What I’ve learnt through Gender in Quidditch

By Cameron Caccamo, Sydney City Serpents

Several months ago, a member of the Quidditch community pitched me a story about gender in Quidditch. Naturally I agreed; it wasn’t a topic I could call myself an expert on, so I wanted to hear from others what they thought the big issues were.

This opened up into a general call-out for anyone to submit pieces or points of view. Discussing issues of gender in Quidditch cannot be limited to a single perspective on a single case, so naturally I was more than happy to publish other articles.

The submissions I received did not cover everything, and much more can be said on a wide variety of issues. I would gladly welcome other pieces that speak to any other issues we face as a community, my email is media@quidditch.org.au.

The pieces I am publishing today address related, but ultimately distinct issues. Three of them stem from a similar source; what it means for our sport to be so open when it comes to gender identity. From Tegan Diep we get a positive take on why gender diversity is so important. From Ana Barciela, we get the unfortunate downside; what it means for women when you have players from more than two genders on your roster. Finally, an anonymous piece about their own experience as a non-binary player and how inclusive the sport really is.

The final piece is from Sophie Fitch, and speaks to how women are used in teams – drawing on her personal experience and looking at how the Dropbears fared in 2016 and 2018.

All four are eye-opening in their own way, and I would encourage you to read all of them.

There was one piece that was submitted anonymously, however, that I had no idea what to do with. It came from a man; that was the single piece of information the writer would give me. It was to be titled “Where is the justice for hard working girls in quidditch?”, and this was the entire submission:

“A male born person should not be considered as a non male player regardless of their gender unless they have undergone or began to undergo genetic theory including taking estrogen or testosterone suppressants.

Too many times I see girls lose their spots to male born non male players because those players have an unfair chemical advantage. If you wish to be considered non male as far as positioning in the sport goes you must have some evidence that backs your claim, anything  will do from surgeries to genetic treatments.”

On the one hand, I feel compelled to publish anything sent to me as they are the opinions of our community, and only by knowing where we all stand can we find common ground and work out the issues raised in the above articles.

On the other, I find this point of view quite abhorrent.

We are a sport proud of accepting everyone regardless of how they identify, and forcing players to play as something they are not would go against everything we stand for. Diep’s piece discusses this far better than I ever could.

To be fair, this would mostly align with the standards set for professional sports; but I still don’t see this as an excuse for believing that our relatively tiny, already mixed-gender sport should have to adapt to it.

In sourcing these pieces and having general discussions with other members of the Quidditch community, I’ve had multiple potential solutions to these issues put to me. Some of these are radical, like having female chasers have their goals worth double the points. Others say that a tinkering with the maximum-gender rule may work, or even doing away with gender and having biological sex be the determining factor in how players identify on field.

I don’t think the solution lies there, however. I certainly think organisations like QA can do more off the field, such as educational workshops or volunteer roles dedicated to Women’s and LGBTI/Queer issues. Level the Playing Field is a good example of a gameplay-based solution as well.

For me, it all comes down to the teams themselves, and making sure all of their players feel welcome, valued, and respected. 

I agree in large parts with the full anonymous article (ie, not the small diatribe above). There would be no need to tinker with the gender rule, or how we police gender, if teams respected their women enough to give them ample time on pitch and coached them as more than just pass-receivers and defensive beaters.

It really comes down to this: under our current rules, a team can play a maximum of four men on the field at any point in the game. Why is this seen as so sacred that players that do not identify as male get pushed into the two or three spots remaining? What does it say about how we view women on pitch?

Many of you will read that and think “My team does that already!” That’s great, if it’s true – but it probably isn’t. Something I have learnt the hard way this year is that no matter how good a team’s culture looks, there is always more that can be done.

Of course, nothing is that simple; but I firmly believe we can avoid most of the issues raised in these pieces if teams took this policy to heart.

Further, I think we’ll be better off as a community if we air out these issues and let people that have experienced hardship as a result of their gender speak out. These articles are hopefully just the beginning of a long and hard dialogue about how our mixed-gender sport approaches these issues.