The VUL is proud to support the participation of transgender and gender non-binary players in ultimate!
For more background on our approach, see our Announcement from April 2017.
See the glossary for the definition of any terms that are new to you.
Perspective on Gender
Western society’s understanding of gender identity has changed and evolved significantly over the last few decades. As highlighted by QMUNITY, BC’s queer, trans and Two-Spirit resource centre: “While we have two common words for gender - man and woman or boy and girl – this does not mean that other genders do not exist. In fact, in a 2015 study out of the National Center for Transgender Equality, nearly 1/3 of respondents identified as non-binary – neither male nor female.”
We also seek to hold space for indigenous peoples, culture and language. First Nations cultures long ago had an understanding of individuals whose gender was beyond the binary – today referred to as Two-Spirit.
Other ultimate organizations have developed policies to incorporate transgender players. USA Ultimate and WFDF have adopted policies that focus on hormonal treatments and medical tests for evaluation. Given the recreational and community-based nature of our league, we have taken a different approach.
Legally in BC, someone is the gender they have stated they are. Individuals no longer require legal name changes, surgeries, or psychologist's notes to be acknowledged as their own felt gender. We hold that each individual is an expert in their own identity and that each individual ought to be empowered to identify, label and define themselves in ways that are healthiest and happiest for them.
Players in the VUL are able to choose how they participate based on their gender identity at that time, regardless of sex characteristics or where they may be in any transition between genders. We trust and will rely on Spirit of the Game to avoid any abuse of this approach by a player merely to gain a competitive advantage on the field.
This approach is supported through a number of policies and website features.
Where possible, we use inclusive language (e.g. players, people, etc) and avoid language that reinforces binary genders (e.g. men & women).
There are now two Gender fields in member profiles:
- The traditional Gender field includes Man and Woman plus additional options: “Another Gender” and “Prefer Not To Say”. This field is not shown publicly for privacy reasons. It will only be used internally by the VUL to help us develop programs and services for all members.
- A new Gender Matching field: “Based on your gender identity, which gender would you be most comfortable matching up against?” There are two options: Men and Women. We expect that transgender men will select Men, transgender women will select Women, and other genders will select the gender they are most comfortable with at that time.
- The selection for both fields can be changed at any time.
All website features that previously referred to Gender now use Gender Matching. These include team rosters, game attendance stats, and Matchmaker. These features now group players by the gender they are comfortable matching against, as opposed to their gender identity. This solution allows us to recognize and welcome players who do not identify as one of the two binary genders, while also allowing the matching process during games to be manageable.
On the field, we expect little difference in how games would work without these changes. With the gender balance rule, one endzone picks the gender ratio, and the other team matches. Captains can resolve any uncertainty about Gender Matches as they sometimes do already. Overall, we want people to participate equally in the sport and to play it safely and enjoyably, and we trust VUL members to make good decisions. If questions arise about what to do, teams can use Spirit of the Game and/or the Captain’s Clause to resolve it at that time, and Captains can let us know afterwards what occurred so that we can update our guidelines, if needed.
Women-only clinics and leagues are open to trans women and non-binary players; Men-only clinics and leagues are open to trans men and non-binary players.
For leagues where individuals can register on their own, we usually offer Duo and Trio options where 2 or 3 people can register together. To increase the number of women players, we have offered those options at a discount and require at least one person in each group to be a woman. Those options now reference the player’s Gender Matching choice, rather than their Gender identity.
Lastly, we have removed gendered language from our annual awards. Instead of offering male and female awards, we will offer awards to two people of different genders.
We believe our approach strikes a good balance, and we also acknowledge it may not be a perfect for everyone. If you have any questions or feedback, you can:
- contact the VUL
- contact our QMUNITY contact, Joel Harnest, their Education & Training Coordinator, via email@example.com
- or comment in our Forum post.
To all members, we hope you'll join us in working to provide a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to play ultimate!
1. Why has the VUL prioritized changes to support trans players?
As part of our mission statement, we aim to spread ultimate by being inclusive to people of all ages, genders and abilities. Our sport has historically operated only on the gender binary - for example, we asked people to register as either a man or woman, and we talked about 4 men and 3 women on the field. This model excludes transgender and non-binary people. To be an inclusive organization and sport, it became clear that we needed to make some changes to our policies and language around gender.
2. What language should we use?
We differentiate between an individual’s gender identity and terms to help players match against each other on the field.
