Representation Matters

We are currently living in a time where the transgender community has greater visibility than any other time in history.

Pop culture figures such as Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Janet Mock, and Chaz Bono have created a space in mass media.

Political figures such as Andrea Jenkins, Brianna Westbrook, Philippe Cunningham, and Danica Roem have given the community a seat at the table.

There are pockets of progress that would have been unfathomable in years past

At the same, the lives of many in the transgender community are at stake.

Rights and protections are being systematically rolled back in education, health care, housing, and the military to name a few.

Trans young people are dealing with an alarming suicide rate, bullying in schools, and exclusion from their families.

There is also an epidemic of violence towards transgender women of color.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 22 transgender women have been killed in 2019 alone.

The overwhelming majority are black and brown.

Against the backdrop of all of this, the need for more representation and more spaces of acceptance is needed more than ever.

That is what brings us to sports.

In recent months, there has been more discussion on the presence of transgender athletes.

Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric being levied is rooted in transphobia and gender stereotypes.

There is this misconception that trans athletes, particularly trans female athletes have an “unfair advantage” when competing against cisgender female athletes.

There is not one shred of evidence to suggest that this is true and organizations such Athlete Ally, Women’s Sports Foundation, and GLSEN all have information about the realities of transgender athletes and dispel the myths and present the facts.

This leads to the stories of Andrya Yearwood, Terry Miller, and CeCe Tefler.

All three are black trans women who are track and field stars.

Andrya and Terry are both high school runners in Connecticut who placed first and second respectively in the 100 meters in the state championships with Andraya in first and Terry in second. Terry would win first in the 200 meters.

CeCe qualified for the NCAA Division III finals and finished first in the 400-meter hurdles.

Each achieved and each dealt with a vicious blowback.

Media commentators, political figures, spectators, and fellow competitors have tried to delegitimize their accomplishments by relying on outdated notions of gender and in some cases pure bigotry.

What is significant about these women is that their accolades and unapologetic outlook has given so many in the transgender community hope and a source of inspiration.

This is especially true for black trans women who are already having to deal with systemic injustices, violence, and death rooted in the intersections of racism, classism, transphobia, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia.

In addition, their presence is crucial because there need to be images of black trans women living, breathing, achieving, and thriving.

There cannot be an acknowledgment of the existence of black trans women after death, but also while they are still here.

This year, Athlete Ally honor Andrya and Terry with an Action Award at their ceremony gala.

The gave a speech in which they asserted their humanity, their right to compete, and their determination to continue soldiering on.

Sports has always been seen as a microcosm of society.

Dr. Richard Lapchick often describes the huddle as one of the only places where race, gender, class, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ethnicity doesn’t matter because in that huddle, the team works together to win.

He also says to imagine what our world would be if we take the concept of the huddle and apply it to the rest of society.

ABC’s Wide World of Sports’ famed introduction said “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition”

That means for all.







Zachary Draves
About Zachary Draves 100 Articles
Violence Prevention Educator, Activist, MSW Student at Aurora University, Adjunct Professor of Social Justice and Civic Engagement at Dominican University, Aspiring Filmmaker, Alliance for Social Workers in Sports, You Can Play Project Ambassador, Co-Founder of West Chicago Suburbs Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Co-Founder of Racial and Gender Justice in Sports Project, Organizing White Men For Collective Liberation (OWMCL)

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