Bout Betties wants to give a huge shout out and thank you to Villain Dafoe for sharing such a personal and inspirational story. Ratchet and Nightwitch used to skate with her and saw her physical and mental transformation. It was truly something to behold. Villain worked harder than any other new skater we had ever seen. She deserves every bit of accolades and support she gets.
We know that she is not alone in this community and we hope that by sharing such a journey, it might inspire other skaters like her to join a team. Please note that Bout Betties will not tolerate ANY hate speech from anyone. So, if you ain’t got something nice to say, keep scrollin’!
“Hey man, watch your direction”, I cringe as I hear the word leave the jammers mouth. It’s an understandable slip during a bout. I know it is because we’re friends now and at the time being knocked off your feet by any blocker could rattle you just a bit. Still, it stung more than any fall or hit.
For some of us, this is a familiar experience and just another distraction from who we really are. And who am I? I’m your friendly neighborhood Villain who happens to be a transgender skater in Columbia, SC. I’ve been skating for a few years now and still loving it. My start with derby came when my roommate left a derby boot camp flier out advertising that all you needed was $10 and a mouthguard. I mean might as well have left a trail of my favorite snacks leading up to the rink, I was sold. Since then I’ve been desperately trying to catch up on the needed skills and fitness for this sport. And along the way, I lost something. I lost sight of being a transwoman for a bit. I stopped worrying about if I passed as female and I just focused on the skating. Passing minimum skills is hard enough am I right? I did my struggle and after about a year I finally passed. And then it was bout time. Now not to harp or saying that everyone’s experience is the same but being not cis-gendered sometimes feels like some magical barrier has been raised in front of you. An invisible force that robs you of your confidence to go and get what you need. Want to go to a bout, sure the venue most likely is open gendered and even the fans know what’s up. But what about all that distance between your home and there? My legal name and gender haven’t been changed yet. It’s a common thing but simple stuff like bathrooms and paying for things can be a minefield of anxiety for people like me. And then there’s the law. I recently got pulled over and initially, it was “yes mam” but when the officer returned it’s all “yes sir”, ugh. Didn’t think about that one, neither did I. Time to take a deep breath. Ticket paid, with my check card that still reads as “Christopher”.
But there’s more to the experience than awkward bathroom stuff. Back out on the track bracing my wall at practice. “Outside! She’s looking for an exit. Don’t fall for her tricks!” I bark the position of the jammer and her intent using the “dad voice”. My teammates take it in and respond. We establish a new catch on the jammer with advantage to our position. There’s nowhere for her to go. The whistle sounds and our coach is pleased. I use this voice because it carries over the struggle in the pack and commands attention. I’ve had to come to terms with using it on the track for now despite how masculine it sounds to me. It’s effective but in order for it to help keep my teammates focused, I have to be calm. And that is a continuing struggle. The sound can be anything but calming to me. At this point in my life, it sounds alien. Like someone else is talking and their voice is coming from me. But it is the only physical advantage that I really have. I’m not stronger or faster than my teammates, however, I am louder and willing to talk. We run the drill again, this time the jammer gets away. I slip back into my more feminine voice “That was good, really good.” We share nods and high fives before taking a water break.
Hey, this experience is not all doom and gloom though. I’ve never felt more accepted or more like the woman that I’m supposed to be than when I’m at derby. My teammates have become the family that loves me for who I am. They go out of their way to go make sure that I have what I need, like a dress that looks good for our derby prom.
And when in public I don’t always have to be exhaustingly corrective about my gender or preferred pronouns. They speak up for me and make sure that I have someone to go to the bathroom with. No one likes to feel all awkward and out of place where they should belong. And I do belong here. Nothing has ever felt more right than skating and no sport has ever made me feel so welcome.
See you on the track!