On this website we try to avoid gender binary language and instead use players or people. When we mention men, we refer to self-identified men, non-binary, and trans-masculine folk; when we mention women, we include self-identified women, non-binary, trans-femme folk. On pages where we do that, we start by reminding members of these definitions.
For play on the field, we use “men-matching” to indicate players who, based on their gender identity are most comfortable matching up against men, and “women-matching” to indicate players who are most comfortable matching up against women.
We use women and men which refers to gender, instead of male and female, which refers to sex.
Sharing your pronouns at the start of a season or event with a new team will help you determine what language to use. This is also a great way to recognize gender identity as non-binary and that trans players are welcome. There are many different terms for gender identity: see the glossary page for more terms.
3. What do we do if we aren’t sure who to match against when on the field at the start of a point?
If you aren’t sure what the other team’s gender-matches are, show your gender matching signals and call out ‘Gender Match!’. The other team will respond by indicating their gender matches with the signals.
Here are the signals for men and women, set by WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation):
4. How will these changes impact our games?
On the field, we expect little difference in how games work without these changes. With the Gender Balance rule, one endzone picks the gender ratio, and the other team matches. If you are uncertain as to what the other teams gender matches are, show your gender matching signals and call ‘Gender Match’, as outlined in question 3.
5. What is there is an situation at the field related to gender identity, such as someone taking advantage of the changes?
Overall, we want people to participate equally in the sport and to play it safely and enjoyably, and we trust VUL members to make good decisions. We don’t believe that VUL members will abuse these changes to gain a competitive advantage, which would be highly unspirited. If there is an incident or questions arise about what to do, teams can use Spirit of the Game and/or the Captain’s Clause to resolve it at that time. Additionally, we ask that Captains can let us know afterwards what occurred so that we can address the incident or update our guidelines, if needed.
6. How can we avoid getting someone’s gender wrong?
When matching the other team, if you aren’t sure about the gender matches, signal your team’s gender matches and call ‘Gender Match’, as outlined in question 3.
On your team or when meeting players on other teams, you can include pronouns as part of your introductions. For example, “I’m Mark and my gender pronouns are He/Him/His.” “My name is Lisa, pronouns are she/her/her.” “My name is Sam and my pronouns are they/their/them”
Developing an understanding and awareness about gender is new for many of us. Whenever we are learning something new, there’s a good chance we will make some mistakes!. Be open to learning and ask contact us with questions if you aren’t sure about what to say or do in a given situation.
7. Do we have to identify our non-binary players to the other team at the start of the game?
No, it’s up to each individual to out themselves so please don’t out any players on your team unless they have agreed to this. Use the gender matching signals outlined in question 3 to identify which players are matching against which genders.
8. What can I do to be more gender inclusive?
Be open. This is a learning process. Become more aware of when you and others use gendered language. For example, say “person d” instead of “man d”, say “Hi everyone” or “Hi folks” instead of “Hi guys”.
Trans people go by the pronouns they are most comfortable with. This can change over time as they explore their identity or depending on the identity they feel at the time. If you are talking with or about a trans person, be aware of and use their preferred pronouns. If you aren’t sure what pronouns they use, you can ask.
9. If I am a man who is a beginner and more comfortable playing against women, am I allowed to say "matching against women"?
The question we ask is “Based on your gender identity, who are you most comfortable matching up against?”. Therefore you should choose what gender to match up against only based on you gender identity. The way it tends to work on the field is that beginner cisgender players tend to match other beginner cisgender players.
10. If I am a woman competitive player who would like to match against men, can I indicate that?
The question we ask is “Based on your gender identity, who are you most comfortable matching up against?”. Therefore you should choose what gender to match up against only based on you gender identity.
11. What if I or someone on my team isn’t comfortable matching against someone that is significantly stronger or faster than they are because of their gender identity?
We ask that you view this situation the same as you would if you or your teammate were matching up against a stronger cigender player. As a team, you can make adjustments such as switching matchups, playing zone defense, or adjusting how you mark up against that player. Keep in mind that trans players are seeking to be able to express their gender identity, not gain a competitive advantage over you. While playing ultimate, you’ll sometimes match up against players that are stronger or weaker players than you. As more trans players join ultimate, you’ll also match up against trans players who are stronger or weaker players than you.
12. The changes don’t go far enough because they still reinforce the gender binary. Why is this?
We seek to create space for trans individuals to feel welcome and accepted but we admit that we don’t have the perfect solution. We review our changes on an annual basis to understand how they are working, especially from the perspective of trans members.