The lived experiences of transgender and non-binary people in everyday sport and physical exercise in the UK

  • Abby Barras

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Participation in sport has the potential to improve the physical, mental and psychological health and well-being, yet there is evidence that transgender including non-binary people are less likely to engage in sport, with significant differences in participation rates compared to the cisgender population. Research has shown that some transgender and non-binary people have concerns about being challenged about their gender identity in sports settings and worry about being fully welcomed or accepted. Often very little attention is paid to the lived experiences of transgender and non-binary people in sport, or how barriers to participation might be reduced.

Drawing on 18 semi-structured interviews with people whose gender identity was selfdefined, this thesis engages with trans feminist theory and adopts a social constructionist/interpretivist paradigm. It offers an original contribution to knowledge regarding how gender normativity and hegemonic masculinity can often impact on people’s inclusion in everyday sport and physical exercise, due to the ways in which they are frequently organised along binary lines.

The findings of this study identify the ways in which gender identity matters in sporting settings, and the ways in which this often intersected with the spaces people exercised in, the types of sport they did, and the communities they exercised alongside. Key themes discussed include the significance of passing, how people experienced competitive advantage and the joy of sport.

The significance of this thesis is that it informs our theoretical understanding of the barriers which may exist for transgender and non-binary people in sport by introducing a focus on people’s lived experiences previously lacking. It informs our empirical understanding of the ways in which these barriers might be reduced if inclusion is to be improved for transgender and non-binary people and makes recommendations for
future research.
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorHannah Frith (Supervisor), Nigel Jarvis (Supervisor) & Rodrigo Lucena De Mello (Supervisor)

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