Sporting Identity Dysphoria

by Donna Patricia Kelly

This essay is a parody of clinical literature on gender variance, which typically portrays gender identity as an illness.

Sporting Identity Dysphoria, or to give the syndrome its more modern and generic terminology, Sports Disorder (SD), is a rare but dreadfully painful illness that afflicts many more normal sporting families than people like to admit.

We need go to back to basics, first, remembering when our little bonny, bouncing infant was first born and was all cooed over the strong arms and long legs, and we all knew that this little charmer would one day grow into a big fine athlete or maybe even a world-class team player. We could see, just looking at the little tot, that the makings of a top sports person were right there, in the cradle.

Little did we know how things would turn out.

We brought the child up right, buying baby Speedos for the swimming baths, and having the nipper's first pair of Nike trainers bronzed and mounted above the fireplace. Out on the running track, and into the gym, we did our best for the little tyke. But somehow, the heart just wasn't in it. Oh sure, we saw some signs. The casually tossed football boots, the dirty tennis racket. But we never put two and two together. There were other indications too. The skipped mountaineering lessons, the 'illnesses' when the outward bound courses came up. But we never thought they really amounted to much - after all, the young'un looked like such a fine athlete and all-round sports person.

We had never even heard of SD, except on the telly, and you saw all these freaks and weirdoes on chat shows showing off quilts that they had made, or a bundle of 'books that they had read'.

I caught the youngster with a book once! Reading it in bed under the covers with a genuine potholing flashlight. Well!. I can tell you, it was fifty laps around the track and three sets of ten reps in the gym! There was none of that kind of stuff from my side of the family. Then, it got worse. We started finding bits and pieces of embroidery stashed in odd places all over the house. So we took young'un to t'doctor, and he suspected worst. Aye. SD! We were distraught, and sorely hurt. Where had we gone wrong? Latest Adidas running kit, and all the child wanted to do was sit quietly and knit. It was a time of terrible turmoil.

Doctor explained that some children, no matter how well brought-up, and no matter how proper the parents had done by them, just had this innate SD. Not our fault, they were just Sports Disordered. I wept, and came close to throwing child out into cold and snow, away from hearth and home. But after the episode where nipper threw the latest England shirt on t'fire, and threatened grievous harm to self with blunt knitting needle, we knew we had lost our budding young athlete forever.

How could we explain IT to family, friends, neighbours. Some days I could not bear it at all. But, we bore up under burden, and tried to educate folk into the fact that Sports Disorder was part of rich tapestry of the human condition. It were a bit hard at pub. Some of me mates never did understand, calling the nipper all sorts of terrible names. One of them said, "Is the tyke one of them Transsportites, then!", And, "What's your nipper got against good honest polyester football shirts with commercials on them?" Then another said "'Your kid's nothing but a bloody weaver, who likes to dress up in home-spun fabrics". By 'Eck! That led to a terrible barney!

I now know that SD can afflict all families, from rich to poor, from Premier Division to Fourth Reserves League. There are them few youngsters who are happy without mud on their boots, without a sculling oar in their arms, without the roar of the crowd in their ears. They often form their own little communities, and after 'transition' (as they call it) into a non-sporting life, they are happiest just doing a little needlepoint, the occasional loom work, or perhaps even (and this is very difficult) simply sitting down and - I'm choking at this point, can hardly say it - reading a book.

I want to make this comment. SD is a terribly hard and rough thing for a family to go through. I also now understand that the youngster's own SD was the hardest thing of all to deal with, for any one of us. But while I may have lost an athlete, at least I gained a really good football scarf!


© Donna Patricia Kelly 2001