Cricket Australia Just Made It Okay For People Like Me To Play Sport
There's one sporting memory that I'll always cherish.
It's the moment in 1998 that I heard that Mark Taylor had equalled the record of 334 runs scored in a single innings of Test Cricket, which had been set back in 1930 by none other than the legendary Sir Donald Bradman.
Rather than take the record for himself, the humble and exhausted Taylor decided to declare his innings in the second Test against Pakistan in Peshawar closed, meaning that he would forever be remembered as a man who put his team, and the respect of his heroes during the twilight of their lives, above that of individual glory.
While I was growing up, such shining examples of individual sportsmanship highlighted for me the fact that team sports are for everybody, regardless of ability levels, age, education, sex, culture or ethnicity.
But at the time, I couldn’t see a place within those sports for people like me.
A slightly effeminate kid from a small country town, I presented myself as male, but identified myself as female from a very young age. And the thought of playing alongside the same kids who regularly beat me to a pulp for showing the slightest hint of who I truly was terrified me beyond words.
But the way Taylor -- as well as my other sporting idols, Wallabies John Eales and Matt Burke -- treated everybody that they encountered both on and off the field with dignity and respect, showed me that things could change.
So I can’t help but feel grateful towards organisations like Cricket Australia for taking a stand against discrimination and encouraging people like myself to 'come as you are and play'.
Previously, discussions around trans people in sport have proven to be toxic. But the measured stance taken by Cricket Australia in the development of their transgender inclusion policy -- and Rugby Australia's response to Israel Folau's homophobic statements -- shows that sport can be made inclusive for all, even if it means that certain rules and regulations have to be put in place to ensure fair play.
While making the announcement yesterday, Cricket Australia’s CEO Kevin Roberts stated that the new policy, which provides “transgender and gender diverse cricketers guidance on how they can compete at the highest levels of the sport, consistent with their gender identity”, would encourage more people to play sport, while maintaining fair play within the game.
Treating people with diverse backgrounds and identities with the same level of dignity and respect that all other areas of society demand isn’t 'political correctness gone mad'. Nor is it "the political sickness of 'gender fluidity'" or "gender whispering", as Mark Latham and Prime Minister Scott Morrison so colourfully put it, respectively.
As for Cricket Australia's decision, the Prime Minister said, "There are far more practical ways to handle these issues than these heavy mandatory ways of doing it, and I'm sure these issues have [been] quite carefully and practically managed at a club level already."
But the fact that Cricket Australia felt it necessary to issue a policy at all proves otherwise.
“From a community cricket level," Roberts said, "the guidelines provide robust guidance for clubs and associations to encourage the participation of transgender and gender diverse players and support frameworks for people who are subject to any form of harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sex or gender identity.”
As a child, I attempted to take my own life on a number of occasions, because of how much I was harassed and outright assaulted for being who I was. And as multiple studies have now shown, transgender youth attempt suicide at a much higher rate than the rest of the population.
Given that exercise and playing sport are proven to improve mental health outcomes, the fact that organisations such as Cricket Australia and Rugby Australia are being criticised while hopefully doing something about these statistics is nothing short of disgraceful.
By taking such steps it’s arguable that both organisations will help save a lot of young lives going forward.
I’m just glad that I’m still here and that I can finally play.
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