Sport is one of my great loves in life. “Maybe times are changing, this team is changing things!” can always bring a tear to my eyes, as does “the man who knows the true meaning of the word ‘survival’!”. As a Newcastle and England fan, my love of sport has always met with a bittersweet sort of disappointment, although there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for both. When I found out I was transgender, sport was ripped from me as a concept, and it wasn’t until Nintendo Switch Sports that I realized how much I missed it.
Despite all the discrimination, oppression and cruel legislation in both the UK and US aimed squarely at eliminating me (and worse, the next generation after me), I have always viewed the sport as my greatest loss to transness . Some people lose husbands or wives, others lose parents. I lost the sport. I can no longer go to the gym, play on a sports team, or swim. While the site is far safer for women these days, it’s still dominated by a masculine vibe that implies a threat, even if most in attendance would claim to be perfectly nice and tolerant of trans people. When Newcastle United released a statement from the supporters’ group for Pride Month, it was trans fans who were mocked. Dominic Calvert-Lewin faces constant abuse for his crime of posing for a fashion magazine for being “a tranny”. All those ads about diversity, reminding us that football is for everyone, regardless of gender, religion, color or disability, never include trans people. It’s everyone’s game – it’s just not mine.
That’s where Nintendo Switch Sport comes in. There’s no way of knowing what gender the person at the other end of the square is in real life, and there are plenty of ways to play and look exactly how you want. Hairstyles, clothes, makeup and facial hair are available for all genders – as are squirrel fursona outfits that still amaze me.
Nintendo Switch Sports gives you the thrill of victory and the humiliating lessons of defeat. There’s no need to question myself – no worries that I’m playing too well, too hard, too fast. Too manly. Don’t worry about my failure being cloaked in my transness and held against me – perhaps Calvert-Lewin would have had a better season if he/she let his/her new purse distract him/herself than the hilarious and not at all annoying tweets go. Sports sims like FIFA don’t recreate that feeling, they’re more like watching your team on TV, unless you tell Saint-Maximin to put in a freaking cross, he actually does. Here I (analogue) actively have the bat in my hand. For the first time in years I feel part of the sport again.
Sport is impossible for me. I am not a man – all my legal and medical documents refer to me as a woman. So I can’t join a male sports club. But I’m also not a cis woman, so I’m not welcome on a women’s team, even at the lowest levels. Even if a single team were ever to accept me, any sort of league outfit would require the full acceptance of all teams: an impossibility, especially with the constant reinforcement that despite being out of shape and having not competed in any sport in years have an inherent advantage. We’ve all seen enough parents yelling at the Sunday League U12s to know that a fierce, snappy competitive spirit is everywhere, even without an Olympic medal at stake.
How we categorize gender at the elite level may need to be examined as the concept of gender changes all around us. But it is never discussed with the tone of making sport safe and fair for everyone, but with the idea that trans people are not suitable for participation in society. This exclusionary rhetoric has seeped down and accumulated at the grassroots level, creating a wet playing field where rain and transphobia have stopped the game. It feels like I got substituted early with Transness on the stretcher. A career-ending injury.
Nintendo Switch Sports is not an earth-shattering game. I have often complained about his weaknesses, despite my love for them. Online component aside, it feels like a step backwards from Wii Sports and Sports Resort, missing a few key games from the six-strong roster. But it might be the most important game for me personally this year and I will always cherish it for that.
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