple minoritized identities. He hereby gives thorough examples of multiple interlocking oppressions and furthermore suggests five recommendations for intersectional research of LGBTIQ athletes.

In the last chapter of the first part, Kerri J. Kauer and Lauren Rauscher discuss sport as a space for disruption and reproduction of gender. Referring to intersectionality and queer theory, they discuss normative binary gender constructions and their implications for the understanding of sex and sexuality in sport. They set out to provide sport scholars with an understanding of the interconnection of a normative, binary understanding of sex and gender in sport and the representation of LGBTIQ athletes, and call upon more critical epistemologies to make sense of the impact of normative gender discourses on sport as a social institution and vice versa.

The second part of the book starts with a chapter on lesbians’ experiences in sport by Mallory Mann and Vikki Krane, who as well frame their chapter in a queer feminist perspective, discussing heteronormativity and homonegativism, particularly in respect to overarching masculine hegemony. By doing so, they draw on the investigation of the historic impact of the former on women’s sport. They all discuss the challenges of a coming out and how women’s sport can become more inclusive. Elisabeth S. Cavalier’s subsequent literature review on gay men in sport also refers to the understanding of and beliefs about masculinity and the relation of sport and hegemonic masculinity. She concludes that while there has been a shift towards inclusive masculinity and a decline in homonegativism, sexual prejudice is still a problem, and consequently experiences of gay male athletes are divergent.

Katie Sullivan Barak takes on the rather difficult task to conceptualize ‘the B in LGBTIQ’. Drawing on an inclusive approach, Barak explains binegative stereotypes and their impact on sport. She illustrates her explorations by relating them to bi sportspersons and their situations. Barak emphasises that we have to make sense of bi identities as part of intersectional identities in sports and life. In the concluding chapter of the second part by Kristine E. Newhall and Nefertiti A. Walker, the heteronormative and dominant Status quo in sport administration is being opposed to queer futures. By doing so, they apply a queer theoretical perspective that concretely includes critical race theory, discussing lesbian, gay and bi athletic administrators experiences rather than looking at existing practices and policies.

The book is thus also convenient for sport scholars that want to get insights into queer concepts, terms, perspectives, methodologies and epistemology.

The next part deals with the situation of trans*gender athletes. In two chapters, the overall situation of trans*gender athletes, and the participation of trans*gender kids in sports in particular, are being explored. In the former, Tamar Z. Semerjian presents in a literature review, how trans*gender athletes’ experiences can shape sport practices and vice versa. She considers the issues of locker rooms and the absence of safe spaces, and links these insights to proposals of more inclusive policies. Following this, Ann Travers critically discusses sport policies for trans*gender inclusion, particularly with regard to high school sport in Canada and the U.S. In doing so, they also critically assess the interlink of socioeconomic factors and healthcare implications.

The final part deals with the issues that intersex*athletes are facing in sports. L. Dawn Bavington provides an overview of the history of hyperandrogenism regulations drawing on a feminist poststructuralist approach to policy analysis. Bavington delivers a sharp synopsis of the complex come into being of current rules, uncovering the problem of racialized gender ideology in the testing. In the following chapter, Vikki Krane and Brandy Panunti critically asses intersex variations in relation to sporting performance, drawing on feminist cultural studies and transfeminism. Coming from the fields of cultural sport psychology and endocrinology, they disclose relations between sexual development and a binary understanding of sex, the role of testosterone herein and with concern to athletic performance, to finally discuss the idea of fair play in sports against this insights.

Queer issues being a marginalised research area in sport science, while sport remains a minor focus in gender studies, this book is a very valuable contribution to conceptualising queer sport studies. This is particularly gratifying, since queer issues are becoming more and more visible and sport organisations, as well as sport researchers, are inevitable challenged to rethink the idea of a clear, easy and ‘fair’ gender binary in sport competitions.

Krane and the contributing authors aim for undergraduate as well as postgraduate students and the chapters are rounded off by ambitious reflective questions that are certainly suited for educational purposes in both sport science and gender studies. The book is thus also convenient for sport scholars that want to get insights into queer concepts, terms, perspectives, methodologies and epistemology. However, also those researchers that are already familiar with queer sport studies and wish to conduct research referring to one or other field within LGBTIQ will find a solid starting point for specific questions and issues in the various chapters.

With their queer theoretical and cultural studies lens, the contributors highlight the importance of research on individual experiences, and by doing so they interlink these insights to the processes of policy making, criticise them, but also give valuable inspiration and concrete suggestions for improvement. Due to the interdisciplinary character of the research field of sport and gender, researchers are also challenged to grasp the different languages of research communities, and the contributions in this book are disclosing these language issues and suggest and apply their own terms.

Copyright © Anna Adlwarth 2020

Table of Content

    1. Introduction: LGBTIQ People in Sport
      Vikki Krane

Part 1: Conceptual Frameworks

    1. Four Perspectives for Understanding LGBTIQ People in Sport
      Jennifer J. Waldron 
    2. Using Intersectionality to Study and Understand LGBTIQ People in Sport
      Dafina-Lazarus (D-L) Stewart 
    3. Negotiating Gender Among LGBTIQ Athletes: Sport as a Space for Disruption and Reproduction
      Kerrie J. Kauer and Lauren Rauscher 

Part 2: Sexual Orientation and Sport

    1. Inclusion or Illusion? Lesbians’ Experiences in Sport
      Mallory Mann and Vikki Krane 
    2. Conceptualizing Gay Men in Sport
      Elizabeth S. Cavalier
    3. Focusing on the B in LGBTIQ: Bisexual Athletes and Sport
      Katie Sullivan Barak
    4. Sports Administration: Heteronormative Presents, Queer Futures
      Kristine E. Newhall and Nefertiti A. Walker 

Part 3: Gender Identity and Sport

    1. Making Space: Transgender Athletes
      Tamar Z. Semerjian
    2. Transgender Kids and Sport Participation
      Ann Travers

Part 4: Intersex Variations and Sport

    1. Sex Control in Women’s Sport: A History of the Present Regulations on Hyperandrogenism in Female Athletes
      Dawn Bavington 
    2. Fair Play: Intersex Variations and Sport
      Vikki Krane and Brandy Panunti 

Part 5: Conclusion

    1. Creating a New Sport Culture: Reflections on Queering Sport
      Vikki Krane and Heather Barber 
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