This is a great step forward for inclusion

BY KATE STRONG, IMAGE VIA PEXELS

When ballots to sign up to the London Marathon open on 1 October, hopeful runners will be able to choose from three gender options, female, male and now, non-binary. This comes after the announcement that the Boston Marathon will also recognise its non-binary participants.

When it comes to sport, trans and non-binary people are so often left behind and completely forgotten. This trend is growing with the news that trans women being banned from competing in the Welsh Rugby Union female category this week. So many queer athletes are left feeling unrepresented, it’s a relief to see an event as renowned as the London Marathon taking steps to be inclusive.

However, the elite races and their prizes will still be divided into female and male categories, it’s only the mass participation run that will add this new gender option.

The Marathon’s event director, Hugh Brasher, has said “This is a significant step forward for the TCS London Marathon as we continue our journey to make our event truly inclusive,” but he also recognises that “there is still much more to be done, but changes such as this demonstrate our commitment to making the TCS London Marathon an event that is for everyone.”

By adding this option to their ballot, they are giving a marginalised group of people the recognition they deserve. As a non-binary person, it happens all too often that I’m forced to tick a box that doesn’t identify with me. It makes you feel invisible and rejected by society, like you must hide behind a mask to be worthy. It can make you feel like an imposter, like some medalling kids are going to tear away your disguise eventually and expose your secret identity. 

Feeling accepted and welcome is vital. I hope that other places both inside and outside of sporting organisations begin to add this option too. This May MPs held a debate on making non-binary a legally recognised gender within the UK, after a petition asking for change garnered thousands of signatures. Unfortunately, no change was made and many LGBTQIA charities were disgusted by “fear-mongering” during the debate.

Non-binary people are constantly forced to prove their existence, people who don’t even know us have the power to decide if we exist in society. The more organisations that begin to take the same steps as the London Marathon, the louder our community can get. For every non-binary box we get to tick, it’s another person saying you exist, you matter, I see you. No longer will it feel like we are left outside, hammering on the door to be let in. As a marginalised group, non-binary people need all the support they can get. With more representation like this, the more socially acceptable the identity will become. Others will be able to see non-binary people for who they are, not the caricatures fear-mongers will have them believe.

This change will also hopefully encourage more queer people to try out sporting events. Recently, we’ve seen a lot of non-binary talent coming forward in the film and music industry, however it would be fantastic to see more non-binary icons in sport. This year we have seen our first openly non-binary winter Olympian compete, figure skater America Timothy Leduc, who followed skateboarder Alana Smith last summer. 

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