More sports organisations ready to include trans people

Sports and leisureRFSLPhoto: Anna Åberg

RFSL releases the report "Trans och idrott – ingen ska lämnas utanför". The report examines and highlights trans trans people's experiences within sports. 110 trans people have been interviewed, and many speak of high thresholds when it comes to participation. The report is aimed at people who are active within sports and provides advice and suggestions for solutions for the road ahead. Some of the organisations who have already worked with trans inclusion is the Swedish Football Association, the Swedish Skating Association, the Swedish Volleyball Federation and the Swedish Gymnastic Federation.

The report Trans People and Sports focuses on the Swedish sports movement and the conditions for athletes/exercisers with trans experience. The report is unique in its kind and the first in the world to gather experiences and recommendations in cooperation with the sports movement.

– RFSL especially wants to address the fact that children and youth often encounter closed doors and show how this affects both mental and physical health. It’s a matter of rights, connected to the UN’s Agenda 2030, which we must take seriously, says Mathilda Piehl, author of the report at RFSL.

“Trans och idrott” has made a survey of experiences and the result shows that there’s an alienation and that sports has a long way to go before everybody can participate on their own terms. The report shows that:

– Trans people are excluded from sports through perfunctory gender segregation.
– Trans people don’t participate in sports because of insecurity regarding changing rooms.
– Trans people are worried that they will be poorly received.

Apart from conducting interviews, RFSL has gathered long awaited suggestions for solutions and policies that people active within sports and sports management can lean on for support in the work for change and to create awareness. A concrete recommendation is that children should be able to participate in sports based on the their preference, not on the gender assigned at birth.

The sports movement has the power to make a change
The sports movement gathers close to three million members and is an important popular movement with the capability and mandate to create better preconditions so that all people can participate on the same terms. With support from RFSL, many sports organisations have started the work to become more inclusive.

The Swedish Football Association hasn’t finalized their policy yet, but aims at doing so during 2021.

– We decided to produce a policy for the inclusion of trans people and we aim at finalizing it during 2021. As a synergistic effect of the policy work, we will be presenting a suggestion for a decision regarding gender segregation in Swedish children’s and youth football during fall. The suggestion briefly means that it will become easier for children and youth to play on the team they prefer, says Per Widén, manager at the educational and developmental unit, the Swedish Football Association.

For the Swedish Skating Association the policy work has been natural, internally. Their advice is to just go with it, and lean on RFSL.

– The board will adopt our policy during fall. We have discussed the issue for a few years and had some training with board members and staff. As we write, we are working on how to implement the policy in the field. We recommend others to reach out to RFSL, we have benefited from the project “Sports for all bodies”, says Sofia Isaksen, sports coordinator, The Swedish Skating Association.

The Swedish Volleyball Federation are also closely cooperating with RFSL.

– We want everybody to feel welcome in our sport. Through RFSL’s expertise we are spurred on and can learn from each other to, for example, remove obstacles and change rules that are excluding, says Martin Kihlström, national manager at the Swedish Volleyball Federation.

During 2020, the Swedish Gymnastic Federation has been working with producing guidelines, which has been preventative work.  

– In order for everybody to feel welcome in Swedish Gymnastic it’s important to make a decision about taking a position producing recommendations for gender identity and gender expression. We have thought about the issue for some time, and during the summer we put personal resources into delving into it. We want to work sustainably and not end up in a situation where a member risks feeling excluded from our operation when these issues arise, says Pelle Malmborg, secretary general of the Swedish Gymnastic Federation.

Bill for trans inclusion
RFSL are investing in local advocacy. A bill template for trans inclusion has been produced, which can be downloaded at RFSL’s website. It can be filled out by members in a sports organisation and be submitted at upcoming annual meetings. In that way, RFSL hopes that trans inclusion will become an item on the agenda which management will have to address.

– It becomes very easy with a bill for trans inclusion, letting the board and members take a stand – are we an organisation for everybody, or aren’t we?says Frank Berglund, vice president of RFSL.