Note: I don’t know who took that featured image of Jackie, but it’s great and I want to know.
I’ve always believed that bike polo is, and has the chance to be, a model for other sports when it comes to how we address players who do not live by what our culture as a whole deems “traditional”. I use that word in full knowledge of how backwards it is, but it’s exactly how a good portion of America and indeed the world approach people who have identified in a way that isn’t the same way as the majority.
Bike polo, however, having formed up not so long ago, didn’t need to have the baggage of sports that were either separated by gender (or, hell, skin color), and also didn’t need to carry the testosterone-take-all mentality of other sports–not that we are clear of that, though.
When I came up with the desire to do this article, I was horrified. Not because of the topic, but because of the people I knew I needed to interview. Jackie and Bobbi are institutions in our sport–at least to me. Both represent players who are deeply involved in bike polo and who I deeply respect.
Th being said, I was also horrified of offending these two by saying something horribly wrong or insensitive. Being
a PA boy in Lancaster doesn’t necessarily afford me much exposure to all the lifestyles that people have someone who hasn’t gone out of their way to better understand transgender people, I knew that there was a high likelihood that I’d put my foot in my mouth unintentionally and offend either of these ladies.
Still, I reached out to them both, and they both were quite willing to be interviewed. Below you’ll find the answers to my questions that both Jackie (J) and Bobbi (B) provided:
Bike polo is, despite attempts otherwise, a very heterosexual white male dominated sport. Why do you choose to be part of it?
(J) I do my best to stay competitive, but what I ultimately get from it is a momentary break from the rest of the world, in which I face many hurdles, get harassed, etc.. I choose to be part of bike polo because it’s a place where — despite the lack of diversity — I feel comfortable and safe.
(B) I like bike polo for the bikes and the polo. I started playing as a commuter looking for more bike orientated activities to do and polo fit the bill.
Were you both self-identified as transgender before you started playing?
(J) My first foray into polo was in 2009 in NYC. I played there for a few months before moving to Philadelphia. It was at some point while I was in Philly that I started to question what has been going on with my gender and why I felt the way I did, which I couldn’t explain at the time. I wasn’t out then, but as I moved back to NYC I began figuring things out, meeting other trans people, and started the process of coming out.
Most of the veterans of NYC bike polo didn’t really remember me since I had only come out a handful of times before moving, but that worked to my benefit since I could introduce myself to them and everyone else the way I now identify, with my preferred pronouns (she/her/hers) and name.
(B) I started playing when still presenting as male, even to myself.
Bobbi (photo by Cris Klee)
Bobbi, you just recently came out (this year, in fact)–how has the response been to that declaration in your bike polo community?
Bike polo has been nothing if not supportive about my coming out as trans. Seriously, I got far more polo friends wishing me support and letting me know they are around if I need it than any other group in my life. I didn’t notice any polo people that unfriended me from FB. I’ve found the girls I know in polo have been super supportive and I may have fielded a request for LA once or twice already.
On the other side of that, Jackie, you’ve been playing for quite a while longer while identified as transgender. How do people approach you on that? Does it come up often or do people just not talk about it?
Although I’ve always had a lot of anxiety as to how people might react, I’ve found that pretty much everyone has been super respectful and supportive. I was got really worried before registering for LA6, but after talking to the (amazing) organizers about it felt more confident. They said something like “You identify as a woman, and it’s a women’s only tournament – I don’t see what the problem is.” And that was that, it wasn’t brought up again, it just was what it was. I really appreciate that I’m accepted for who I am and don’t constantly need to have discussions about it. At the end of the day, I just want to be out there playing polo like everyone else, not thinking about my gender all the time. Read more