Intergender wrestling has been a contentious topic for some time and the debate has been particularly strong of late. It’s a discussion that’s been going on for a while and there’s been a lot brought up for or against it. But every discussion centers entirely around the idea of men and women fighting. It’s likely that this is the only thing you think of when you hear the term ‘intergender wrestling’. That’s okay. But there is a wider spectrum out there, that goes beyond male and female. I think it should be a part of the conversation as well. And I think when you consider this, there’s an argument to be made not only for intergender wrestling, but against any kind of segregation of gender. An argument that I’ve never seen anyone make.
Regardless of where you land on this argument, regardless of whether you believe that we should have separate divisions or not, I think there’s one thing that’s pretty self-evident about the concept of men’s and women’s divisions.
It’s a binary. It’s A or B, it’s man or woman. Nothing else.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what that might mean for a non-binary wrestler. This isn’t exactly something I see discussed and maybe it’s not a conversation the world is ready for, but I would like to see it begin.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I am very much binary myself. I know non-binary folks, I’m a fan of some non-binary creators, and I’ve listened to their experiences. But that’s in no way a substitute for that experience. I’ve also never been a wrestler and atleast as of now have never had a direct involvement in the business. And even if I were the hypothetical non-binary wrestler that this article speaks of, no one person can be a monolithic representative of anything. Everyone’s feelings, thoughts and experiences belong solely to them.
But I don’t think you have to be one to try and put yourself in their shoes in this situation. You work specifically in a field where gender is a much bigger deal than usual in many ways. It doesn’t just affect treatment or expectations or even wage gaps. In most wrestling promotions, you have to be categorized by your gender, to fit into one of two divisions.
Of course I’m not suggesting this is done on purpose but I think in a system like that, there’s an innate added pressure to keep quiet about your self-identity. To be openly non-binary in this situation is to complicate something that everyone assumes is very simple. It would stand to reason that, more often than not, people would be forced to wrestle as their assigned gender, regardless of whether they identity with it or not. This would particularly affect those who don’t seek to change their physical appearance to match their internal identity. To avoid misgendering, transitioning is almost mandatory because your gender is essentially identified by whatever you most closely resemble under a segregated system.
This is not to say it’s wholly impossible to keep the divide whilst taking identity into account.
You could take steps to erode that pressure and allow people that identify as a man to wrestle in the men’s division and vice versa, regardless of appearance. But even if you are cool with that, what does that mean for those who don’t identify as either one? Even if they were given a choice of which division to fall under, those are only two choices. Two categories to fit into somehow.
And what does this entail for someone who is gender-fluid? Would they swap divisions depending on the day? Would IG exist solely for them and no one else? That might seem silly or impractical, but if you’re taking them seriously and in good faith, what else would you do? Would it be right to do it any other way?
Here’s the real big question I have for you today:
If there’s an infinite number of genders out there, than are we willing or even able to create an infinite number of divisions?
I certainly think it’s wrong to willfully misgender someone. And if the answer to the above question is anything other than “Yes, we can totally have an infinite number of divisions” then I think misgendering someone at some stage becomes unavoidable. It’s either that, or they don’t get to wrestle at all.
Because of this, I’m certain that there are wrestlers that feel they must allow themselves to be misgendered. Because allowing that is just, easier. It’s easier than trying to change a system that very clearly was never made with you in mind And I think it’s a problem that’s somewhat inherent to a segregated system. Even if you tried to address it whilst keeping divisions, is there a solution that actually works for everyone?
I believe that intergender wrestling provides a very simple solution to this otherwise complicated problem.
I’m not gonna say it will fix everything and ensure no one will ever feel pressured to hide their identity. I’m not gonna say there will never be another wrestler misgendered by their own promotion under that system. But I do think a lot of the problems outlined in this article would be a non-issue if there simply wasn’t a division in the first place. In theory, you could be identified however, wrestle whoever and it’d never have to be a big deal.
I’d like to think we’d find that forcing a square peg into a round hole isn’t necessary. Perhaps we’d find that it never truly was.