words are all i have

Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association: Making a bold statement for diversity, equality and acceptance

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So, my friend George and I are engaged in a chin-wag. He is a low talker and I often must strain, or ask him to repeat himself, in order to receive the full weight of his words, which usually originate from a base of knowledge and wisdom.

“I’ll be inducted into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association hall of fame next month,” I advise him.

George lights up.

“That’s wonderful,” he says sincerely (and I can actually hear him without leaning forward). “But, Patti, this isn’t about you.”

I pause for ponder. What’s this “not about me” nonsense? The hell it isn’t about me. It’s all about me. I’ve been waiting for this to happen since the turn of the century. I was feeling like Susan Lucci. She was nominated 18 times before finally winning a daytime Emmy Award, and I’d already received 15 snubs from the MSSA since my escape from mainstream jock journalism in 1999. I went to extremes in my quest to attract their attention. I mean, if I was going to feel like Susan Lucci, I figured I might as well look like her, too. So I had M-to-F gender reassignment surgery in 2009. Still nothing. The MSSA didn’t like me pre- or post-op, and I’d officially run out of genders.

“Geez,” I asked myself, “what does a girl have to do to get noticed around here?”

Well, they finally did notice and now George is telling me that being inducted into the MSSA Roll of Honour isn’t about me?

Truth is, he’s correct. It isn’t about me. It’s about diversity, equality and acceptance. It’s about the MSSA becoming the first mainstream sports organization that I know of in Canada to honor a transgender female in such a manner, and I’m not sure they appreciate the significance their deed carries in the gay community.

Mainstream jock journalism, understand, is very much a good, ol’ boys bit of business. In my 30 years writing for five newspapers, I worked with just four female scribes—Peggy Stewart, Rita Mingo (Winnipeg Tribune), Mary Ormsby (Toronto Sun) and Judy Owen (Winnipeg Sun). All my other colleagues were male, 99.9 per cent of them white and 100 per cent of them confirmed heterosexuals.

Talk about a closed clubhouse.

It’s true, though. I never worked with an openly gay sports writer. Either gender. More to the point, I’ve never known an openly gay sports scribe in Canada. I suspect a lesbian would be accepted into the clubhouse more readily than a gay guy, but to my knowledge that girl has yet to come out.

Yet now we have the MSSA embracing a transgender female, voting for her induction into its Roll of Honour.

Should that be important? You’d like to think not in the 21st century, but it is. I mean, transgender individuals still seek the same federal human rights protections as gay men, lesbians and other minorities vis-a-vis hate crimes and discrimination. Bill C-279, which would enable equal protection for transgender men, women and children, has been sitting in the Canadian Senate for more than a year and a half because some of our so-called leaders still have great difficulty with equality for the transgender.

So, what the MSSA has done is large and resonates in the gay collective. Since I posted news of this development on Facebook, more than 70 lesbians (total strangers, save for one) have commented. Here’s a sampling:

Congratulations! That is a huge step forward for women and lesbians in this country…perhaps the world!”

Congratulations, Patti Dawn Swansson! You’re making history, being the first lesbian awarded this honour, and continuing a (short) tradition of women receiving this recognition. HOORAY!! *throws biodegradable confetti*”

Wow Patti!! Thats huge news!!! My Hat is off to you!!”

Your accomplishment is inspiring to hear and impressive. Congratulations!”

So, you see, my friend George was right. It isn’t about me. It’s about these women and all others in the gay collective. We are proud of the members of the MSSA, we applaud them and we thank them.

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