Athletes with trans experience role models in new RFSL campaign

RFSLPhoto: Elisabeth Ohlson

Many gender divided sports effectively shut out players with trans experience. Despite that, there are people who find their inspiration, their joy and their interest in sports. They are ahead of their time and an inspiration to us all. In a new RFSL campaign that will be released during Stockholm Pride, writer Aleksa Lundberg and photographer Elisabeth Ohlson have met with five heroes that will change the future's playing field and our relationship to sports.

Trans people’s opportunity to participate in sports is an issue of human rights. RFSL is therefore launching the campaign Hjältar som inspirerar to make the heroes that are ahead of their time and that challenge the structures within sports visible.

– I want to be a role model so that others can get the opportunity to participate in sports! says Lukas Svärd, triathlete and one of the role models in the campaign.

Good health is a basic precondition for people’s opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to the evolution of society. Exercise and sports improves physical as well as mental health, which in turn leads to better results in school, a better performance at work, a higher income and a more independent life.

– The possibility to do sports of course affects a person’s health. It also affects people’s opportunity to be a part of society, for example being part of an association and contributing as a coach to others doing sports, says Mathilda Piehl, expert in LGBTQ and sports at RFSL.

The group trans people unfortunately are often outsiders in the world of sports. There’s a lack of positive examples of trans people who do sports. There’s basically a lack of role models. Five athletes in the campaign talk to journalist and writer Aleksa Lundberg about their relationship to sports.

– Role models are a source of motivation and self-confidence, they help you understand your own potential. For a long time, we have problematized trans people’s presens in sports. With these role models we want to contribute to strengthening the target group and create a feeling of that you’re not alone in being an athlete with trans experience, says Mathilda Piehl.

This is the first time in Sweden that positive stories about being trans and an athlete have been highlighted in this way.

– When I grew up there was nobody like me in the media, especially not in sports. I wanted to partake in the project to show that you can do sports and even compete in the sport you’re passionate about, regardless of identity. I’m a grown-up now, but I would have liked to see myself being represented in sports when I was young. Then I probably wouldn’t have stopped doing sports at 15, says Noel Andersson Köhler, roller derby skater and one of the role models in the campaign.

Facts about the campaign Hjältar som inspirerar:
The campaign is a part of the project  Idrott för alla kroppar, a cooperation between RFSL and specialist sports organisations. The project is financed by Postkodstiftelsen and works for a trans inclusive world of sports.