Dedicated to transforming the wellbeing of trans people through physical activity By Rory & Marquita
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Trans Can Sport co-founders Marquita Smith and Rory Finn answer participant questions. Find out why they created Trans Can Sport and what personal sporting achievement they are most proud of.
1. What is the history of the project? Rory: TCS official birthday is January 2016 but in fact it began much earlier. We began discussing the idea in spring 2015 and applied for funding and was awarded an initial £1500 to kick it off.
Marquita: That’s right we started with one week with a different activity each evening. We used the remaining funds to continue the most popular of those activities for a couple of months. Then we were able to get a larger grant to take us through an entire year.
2. Where did you get the name and logo. Rory: A few years ago there was a campaign called This Girl Can, which was all about encouraging women to take part in sports. Because of that, my friend Ed was inspired to make a video showing trans people doing sports and he called it Trans Can Sport, and that's where we got the name from. Our logo was designed by the late Finnian Lytle, who lived in Brighton for many years and was part of the trans community here. He sadly died in 2017, so it feels really special that a part of his legacy continues on in our logo. Marquita: Once we had our name and logo, we needed a way to differentiate our sessions from other organisations. A way to know that it was a Trans Can Sport session and that it was trans affirmative. That's when we decided to use Trans Can at the beginning of all our events. It has now become as much part of the brand as the name or logo.
3. Why did you set up TCS? Marquita: Not identifying as trans I get asked this a lot. I work as a personal trainer and I was consistently hearing the same stories from my trans clients and friends in regards to the negative experiences they have had with personal trainers, gyms and sports. I never wanted to be an ally who just wore a badge or a bracelet. When discussing the possibility of TCS with Rory, I knew we both had the skills and connections to make it work.
Rory: Marquita was training me and I really saw the benefits it was having on my health and wellbeing. So i put the idea to her, if i could get the money, would you train groups of trans people? Around the same time there had been a big survey done on trans people living, working, studying or socialising in Brighton and Hove. The research found huge amounts of health inequalities, particularly mental health amongst trans people (no surprise there!). The report also found that trans people weren't accessing sports and leisure facilities as much as cis people were. And everyone knows exercise can be extremely beneficial for managing mental health. The report recommended that something be done about it. So that's what we did! 4. What are our individual roles?
Marquita: In short I run the day to day of TCS and am the first point of call for most our members. I determine through polls and surveys what activities our members would like to take part in. I contact the relevant individuals/organisations and find ways for us to collaborate and set up facilitators to support with the sessions. You may also see me coaching activities such as Trans Can Fight and Circuits as well as facilitating sessions.
Rory: I do the stuff no one sees. I deliver the Trans awareness sessions for sports and fitness professionals, write funding bids, deal with the media and write press releases. I represent TCS in local and national LGBT networks. I am also a facilitator, supporting some sessions.
5. What are your hopes for the future of Trans Can Sport?
Rory: Thinking short term, my hope is we'll be awarded funding for the next 12 months. Looking ahead from that, it would be great to get some longer term funding so we can grow and become more sustainable. It would be fantastic to put on events for people elsewhere and to set up an trans friendly fitness centre here in Brighton.
Marquita: Due to funding, it can be difficult to look too far into the future. Short term I’d like to give more support and opportunity to trans sport and fitness professionals. Communicate with the relevant organisations to make sessions more accessible to individuals with disabilities and more welcoming to QTIPOC and trans feminine participants. Long term I would like to see us organising events outside of Brighton and from there who know ;) 6. What is the sporting achievement you are most proud of, or sport that you continue to enjoy the most? Rory: My primary school netball team used to thrash the other schools in the area, so I have a bunch of gold medals in my draw somewhere. Thinking back on it though, I'm not sure how well deserved they were; it was Devon so some of the teams we played against was made up of literally half the school! But as an adult, my real achievement has been to get into sports again, after dropping out of them as a teenager (I chose to be a moody music geek instead of a sporty type). I didn't reconnect properly until a few years into my transition. It' s been a challenge: physically, psychologically and practically at times. It still feels like an achievement when I can get changed in the mens locker room with out having to do the sneaky discreet towel dance.
Marquita: One of best things to happen to me as a child was joining a martial arts club. It took many years of dedication and sacrifice, but I'm proud of achieving my first dan black belt in freestyle kickboxing. In recent years I suffered quite severely with anxiety. I’m proud whenever I take part in physical activities that take me out of my comfort zone. Facilitating TCS sessions over the last few years had put me in many of those situations. E.g anything that involves water. When I'm shaking it isn't always because the water is cold.
7. Do you ever see Trans Can Sport branching out into other things, eg a dance group, a self defence group, etc?
Rory: We're led by what our participants want to do. If you suggest it and we can put it on, we will. Marquita: I'd like to see a couple of activities spin off and become permanent fixtures in the community. At the moment, if we put a group together it will drain resources on people power and funds from the rest of the activities. It would need to be self sufficient and have the right people running it, but I can definitely see it happening.
8. Do you see a way that the TCS model could be used to create new groups in other parts of the country? Rory: There is no reason why the model we use couldn't work elsewhere. However, Brighton does have a large trans population, so there are more people to market to. We put in a lot of time and effort to ensure our sessions are safe, affordable and educational. It's not simply a case of throwing a bunch of people together and getting them to throw a ball. We build links with local fitness instructors and sports organisations, so local connections are key. Marquita: It most certainly could. If there are people who are willing to put the time and effort into it. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that many people don’t know about. I’d be happy to give advice to anyone who may be looking to set up groups in their area.
9. Is it possible to know who the funding/grants/bids for TCS come from? Rory: The past 12 months we've been funded by Sussex Community Foundation. In previous years we've received funding from Brighton and Hove City Council, the Rainbow Fund and Sussex Community Foundation. We also have received donations from public sector organisations and we sell places on our Trans Awareness Training. And of course, all the smaller donations that people give us go a long way to keeping it free. We don't demand that participants donate towards the cost of the session they attend, but every time someone does, it helps keep it free for those who can't afford to pay at all. Marquita: Basically what Rory has just said, but as much as grants are our bread and butter, we have also had generosity in other forms. On some occasions we have family members donate money for participants birthdays or Christmas and individuals have run 10k and marathons to raise funds. We have been fortunate to have some coaches donate their time for free and organisations offer discounted rates to support our project. We also had a brand new website designed for us by one of our participants as a gift.
10. Do you provide press releases and comment to media? And if not, would you? Rory: We get asked from time to time to comment on news stories, usually when it involves trans people in sport. Often we've declined to comment, mostly due to time constraints, as the media can be quite demanding. We occasionally put out press releases and will look to do more soon.
Marquita: We really haven't had time to. We've both had our hands full running TCS and prioritising the the actions required to keep the project running. As Rory mentioned we are looking to put out more press releases in the future. So watch this space.
Contact Marquita and Rory via firstname.lastname@example.org