Want to welcome trans, intersex and gender diverse members to your sports club? Or maybe you already have members of the LGBTIQ community in your club and want to ensure they feel included and safe?
I recently spoke at the Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Forum about the Flying Bats Women’s Football Club’s Gender and Sex Diversity Policy.
This policy is very progressive and differs significantly from the policies of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Football Federation Australia (FFA).
You are welcome to download the Flying Bats Women’s Football Club’s Gender and Sex Diversity Policy and use it as a template to create your own.
The Club position
The Flying Bats Women’s Football Club is committed to a safe, fair and inclusive sporting environment, where all persons, regardless of gender identity or intersex status can contribute, participate, and be treated fairly with dignity and respect.
We believe in promoting football for all.
We are a women’s club, but we recognise that gender isn’t binary, and not all people are, or identify as, female or male, women or men. We also acknowledge that strong evidence exists that trans, gender diverse and intersex people face significant barriers to participation in sport, and when they do participate, frequently face discrimination and harassment.
We aim to do what we can as a club to overcome this.
Who are we and how did we get here?
On a Camperdown street in Sydney in 1985, a small group of lesbians decided they were going get a soccer team together. They rounded up anybody who could walk and the Flying Bats Women’s Football Club was born.
From these simple beginnings, the Bats have persevered, endured, triumphed and grown into the oldest and largest lesbian soccer club in the world.
Over the course of the Bats’ 30+ year history, we don’t know exactly how many women have been involved with the club but it’s got to be in the thousands. And we now maintain a steady membership of about 120 players each year.
That day in 1985 wasn’t just about doing something sporty for the fun of it, though that is and always has been a big part of the Club. Those founders were well aware that what they were doing was also a political act.
FBFC was formed as a means of providing women with a sense of support and community at a time when options were limited. When lesbians were subjected to multiple forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Since that time we’ve been joined by players from all over the world and we’ve taken the Bats to the world. We’ve represented at the Gay Games in Sydney, Vancouver, Cologne and this year, we’re off to Paris. We’ve also competed at the Outgames in Antwerp and the Asia Pacific Outgames in Darwin and Wellington.
We battle every year for the Julie Murray Cup as part of the Pride Football Tournament, a tournament we co-organise with the Sydney Rangers, a gay men’s team and the Melbourne Rovers.
As for myself, I’m a life member of the Bats. I played with the Club from 2003 to 2015. I served 2 years as president and a total of 7 years on the management committee.
The Club is run solely by volunteers, always has done. Those volunteers, like myself are also players.
We have always had policy of inclusiveness, albeit an unofficial and undocumented one.
But 30 years is a long time, especially in queer years – they’re kinda like dog years – and the world has changed. In the 1980s it was the feminist and lesbian separatist movements that informed the founding of the Bats.
Now we find ourselves in a different place. There is a greater understanding of the complexities of gender and the club’s membership has changed to reflect those complexities.
Why did we need a policy?
There’s plenty of evidence out there that shows not everyone has equal access to sport.
The Come Out To Play report published in 2010 – and few of the authors are here today – recognised that “transgression from norms around gender and sexuality is punished in sport – and particularly in team sport”.
We have always prided ourselves on being a safe and welcoming club and we wanted to protect our members from ‘punishment’.
While we don’t impose on anyone to disclose their trans or intersex status, we knew we had several players who were gender non-conforming or non-binary, some who were trans, some mid transition.
We turned to Football Federation Australia, our governing body and their Member Protection Policy which stated:
“In general FFA will facilitate Transgender persons participating in football with the gender with which they identify.”
As you can imagine, the ‘in general’ didn’t cut it for us. To be fair, they’ve since updated the wording to be say they are ‘committed’ but this is what we were working with at the time.
Semantics aside, you can perhaps start to see our challenge: how were we to protect our members who don’t identify as ‘women’? And therefore not strictly covered by the FFA policy.
We also didn’t want to have to go all the way to Football NSW or the FFA should the Bats be required to defend our players. We wanted to get on the front foot with a strong policy that reflected our club culture and took the burden of proof off of our members.
Please don’t take this as a complete criticism of the FFA, they’ve done well with their policy but we needed to take it further. Here, on the ground, with our players, the reality is beyond the protection of their policy.
Key points to our policy
To the policy! You can go to the FBFC website and download the full policy, it’s publicly available but these are the key points:
FBFC will facilitate registrations from players who identify as women, including trans and intersex women.
FBFC will facilitate registrations from players who do not identify as women if they:
are trans, gender diverse or intersex; and
would not feel comfortable or safe playing for a club other than FBFC. And – this is particularly important – their exclusion from the club would result in their exclusion from the sport.
Sport is organised on the gender binary and as it stands, there are very very few welcoming places in organised sport for those outside the binary.
I feel like we have the most progressive gender and sex diversity policy of any club out there at this point. And we’re pretty damn proud of it. We’ve had so much positive feedback from other LGBTIQ+ teams and clubs in Sydney and several are now working on their own policies.
Challenges in developing the policy
Our players were already with us. We wanted to protect them and we consulted them every step of the way. We are pretty sure our policy stacks up from that perspective as we were just formalising what we already practiced.
While the policy itself in written form is relatively new, the concerns it addresses , coming mostly from outside the club, aren’t new.
FBFC rejects any suggestion that trans, gender diverse or intersex people have an unfair advantage over cisgender women.
And the policy goes into detail as to why.
As all clubs have the same capacity to register trans, gender diverse and intersex players, FBFC does not accept that one team has an unfair advantage over any other due to their inclusion. FBFC is happy to assist other clubs within the North West Sydney Women’s Football Association in developing an inclusive culture within their club.
What can YOU do?
Read it. There’s a lot in there, I’ve only touched on the key points. There’s plenty of solid research to back up our position and it’s also worth following through and reading the reports.
Use it, adapt it, appropriate it, steal it – whatever! Develop your own policy.
Talk to the club. We’re happy to advise and put you in contact with the organisations that advised us.
And what next for the Bats?
We’ve established a trans, gender diverse and intersex working party of members to guide and advise the club in this area. We’re working on updating our code of conduct, developing sensitivity training and an action plan to guide players, referees, clubs and coaches both within and external to our club.