Changing the Game
Quidditch club vs. gender rules
Syracuse Snare Quidditch Club encourages all gender participation through a unique gender maximum rule and Title 9¾.
Cheyene Muenzel has played many sports throughout their life. From softball to taekwondo, Muenzel has been played individually and as part of teams typically organized by gender.
Separating sports by sex may seem obvious or traditional as it’s the way sports are played in the modern day. But in Muenzel’s experience this can be exclusive to athletes who don’t feel comfortable fitting into the gender binary.
“The most … gender-inclusive sport I’ve done was maybe cross country,” Muenzel said. “Even then, you had your boy’s heat and your girl’s heat, and there was no [heat] for the people like me who kind of aren’t comfortable with either, or comfortable with both, or just fall somewhere in between.”
Muenzel is a senior at SU and a chaser for the Syracuse Snare Quidditch club. They said the sport’s gender maximum rule, which places a cap on how many players of one gender can play on a team during a match, makes Quidditch different from other sports they have played. The gender maximum rule insists that there be no more than four players of one gender on the pitch during a match for each team.
“With the gender maximum role [in Quidditch], it’s never like … we need as many boys as girls, we just need to not extend a maximum of one gender and one gender identity in particular,” Muenzel said. “Yeah, so [Quidditch] really is different than the sports I played before.”
Collegiate Quidditch is a mixed-gender contact sport based on the fictional game from the Harry Potter franchise.
The game is most similar to rugby, but it includes elements of dodgeball and tag, according to the US Quidditch organization, the governing body of the sport within the United States. Teams are composed of seven players, each with a unique role, including three chasers, two beaters, one keeper, and the seeker. Throughout the game, players keep a broom between their legs to simulate the way the game is played on flying broomsticks in the fictional book series later popularized on the big screen.
“I find it really fascinating,” said Mitchell Vargas, a chaser and seeker for the team. “Quidditch in general is a very cerebral sport, just because there’s so much going on. … and then, on top of that, there’s this gender maximum rule that also contributes to even more strategy.”
USQ’s gender maximum rule, called the Title 9¾ rule, is named after Platform 9¾ — the fictional train platform used to get to Hogwarts, the school of magic in Harry Potter — and Title IX, the federal civil rights law that requires education programs that receive federal funding to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex. The Title 9¾ rule removes gendered language from the sport, promoting mixed-gender teams and inclusivity.
According to the USQ, “Quidditch takes [the] benefits [of Title IX] a step further by promoting a sport that is truly free of gender-based restrictions, rather than evenly segregated between men and women (as it currently exists under Title IX).” The rule caters to transgender and non-binary athletes by using the word “gender” as opposed to Title IX’s “sex,” and rejecting the gender binary altogether with mixed-gender teams.
Athletes of all genders are encouraged to play Quidditch, and the gender maximum rule within Title 9¾ ensures that. This ultimately increases the diversity in players on the field, Mary Kimball, executive director of USQ, noted how the impact of Title 9¾ has evolved naturally over time.
“It’s more looked at [as] a way to include people of all genders, whether you are cis or trans, or a man or woman, or someone who’s nonbinary. That growth has been shared pretty widely across the whole community, which I think is really interesting,” Kimball said.
Written into its rules, Quidditch aims to support students of all genders. But how do these intentions play out on a real team? Members from SU’s Snare team affirmed the importance of the gender maximum rule and the role Title 9¾ plays in its experience as a competitive team. Elizabeth Lawson-Keister, a beater for SU’s team who has nine years of experience playing collegiate Quidditch, emphasized the strategy involved in including a variety of genders on one team.
“I think having all genders on a team is really helpful for thinking about strategy and thinking about strengths and weaknesses of players, and thinking about even what drills you’re gonna run and what language you’re going to use,” Lawson-Keister said.
Appealing to all genders during practices and games is a unique responsibility within the team. Avery Olivar, Captain of Syracuse Snare, constructs her approach to gender inclusivity in a strategic but welcoming way, ensuring that all players have the ability to practice in the positions they want to.
“Being in charge of a co-ed sport, you have to understand the different levels of athleticism you want to bring,” said Olivar. “Whether if it’s a conditioning practice or normal practice, or something that involves tackling because you have to … pair people up for different exercises, based on … [their] ability, height and weight, those kinds of things.”
The inclusivity of the sport and the gender maximum rule directly defy the slim promise of binary athletic equality offered by Title IX, creating a vision for what future sports equity could be. In a world where nonbinary and transgender athletes are often forgotten or purposefully excluded from binary sports, Quidditch is taking an active solution to a controversial issue.
Marcus Bell, an assistant professor of sociology at SUNY Cortland, teaches a sociology of sports class at SU. He said the gender binary within sports is problematic, and it is difficult for society to embrace change within sports.
“Sports cannot be neatly separated from the context in which they’re played,” Bell said. “Whenever there’s a change, especially to an institution that is as valued as sports are, there’s so much backlash. And if that backlash is rooted in not just protecting sports, but also in bigotry against marginalized groups, then it’s gonna be compounded.”