Gender in Quidditch: “Non-Binary Matters: Why We Need to Keep Quidditch Gender Diverse”
By Khai-tri Tegan Diep, University of Sydney Unspeakables
Quidditch is a sport that demands acceptance and inclusivity of any kind of player who wishes to join. One of the first steps it took to do so was to declare itself a mixed-gendered sport. Progressively, it also allowed players to identify as non-binary in all their finery. This pushes cisgender players to acknowledge gender-diverse people for who they are. Along the way, it gives gender-diverse players a safer space to exist to represent themselves. With this article, I will argue why it’s important to maintain the acknowledgement of non-binary genders in quidditch. I also will argue that being able to identify as non-binary in quidditch should remain unregulated.
It’s important to remember that most non-binary people have experienced discomfort related to the sex they were assigned at birth at some point of their lives (otherwise known as gender dysphoria). For many gender-diverse people, forcing them to declare themselves as either male or female contributes to this. This is especially because many would consider them as the sex they were assigned at birth, and what they feel uncomfortable with. The non-binary identifier is for people who feel either in-between or outside of the male/female divide. Some non-binary people may identify this way as a pitstop before committing to transitioning to a different sex. Another subset may feel that living as non-binary is their truth. Others may feel that the gender transition process is not a practical or accessible option for them. Most other sports posit that sex is a necessary identifier for their players. Quidditch sets itself apart by allowing people to go through their complicated journey of gender discovery without facing complications and inner turmoil about where their position is in the rules through the addition of a non-binary player category.
The acknowledgement of gender-diverse players in quidditch matters, especially in the context of sport. One only has to glance at the comments section of any article covering the story of a trans athlete. There, you would see that the world (sports or otherwise) has a long way to go with accepting gender-diverse people. In the cases of AFL player Hannah Mouncey or New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, commentators consistently misgendered both women. They commonly opted for “he” pronouns, denying them their autonomy of identifying as women, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth. Others also opted for “it” pronouns, which specifcally dehumanises them. Often, the root cause of this brand of discrimination comes from a lack of awareness or education on gender-diverse people. In the case of quidditch, acknowledging the existence of non-binary genders in the rules means their validity cannot be questioned during a game. In my experience, this has assisted with giving all players a solid base to learn and understand non-binary genders further off-field. This could also be supported with further educational material or events in order to challenge transphobia and discrimination against trans and non-binary people.
Back to the examples of Mouncey and Hubbard, other comments raised concern about both using the “biological advantages” of being assigned male at birth to “cheat” in their respective sports. With these cases, the sports defined a specific standard on how to be a particular gender, but it was grounded in sex traits such as muscle mass and testosterone levels. Due to being presented with a “right way” to be a particular gender, commenters had grounds to question and invalidate these athletes’ respective genders. To be allowed to compete as women in the first place, the athletes would have already met the regulations to qualify as their gender. However, these comments tend to overlook this, which again relates to limited understanding of trans (and non-binary) identities. In the cases of trans and non-binary people, sex and gender are uncorrelated. Therefore, it’s discriminatory and nonsensical for gender to be defined by sex traits in their case. As a new sport still finding its ground, it’s revolutionary that quidditch aims to be so inclusive that it refuses to police its players’ genders by not defining any method to validate any given player’s gender. Instead, it’s left up to the player themselves to be the authority on their own identity, as it should be. Importantly, it removes the power of being able to declassify a person outside of their gender from potentially transphobic people.
Allowing players to identify as a non-binary gender is instrumental in legitimising and validating their gender identity. Quidditch can rightfully claim progressive values in offering itself as an option for people to play sport without disruption while undergoing their journey of gender discovery. Importantly, adding regulations for how to distinguish and determine genders would harm the inclusivity of acknowledging non-binary players in its current form.