Intramurals lack inclusion

By Jackson Hare, Education & Enrichment Coordinator

Last semester, I captained Newswire’s intramural, co-ed sand volleyball team, and in doing so, I stumbled upon a rule in the handbook: “In all matches, a team shall be composed of two (2) men and two (2) women… Teams may play with two men and zero women, or four women and zero men.” 

I was troubled by this rule for a multitude of reasons, including the implied sexism with the fact that, hypothetically, the rules deem two men versus four women to be an acceptable, fair matchup. However, my main qualm with this rule is the binary gender language it uses. There is no mention of how this rule would apply to a gender non-conforming student.

This exclusion yields the potential to cause burdensome conflicts that would disproportionately harm gender non-conforming students at Xavier. If a nonbinary student joins the co-ed sand volleyball team and they present more masculine, there is potential for assumptions to be made about their gender identity which increases the odds that they might be misgendered by student referees or members of the opposing team who attempt to enforce this rule. The gendered language in the handbook makes students vulnerable to becoming the victim or victimizer in potential bias incidents, creating conflict among students on campus. 

Of course, I understand that this rule was not made with ill intentions, and I wholeheartedly believe that when the rule was written, it was created to ensure a more fair and equitable competition. However, it had unintended consequences that need to be addressed. I’m also aware that the purpose of having co-ed sports was to provide a friendly, low competition activity that doesn’t segregate. Yet, this rule does not serve this purpose well as it excludes an entire population of students with rigid, binary and non- inclusive language. 

That said, I sought out those in charge of intramural sports at Xavier and approached them with my concerns and suggestions to remove this binary rule, and I’ll give them some credit for engaging in this dialogue toward finding a solution. However, it is important to understand there will be aspects of this dialogue where I will not compromise.  

In our conversation, it was stated that a student who has this issue may reach out and exceptions can be made so they can participate. Although I can appreciate that effort to include gender non-conforming students, the reality is that students’ first thoughts are not to email the intramural sports directors to tell them about their gender identity. Instead, they’ll just be discouraged from participating altogether.  

Even if a student tookthat step, it would require them to disclose personal information about their gender identity that they may not be comfortable sharing. The process of including students who identify outside the gender binary should not involve the forced outing of students as a prerequisite to participate on an intramural sports team. 

Non-inclusive gendered language for co-ed intramural sports needs to be completely thrown out of the handbook. I understand these rules were made for the purpose of creating  more fair competition, however, it should not come at the expense of queer students. If you intend to create fair gameplay, do so without gendered language that causes undue harm to a specific identity group. 

I suggest creating a rule based on height as an albeit imperfect example. The original rule intends to address physical advantages that men may, on average, have over women, such as height. Instead of a gender based rule, have a rule that there may only be two people maximum above a certain height, perhaps related to the height of the net, on the court at any point in time. On that point, I will not entertain claims that now discriminate and exclude tall people from playing as was suggested. 

It’s a simple ask. Remove the harmful binary language from the handbook, and find an inclusive alternative.