Guest Post – taking offencing

We return from a very busy summer with a guest post from another sportsperson based in the East of England, whose experiences of fencing have influenced their perceptions on sexuality, gender and binaries.

Batting for Both Teams will now move to a fortnightly main post cycle, with some shorter updates in between as and when they arise.

Binary Judgements

Tom Bands

I met Duke recently and was intrigued by some similarities between us; I am also a bisexual (by which I mean same and other – not male and female)/pansexual, ethically non-monogamous, genderfluid sportsperson. I mostly present to the world as male and I compete in fencing which is, for the most part, gendered when it comes to competition, though training is mixed.

I recently came out as bisexual to my fencing team. To their credit, no one batted an eyelid, and I have been treated exactly the same afterwards as I was before. I am most fortunate to have had such a positive experience of coming out, and my team set an example which should be followed by other sportspeople.

Fencing is a sport where flexibility and speed is more important than strength – so why apply divisions by gender so strictly?

Fencing reminds me that binary judgements are placed onto more things than just gender or sexuality, and just as those are not as simple as that, other binaries can also be untrue. I first became involved in the administration of University sport when at Birmingham, where I was informed that Fencing was an individual sport, and therefore decisions that benefitted team sports would not be implemented in relation to fencing.

In background, most fencing competitions are individual ones, with people working their way through direct elimination competitions to determine their ranking. However, at University level this is entirely not the case. Nine fencers compete as a team, across three different weapons. Therefore, it is sometimes a team sport, and sometimes an individual sport.

By attempting to make sport fit into a category of individual or team, any policies that related to fencing missed out on its being both. Since discovering my bisexuality and genderfluidity, I realise that there are some distinct similarities. By trying to define people as either straight or gay there is a massive void in the middle which ignores that some people just find themselves attracted to other human beings (and sometimes gender just isn’t a part of it). Equally, there are days where I feel distinctly feminine, and other days where I have no idea whatsoever how to categorise my gender (certainly not distinctly male or female). Just as trying to fit fencing into a binary category may lead to people ignoring important parts of the sport, the same can be said for the harmfulness of bi-erasure and binary gendering, only these have much wider spread harmful implications.

Olympics retrospective and imminent return (of the blog, not the Olympics!)

So it turns out it’s hard to keep a blog going when you’re only home for four days in a month, and spending most of the time away at festivals, abroad, or working on summer camps. However, the summer draws to a close and I am on my way to the last festival of the summer, so stand by for the imminent return of regular posting… with plenty of material gathered in the interim.Phelps sexism.png

Meanwhile, it has been hard to watch the Olympics and not be aware of some of the unbelievable sexism on display in the media. I was considering writing an article on this, but many better placed and more erudite journalists than me have already put pen to paper, so this is instead a compilation of the best articles I’ve come across on the subject. It makes for some staggering reading at times…

There was at least a positive note for sports-minded LGBT+ people at this Olympiad, with the announcement of a same-sex engagement in the women’s Rugby team. With the last Winter Olympics leading to world leaders being embroiled in a row on Russia’s attitude to diversity in sexuality, any public celebration such as this can only help with visibility, and may help challenge prejudice.