Loughborough University
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Genderqueer in the sporting sphere: an oral history project of non-binary sporting lives

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posted on 2022-09-14, 13:29 authored by Lauren Whitehouse

Sport continues to operate under a strict male/female gender binary. However, with the developing social inclusion and visibility of transgender (those whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth) and non-binary individuals (the umbrella term for those whose gender identity is not exclusively male or female or those who reject gender in its entirety) this binary is becoming increasingly archaic and unaccommodating. Non-binary individuals could completely disrupt and render the gender binary, especially in sport, as unnecessary, discriminatory, and redundant due to the fluidity of their identities. However, there has been limited research focusing solely on their experiences. It is therefore the aim of this thesis, through a transfeminist theoretical perspective, to begin developing understandings of the sporting life histories of those who identify as gender non-conforming. Oral history interviews were conducted with 15 non-binary individuals who were over 18 years old, white, lived in the United Kingdom, and currently participate in or have previously 

participated in sport while identifying openly or not as non-binary. The participants were also encouraged to provide the following visual aids to complement their stories: photographs of sporting spaces, sporting equipment, sports clothing, sports memorabilia, or sporting profile pictures. The data was analysed using thematic analysis and four themes were identified: 1) A lifetime of encountering barriers; 2) Turning points, change, and safe spaces; 3) Satisfaction and fulfilment as an openly non-binary sports participant; 4) Sporting futures. As this research demonstrates, despite non-binary individuals having to negotiate a myriad of binary gender stereotypes, structural, and personal barriers, they have been able to find sports and physical activities where they are included and are able to reap the physical and mental benefits. Researching non-binary identities is of pivotal importance to start breaking down the stigma and myths surrounding gender non-conforming people. This thesis calls for the questioning and critique of the polarisation of gender within sports spaces to benefit those whose marginalised identities continue to be discriminated against, excluded, and overlooked as a consequence.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • International Relations, Politics and History


Loughborough University

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© Lauren Whitehouse

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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Catherine Armstrong ; Jennifer Cooke

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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