“Court and Sparkle” looks at effects, ideas, and diversions in discourses around gender authenticity in sport through two 2010 controversies. One involved Kye Allums, who came out as transgender right before his third season playing NCAA Division I basketball for George Washington University, announcing plans to stay on the women's team that he had a scholarship to play for. The other involved the figure skater Johnny Weir, whose departures from masculine norms had long been part of his public reputation and who was competing for the United States in the Winter Olympics when two broadcasters joked that he needed a “gender test.” By staging something of a queer sports-studies date between these two athletes from extremely different sports, I highlight the vast reach of dubious binarisms that ought to be easily dismissed as well as how gender policing plays out in the particular contexts of institutionalized racism in which it occurs. With Allums, systemic racism inside (and outside) education contributes to staging a debate about whether Allums deserves to keep an athletic scholarship he received as female instead of about why attending or remaining at George Washington depended on basketball in the first place. With Weir, the articulation of bigotry in terms of needing a “gender test” builds intentionally on the history of subjecting Olympic athletes competing as female to medical “sex verification” testing, while the use of the racialized category Russian, by or against him, to designate “gender outlaw” depends on long histories in US skating of rejecting particular racial, ethnic, and national cultural and political models.
Erica Rand; Court and Sparkle: Kye Allums, Johnny Weir, and Raced Problems in Gender Authenticity. GLQ 1 October 2013; 19 (4): 435–463. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2279978
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