It’s no wonder that a marginalized but serious sport like Quidditch has fostered such an inclusive community. Whereas most major team sports are just now having discussions about accepting gay men and women (we’re not even close to acceptance of the trans community in the rest of the sports world), Quidditch started from the ground up with a focus on diversity.
Move over pro-leagues; Sean Pagoada has penned an illuminating piece for the Huffington Post that reveals why the semi-rough contact sport is the clear winner when it comes to gender and gender-identity.
In the Fall semester of 2011 I met Malakoff. I noticed her competitive nature and tenacity at her first practice. She was a beast on the pitch, yet quirky and friendly off it. During the practice, we each introduced ourselves and shared a fun fact. Malakoff’s fun fact was simply, “I’m a furry.” I still don’t know what she meant by it. She followed this with a huge grin, which made all the players laugh.
What I didn’t know is that Malakoff identifies as a transgender woman. She didn’t come out to the team that first practice, nor did she do so months after that. It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 at the Mid-Atlantic Fantasy Quidditch Tournament that she shared her gender identity with me.
We were the first group of people she came out to. She shared with me that the sport’s gender inclusiveness was one of the major reasons she decided to come out. She considered us her family, and a safe space where she was free to express all facets of her identity. Malakoff also shared with us that being accepted and loved by her teammates gave her the courage to come out to others.
What sets quidditch apart from other sports is its two-minimum gender rule, established by the International Quidditch Association. The rule states that “each team must have at least two players in play who identify with a different gender than at least two other players. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender.”
Because of this rule, teams must always be conscious about their recruitment efforts to avoid any form of gender discrimination, especially toward players who identify outside the gender binary. Quidditch values diversity and that, to me, is one of the most powerful messages we can send out.
Although the LGBTQ community has made great strides over the past few decades, there is still a lot to be done to ensure inclusiveness, representation and safety, particularly for trans and non-binary individuals. The two-minimum gender rule has helped many quidditch players become more confident with their identities and has provided them a safe space where they can even come out for the first time.
Our team has four LGBTQ-identified players, each one bringing not only their talents, but their unique perspectives that challenge the team to rethink any preconceived notions about gender and sexual orientation. Because of our bond, Florida’s Finest advanced onto the top 16 in the 2014 Quidditch World Cup, further than any other team in the South. We were also nominated for the “First Year Survival” award in the IQA Membership Awards.
We won’t hold our breath waiting for the U.S.’s five pro team sports leagues to take a cue from quidditch, but it is a joy to see how team diversity can be a boon to sportsmanship and not a detriment, as too many homophobes those days claim in their arguments against openly-gay players.