Your personal connection is your greatest strength

October 20, 2023

With transphobia growing in Canada, non-binary people in this country are asking for policies to protect them in sport, but they have been continuously left out of the conversations that should inform these policies. That’s where Martha Gumprich’s project comes in. Last Spring, they won an award from the SFU Student-Community Engagement Competition to host three workshops with youth in the East and West Kootenays in partnership with ANKORS Trans Connect in order to help schools and sports organizations across Canada “make their recreation and athletics departments safer for all” (Trans Connect-ing Youth in Sport). We’re grateful to Martha for sharing their experiences with us in this short reflection. You can find The Canadian Non-binary Youth in Sport Report and infographics here.

What's been the most fulfilling part of working on this project?

Without any exaggeration, every part of this project has been immensely fulfilling. Being able to go back to the community and talk with gender minority youth about their experiences in organized team sports and ask them what they would like to see improved was incredibly empowering for all involved. When hearing the youth’s stories of their involvement in sport, it was great to be able to tell them that their experiences are reflected in my thesis findings and they are not alone in both their positive and negative experiences. Being able to take my thesis data and the youth’s input and create a resource that will help coaches, parents, athletes and sports officials make sport a safer place for gender minorities helps provide a glimmer of hope in these terrifyingly transphobic times.

What have been yours and your community partner’s biggest challenges working through your project?

A challenge we faced was ensuring youth in the Kootenays knew about our in-person and virtual youth group sessions. Some youth support centers in the Kootenays are new and are working to establish their membership. While we used many connections and methods of advertising and sharing the word about our sessions, two of our sessions had slightly less attendance than we had hoped for.

Any wisdom/advice to pass on to others who might try a project like this?

When doing a project where you have a personal connection to the community or topic at hand, while it can be very challenging emotionally, it is your biggest strength. Being able to enter the room with our youth and say that I, too, am queer, non-binary, have grown up in sport and have had the same experiences as them immediately established that I was not merely a visitor trying to hear about their struggles and then leave. In some sessions, Nicola and I found ourselves doing a bit of mentoring, which I did not expect, but it happened naturally and was genuine.

Get The Canadian Non-binary Youth in Sport Report and infographics

You can find The Canadian Non-binary Youth in Sport Report and infographics on the resources page of the ANKORS Trans Connect website.

Get the report and infographics


Hey, students  – What would you  do with $3,000?

Up to $30,000* is available to fund SFU students who want to work with community partners to create meaningful impact. Register today – all you need is your name and a brief description of your idea.