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Roller Derby News Organization Clarifies Mission Statement to be More Trans Inclusive.

Derby News Network (DNN) covers the sport of women's flat track and banked track roller derby with an emphasis on the teams of the Womens Flat Track Derby Association.  Roller derby is a very fast growing amateur sport played mainly by adult women but is also played by men and juniors (those under 18, representing both genders).  There are currently hundreds of leagues in the USA and Canada as well as leagues in many different parts of the world.

For those of us who watched the Dust Devil roller derby tournament on Derby News Network (DNN) this past weekend, you may have noticed that they have been heavily promoting a page to describe the organization's mission going forward.

In their statement, DNN mentioned that they see a day where the sport will be also be played professionally in large venues while still keeping the edgy "by the skaters" attitude and that the sport will be played on all 7 continents, including Antarctica as well as Olympic competition.

These are very bold statements and I personally totally agree with them.  With the inception of the Old School Derby Association Professional Division and the anticipation of the formation of the National Roller Derby Association, we are seeing a resurgence of the traditional professional sport that was founded many years ago by Leo Seltzer.

Derby has expanded, both in the USA and around the world.  Here in Arizona when I got into the sport in early 2007, we only had 3 active league in Arizona.  Now, there are 20.  Derby around the world has definitely grown with 5 of the 7 continents now represented including the Yokosuka Sushi Rollers in Kanagawa prefecture, Kokeshi Roller Dolls and Devil Dog Derby Dogs on Okinawa and now across the Sea of Japan, Republic Of Korea Derby.  I look forward to the day when the sport can leave the confines of the military bases and the game is played by local residents of Japan and South Korea.

One statement that concerned me was DNN's wording expressing a commendable effort to encourage inclusion for all:

… continues to inspire strength, confidence, independence, camaradarie, and acceptance for women young, old, and in between; men, boys, and genderqueers as well.

As someone, who like some others in our sport, who has fought hard to gain inclusion of people in non-competitive aspects of our sport regardless of gender identity or expression as well as determining standards that permit those who have been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and are undergoing hormone replacement therapy to play competitively on a team that is congruent with their identified gender. I am happy to say that more leagues than ever have been accommodating of transgender skaters, non-skating officials and even announcers.

My concerns were around the usage of the term "genderqueer" and being used in the same phrase with "men" and "boys".  The term "genderqueer" normally refers to someone who does not subscribe to the gender binary of male or female and expresses themselves accordingly.  For legal identification purposes, they are likely to continue to identify by their birth gender and will likely not start a hormone replacement therapy.

Genderqueer represents a portion of the "gender expression" community which also includes crossdressers and drag queen/king performers.  In other words, those who identify with their birth gender or who do not identify in the gender binary.  Use of this term excluded the "gender identity" community which includes transsexuals who have taken irreversible steps including hormone replacement therapy and surgical procedures as well as those who are intersex.  These are people who identify in the gender other than their birth gender or raised gender (in the case of intersex).

After my brief outreach and consultation with the staff at DNN, they have collectively agreed to modify their mission statement to express inclusion in the sport regardless of gender, gender identity and gender expression with wording that I suggested they use:

… continues to inspire strength, confidence, independence, camaraderie and acceptance for all, young and old, regardless of gender and gender identity or expression.

I would like to publicly thank the staff at Derby News Network for taking a bold step to assure not only that those who are gender variant have a place in the sport but to assure that proper editorial wording is used to refer to the gender identity and gender expression communities.

For leagues, skaters, associations and the media, I remain available to the sport to provide consultation to demystify the truths and myths of gender variant people in competitive and non-competitive aspects of our sport as well as provide editorial assistance for written material.

Again, DNN should be commended for taking this bold step.  Derby has a great future.  Are you ready?

For those on the Blend, I invite you to check out this great sport.  Leagues are everywhere.  Find your local league at


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Michiko Ota

Michiko Ota