(Trans)forming the Face of Female Sports in South Africa

This 2011 article by Leigh Ann van der Merwe, the coordinator and founder of Gender DynamiX partner organization S.H.E, details the discriminatory treatment and institutional barriers preventing full participation of transgender women in sport. Going undercover in order to expose these practices, van der Merwe in particular showcases the stigmatizing medical rationale that has informed sporting organizations such as Netball South Africa and the International Federation of Netball Associations.

Her article is available to read in PDF:

(Trans)for​ming the face of female sports in South Africa (PDF)

For van der Merwe’s short profile, please click below:

Author’s Biography: Leigh Ann van der Merwe was born in 1982 in Ugie, Eastern Cape of South Africa. Growing up as a gender questioning person, she struggled to conform to typical male gender codes and as a result always felt left out both in family life and at school. Leigh Ann’s first gender challenge was attempting to play on the Ugie High School Netball team. Netball is a typical female sport code in South Africa. She struggled through high school and graduated from Blackhealth High School in 2000. She enrolled for an LL.B degree with the University of the Western Cape in 2001 but did not complete due to financial difficulty. She started working as a controller at a security management firm. It was through another trans woman that Leigh Ann was introduced to trans activism in 2007. Her experience of activism includes being a candidate in the Transitioning Africa Exchange Program from 2010 to 2011. Leigh Ann was also a fellow in the Open Society/Austrian American Foundation/Transgender Centre of Excellence program in Salzburg, Austria during October 2011 and presented at a transgender consultation at UNAids in Geneva during November 2011. She holds a seat on the United Nations steering committee for transgender people in the Global South. Leigh Ann reviewed a number of gender literature resources produced by other NGO’s and was part of the study team on a UNFPA report on the challenges of sex workers in the East London area. She is actively involved with a number of NGO’s dealing with gender & women’s issues, HIV and public health. She is also the secretary of the board of an East London based NGO working with orphans and vulnerable children. She presented two papers at the first ever Gender Dynamix Transgender Health and Research Conference, November 2011. Her paper on Transgender Feminism is currently under review for the New Voices in Psychology publication with the University of South Africa. In 2012, Leigh Ann received an award from the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre in recognition of her work as a Women’s Rights Defender. She holds a certificate in Community Journalism from the University of South Africa and is working towards finalising a B.A. degree in Communication Science. She is very passionate about feminism and women’s rights.