TransAthletica is a 10-part TikTok series funded by Screen Australia, NZ On Air and TikTok’s Every Voice initiative, and it tackles the current conversation regarding where trans people belong in the sporting world.
When speaking to Lifehacker Australia about what inspired the creation of the series, creator Rudy Jean Rigg described it as coming from “a group inspiration session sort of thing”.
“We actually conceived it back in July in 2021, so what feels like a lifetime ago,” he said.
“It sort of came about the fact that I was just sharing parts of my life, and I suppose the badminton side of my life came up. I was sharing that with the team and the crew, and it sort of just popped up.”
Rigg explained that due to their work with Rainbow History class, he and his team were already aware that “trans and gender diverse participation in sport was an issue at the time”.
“We knew that it was an issue and we wanted to do something about it,” Rigg said. “We wanted to elevate voices, share a story, and make a documentary, But at the time when we applied for the grant with Screen Australia, we didn’t know that we would find ourselves filming it during such a heated time in the election that’s just gone past.”
The topic of trans people being involved in competitive sports was, in fact, a hotly debated topic during the election. Why something that is an incredibly personal experience was debated during a national election is bizarre to me, but alas, it happened regardless.
With TransAthletica, the discussion of trans people existing in sports moves away from debate and focuses on what it truly is: a personal experience. This is done through Rigg’s personal experience in badminton, as well as the experiences of the trans athletes and activists he worked with to create the series.
“We got to talk to an array of trans athletes, activists and specialists in the field,” Rigg said. “Not all of them were in the documentary, but they were all fundamental in helping shape the story.”
Rigg continued, sharing, “For example, we speak to Gold Coast Suns player, Tori Groves-Little, and they are fantastic. They are so funny, and the work that they’ve been doing in the space is making such an impact in AFL. We spoke to VFLW player, Em Fox, who has done an immense amount of work in this space creating really great community culture for gender diverse and trans people. She’s fantastic; she now coaches.”
So why is it so important to take this topic, and hand it back to the people that it revolves around? Why should trans voices be at the front and centre of these conversations? Rigg answers these questions.
“I think during the election period, we really saw that trans voices were rarely getting a say,” he said. “I mean, for example, it’s not an Australian-based story, but Lia Thomas in the United States, she seemed to not have a voice for herself. I think it’s really important that when we’re talking about a group of human beings who have, for hundreds of years, been systematically or systemically discriminated against, I think it’s a human right to have your voice heard and it’s a human right to stand up for yourself.
“So being a non-binary trans person myself, I really understood the value of making sure that our voices are heard, and we do have a say in what became a media firestorm during the election.”
Rigg then explained how he and his team have worked to create a series that pushes the conversation around trans people and sports in a more productive direction, and in a way that’s accessible to all.
“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to make it accessible, in that it’s for people who are like myself, who are trans, who are queer, who are already in this space and have a level of lived experience behind them,” Rigg said.
“But we’ve also tried to, and I think we have done it, create a series that you could show to someone who has very little understanding of what it means to be trans, and all of the plights that we face within our experience and our everyday life.”
Rudy continued, “And so through that sort of lens, we are trying to just allay a lot of the misinformation that is often thrown around. We’re trying to sort of pop the lid on a lot of these cans of worms that perhaps are, I mean, they definitely are complex issues.”
When talking about what Rigg and his team hope that viewers take away from the series, he shared that it’s a question that they’ve “gone back to many times” to ensure that they’re staying true to their vision.
“The main takeaways, I suppose, is that participating and being able to succeed in sport is a human right, and it’s fundamental in so many facets of our life to be able to participate and engage in sporting activities,” he said.
“Something that surprised me was that there’s a lot of assumptions made about trans bodies, and there’s no way that you can make a correct assumption about a trans body because everyone’s body is different.”
Rudy concluded that, “It’s important to remember that the image of a trans person that you have in your head is not, or may not be the wide majority, so it’s really important to stay in touch with what the reality is.”
“And so the takeaway is that trans people deserve to play sports and we deserve to win too.”
TransAthletica is out now, with the first three episodes available on the series’ TikTok account. New episodes are released every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.