Submission note: A thesis submitted in the total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.
Social integration and acceptance of trans women as their self-identified gender has a considerable influence on their health, wellbeing and quality of life. Researchers have suggested that social integration for marginalised groups may be facilitated through sport participation. Given that trans women often experience stigma and social exclusion because of their gender expression, their experiences may differ from those of other marginalised groups. Trans women often have to deal with the common public perception that they have a physical advantage over cisgender women and should not be allowed to engage in sport as their identified gender. As a result of having a masculine voice, trans women experience activity limitations in speaking, communicating and participating in society because their birth-assigned sex is often exposed by their voice. Therefore, it is likely that voice may also be a barrier for trans women’s acceptance by peers in sport settings because of the heavy communicative demands and high vocal load experienced in sport environments. The aim of this doctoral inquiry was to explore the experiences of trans women’s participation in sport, as well as to understand their experiences and awareness of voice within sporting environments. Further, this thesis aimed to examine the development and implementation of national sporting organisation’s (NSO’s) policies and procedures for trans women’s engagement in sport. An interpretative phenomenological analysis approach was used to develop a rich and detailed understanding of the participation of trans women in sport. Twenty women were ix interviewed about their lived experiences of engaging in sport and the importance of voice in sport settings. Nine NSOs and one trans and gender-diverse advocacy organisation were interviewed about their sporting policies and procedures relating to trans women’s participation. This research has resulted in two published articles and two submitted manuscripts. The emerging data reflected the lived experiences of trans women engaging in sport. Three key stages were identified by the women as impacting on their experiences: sport pretransition, sport during transition and sport post-transition. The women highlighted that there were several barriers to their engagement in sport, with one of the most significant barriers being a lack of inclusive policies that supported their participation as their identified gender. Another barrier was that the women perceived that they were not permitted to play as their identified gender during transition. Further, the women were also questioned by the public and staff about their eligibility to play against cisgender women. Despite the potential barriers to sport participation, many of trans women continued to engage in sport because they wanted to maintain their health and remain socially connected. Most of the fully transitioned trans women reported that sport involvement improved their wellbeing, social relationships and sense of belonging. All 20 participants reported that their voices were critical to their engagement and acceptance by peers in sport settings. This research provided insights into NSO’s satisfaction regarding their current policies and procedures that are relevant to trans women. Spokespeople from these NSO’s explained that a lack of funding and resources meant that full attention to policy creation x for trans women had not been achievable. Through the development of policy, NSOs have a critical role in facilitating the participation of trans women. Trans women perceived sport to be an important aspect of their lives. The women shared that sport allowed them to remain socially connected and maintain their physical health during challenging periods. NSOs need to address the barriers experienced by trans women, such as confusing policies and the difficulty accessing trans-friendly environments to assist with their engagement in sport. This doctoral research provides personal accounts directly from trans women and NSO spokespeople to understand the experiences of trans women in sport.
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