In the second of a two-part series, Maya looks at the features of Ultimate that make it a uniquely welcoming game, and continues her conversation with Ultimate athlete Cassie, to gain greater understanding on how the sport supports the LGBTQ+ community and whether it does enough.
A defining feature of Ultimate is its refusal to have referees. It never officially has. What started out as kids who, in wanting to play, decided to do so without a referee, unknowingly transformed into one of the sport’s defining characteristics, ‘spirit of the game’.
‘Spirit’ creates a culture of mutual respect, healthy competitiveness and prevents unfair play
Adhering to ‘spirit of the game’ means resolving all foul calls on-pitch between players, via discussion. At most, at the sport’s top-level games, there might be Game Advisors, to state what they saw, but the call will ultimately (pardon the pun) always be up to players. Adding to this, a team’s knowledge of the rules, their fair mindedness and fair play are all scored post-match.
At the end of each tournament, the team that wins on athleticism are celebrated alongside the team that wins on spirit. ‘Spirit’ creates a culture of mutual respect, healthy competitiveness and prevents unfair play, which in turn (for the most part) has helped create a welcoming, LGBTQ+ friendly sport. This is not to say that Ultimate is perfect and could not still be more inclusive, however…
Cassie, do you think the sport is doing enough to support the LGBTQ+ community?
I don’t know how so much to answer this. I suppose I cannot comment as I haven’t come across any LGBTQ+ representation or acknowledgement in the sport or organisation. I think perhaps a cheeky UKU pride disc or some subtle colours thrown into graphics, tournaments, kit, would infuse a little sense of feeling able to see acceptance in the sport from LGBT individuals, and that everyone is welcome and in a safe place.
‘There is a huge lack of logical and scientific research into how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) affects athletic performance’
As I study architecture, my final university project has centred around this idea that there is a huge lack of logical and scientific research into how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) affects athletic performance, and as a rather whimsical or wishful idea, I can imagine that this research into things begins a conversation with society, that there hasn’t been any proper looking into the subject since the default and often accepted solution is no to participation from the, on the surface, seemingly acceptable arguments of “well each gender has their athletic advantages!”. This line of thought has merit, I see this, but I think it stems from an ingrained and inherent fear of the unknown, of transgender people, fear of rather niche and unlikely situations that have never come to pass.
It’s not simply ingrained transphobia, since that suggests there is and always has been an element of intentionality to the malice. I think that that time has passed, sort of, but it stems from these as embedded micro-aggression feelings from our ancestors. People have this fear out of ignorance and lack of education and proof, and it’s not their fault.
Things are changing though, as we progress to an uncertain future. Perhaps in general there is a sentiment here that I would be incredibly amazed to see a sport begin to don, this idea of rather than simply representation, but rather of support to evolve sport. To evolve and address our own fears. To begin conversations by saying “why?” as opposed to “here, there are trans, gay, bi and lesbian people, lets hold them up above the crowd for a little bit”.
‘For all this grandiose talk or holding the torch of progression, we mustn’t forget that what we fight for is the integration and normalisation into the fabric of society.’
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Do I have anything to add? I suppose for all this grandiose talk or holding the torch of progression, we mustn’t forget that what we fight for is the integration and normalisation into the fabric of society. By pedestalling the LGBT community too vigorously, we risk placing a target on our heads through over exposure digitally and physically. The goal has always been to just simply be – no ifs, or buts – just everyone to have a reaction to us with the same reaction as they’d find out their favourite ice cream maker has released a new flavour “oh hey, not seen this one before. Cool”.
Thank you Cassie for your insight into the game we see today and the community that hosts it. I’ll see you on the pitch soon, I’m sure.
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