To honour Trans Awareness Week, which has just passed, I thought I would write a piece on an inspirational transgender athlete.
From Canadian world champion cyclist Rachel McKinnon to Harvard University swimmer Schuyler Bailar, there were many role models for the trans community to choose from, illustrating just how far we have come as a society in such a short space of time recently. As awareness of the success of transgender people grows, hopefully acceptance of them will grow too.
In the end I decided to write about Maxine Blythin, who is a cricketer for Kent Women. After being publicly outed as transgender by the media, Blythin suffered mass abuse both online and offline, receiving numerous threats of violence.
The hate being directed against her was amplified by individuals such as so-called celebrity Katie Hopkins. Hopkins used her influence on social media platforms to criticise the fact that Blythin was able to play competitive women’s cricket.
Her more than 1 million Twitter followers would only be able to read her tweet temporarily though, as it was soon removed under the platform’s hateful conduct policy. Far-right commentator Hopkins has since been banned from Twitter for further violations of this same policy.
Hopkins alleged that Blythin’s physique, as a result of her biological makeup, gave her an unfair advantage over other women.
This has been a pattern throughout Blythin’s career, with people keen to stick an asterisk next to every achievement that she has made. As a result, she has not received the praise that she is due for being Kent’s third-highest run scorer in her debut season at the club, on the team’s way to winning the Women’s County Championship.
This is a monumental achievement, but is it the focus of the media attention surrounding her? Far from it.
However, despite all of this hatred, there are signs that times are perhaps changing, as Tammy Beaumont, the club captain at Kent quickly leapt to Blythin’s defence when Hopkins spoke out against her and she also received support from many other members of the cricketing community.
Mass misgendering in sport is now far less likely to go unnoticed.
This progress is not just limited to the minds of players and fans alike, but is too shown in the actions of cricket’s organisations. The inclusive policies of the ECB enable transgender women who have only undergone a social transition and not had any form of medical intervention to be eligible to play women’s domestic cricket.
Blythin has yet to be medically diagnosed as intersex and it is not something that she has sought after, nor should she have to.
Blythin herself actually has abnormally low levels of testosterone, so could one day play internationally under ICC regulations, which are stricter.
An England call-up is something that Blythin would relish and if her current form continues, there is no reason as to why her dream cannot one day become a reality.