Shining a light on the transgender experience in sports
The In Your Face lecture series continues at Pacific University, with its next speaker, Sydney Bauer, presenting on Monday, October 3. Bauer is an accomplished journalist who reported at multiple Olympic Games, including Rio 2016, Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020, and Beijing 2022. She also reports on the current environment for LGBTQ+ individuals around the world. Bauer is passionate about examining the interconnection between race, gender, and politics in sports. Professor Jules Boykoff, Department Chair of Politics and Government and the organizer of this speaker series comments, “Sydney Bauer is a cutting edge writer on one of the most important issues in sports today and that is around transgender inclusion and exclusion. She knows the intricacies of the topic inside and out intellectually, but also personally, because she herself is a trans sports writer. Having Syndey speak at Pacific is an incredible opportunity for us to hear from someone who not only knows how to intellectualize the issues transgender individuals face, but also humanizes these issues.” The Pacific Index recently caught up with Bauer over Zoom.
The Index: Do you have a background in sports?
Sydney Bauer: I have been in athletics since I was a young child. I grew up playing youth soccer. In high school, I was a cross country runner. When I was in college, I joined the rowing team. After college, I rowed for the Atlantic Rowing Club and I coached for my Alma Mater Emory University. Since then, I have been a competitive runner. I love amateur and recreational sports! I’m never not moving!
The Index: What sparked your interest in analyzing how sports intersect with gender, race, and politics?
SB: I worked for a trade publication that covered the business of the Olympics for about seven years. I realized two to three years in that I was just going along, reporting on the business aspect of things and not challenging the status quo that much. I realized as a reporter that I should be doing more. I started asking myself some big questions, like: Why are sports so popular, what about sports bring people together, and what about sports tear people apart? Thinking back to my studies in politics and anthropology back in college, I started to bring those lenses to my reporting. Nothing happens in sports without a broader cultural mindset. Before moving to Rio de Janeiro to cover the last year of the Olympic preparations, I realized you can’t just report on these venues being built, you need to realize how this is affecting society at large—how is this affecting the government? How is this affecting the local population? . . . The biggest lesson I have learned on the job is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
The Index: What are your thoughts on the social and political environment for transgender athletes in sports? What can be improved?
SB: Right now, there are times when I have to ask myself before signing up for a race: Will I get yelled at for looking 6’2’’ and not looking like your traditional woman who runs? When I think about that, it [reminds me] why I gravitated towards sports in the first place as a human being—it’s because sports are fun! At the heart of it, sports and games are fun—competitions are a way of expressing ourselves culturally. When I see these states saying “We need to restrict who gets on the playing field to biological sex because there are one or two people who may disrupt things,” I question why we have organized sports the way we have for the past 100 years. I am worried about the current state of things because we are talking about a minority group of athletes who are being subject to rules that their counterparts are not. It’s not leveling the playing field.
The Index: What will you be presenting about at Pacific?
SB: I am going to talk about what the landscape is like for transgender athletes, and try and challenge how we think about sports. I’m hoping to convey that transgender athletes are looking for integration, not just inclusion.
Sydney Bauer speaks on Monday, October 3 at 7 pm in Taylor Auditorium (Marsh 216)
— Annette Leschensky