About nothing in particular. We simply need to talk.
We need to converse, to communicate. Some people say there is no actual “HEMA community”, and that is true to an extent – we spend 99% of our HEMA time with our own groups, clubs, schools.
But HEMA is growing and a community exists, even if it is mostly centered online on a handful of forums. And that community affects HEMA – it affects the gear, the tournaments, the international events, how we present ourselves to the world…
It’s impossible for such a community to thrive without communication. And recently I see communication stifled, topics ignored, key questions of what HEMA will be tomorrow deleted.
Long story short – I was banned from the HEMA International Discussion forum for agreeing with one of the mods.
How did that happen? Well, the popular topic of the Blood & Iron review of Neyman’s Armadillo gloves was brewing some side-discussions. Besides being criticized for the quality of their review, the Canadians were also called transphobes and “nazis”, cause apparently you cannot be one without the other. Suddenly there was a warning from a mod against someone for posting transphobic shit. No such thing in sight. The mod deleted it.
Knowing that fencer, I doubted that he would publish something hateful and asked what it was he posted and why the conversation on a topic is being censored. Some topics should be censored, was the answer.
No, actually. Hateful speech should be dealt with. But no topic should be automatically censored on an international discussion page.
Blood & Iron did refuse a trans woman entry into a tournament a few years ago, Guy Windsor wrote on the topic at the time. Yet there is still no discussion. Why? Because it is still clearly still going on, inside and outside of HEMA.
I believe that trans people should be allowed to compete in sports as their own gender. However, the topic is not black and white or entirely simple.
The International Olympic Committee is still requiring trans women to undergo 2 years of HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and to have testosterone under a certain limit. Many non-Olympic sports around the world, including in places where there is HEMA, still do not allow trans athletes to compete as their own gender.
While the science is pointing out that after HRT, trans women really lose their advantage from the testosterone before their transition, numerous scientists point out the data is still not enough for a definitive answer. The fact that men and women have on average about 10% difference in athletic ability is still a fact.
Yes, HEMA is an amateur sport and the degree of physicality between different individuals does not matter to such a degree. We don’t have weight classes (except in wrestling), there are plenty of smaller men and women winning tournaments, there are plenty of big men and women winning tournaments, and we don’t say to a big guy or girl “you only won cause you are too freaking big”.
And yes, we cannot test just trans people without properly testing all women – and consequentially everyone – for doping, which an amateur sport like ours doesn’t have the resources to do.
On the other hand, allowing trans people who have not even undergone HRT to compete – as the previously mentioned admin insisted whilst continuing to discuss the topic with me – may be problematic for some women. One of the reasons there are both tourneys for women and Open tourneys is because women sometimes prefer to fence against women for various reasons. One of them is the fact that they stand a better chance (but not a sure one) of facing someone who is more equal physically.
Imagine how bad it would be if a trans woman was allowed to compete in a woman’s tourney and 70% of them opt out in protest. It would be awful for her, for them, for the organizers and for HEMA. I doubt such a thing would happen nowadays, but it did happen in 1977 in tennis to Renée Richards, after she won a key court case that allowed her to play as a woman and paved the road for trans athletes in the future.
By the way, the same Renée Richards said years later:
“Having lived for the past 30 years, I know if I’d had surgery at the age of 22, and then at 24 went on the tour, no genetic woman in the world would have been able to come close to me. And so I’ve reconsidered my opinion.”
Aside from being a growing sport, HEMA is a growing sport that goes across borders. Right now the West and the East in Europe and the Americas are meeting more and more. And this topic is still not decided so firmly in Central and Eastern Europe as it is in Western Europe and the States. People from the latter see censorship and refusal to discuss a topic – not an attempt to limit hateful speech – when an admin deletes an entire discussion.
I was eventually banned in the following weird exchanges, where I told my opponent that I am not one of the “idiot cis-male transphobes”; that I agree with her, but I just don’t think the debate should be silenced. I think some of the arguments from our side are not satisfactory, and that they should be better presented and talked about, so trans people are more accepted. I was banned without a warning and the whole thread (including the discussion on the gloves and the review) was deleted.
To the credit of the admin team of HEMA International discussion and my opponent in this debate, they did not just ignore the situation. I talked to the admin that banned me and explained myself further – I was not pushing for a discussion to satisfy an intellectual curiosity or for fun, I just think that such a discussion should happen.
She explained her side too – she felt that any debate on whether trans people should compete as their own gender is discriminatory, it forces them to defend their right to exist, and it is used by people to hurt others.
It may be so, and I understand why she got frustrated with the discussion and even more so when she found out I am acting as a devil’s advocate because of the importance of the debate. The ban was lifted, but I was warned that any such discussion again will lead to another one.
And the admin team agrees with this. While I respect their decision, I think it is a terrible one. To entirely forbid a topic that will surely pop up again in HEMA, that is not something the community is in agreement on (I really hope they will be in the future), and that on a page called “HEMA International discussion”, is a big mistake.
We should be talking more, not less. We should discuss civilly, without hate, without hurting others, but this decision – to block a topic from being discussed – does not help tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of trans people or any minority. It doesn’t help understanding between HEMAists around the world.
“We don’t want politics in HEMA” – I also don’t want outside politics in HEMA, but be realistic – any community generates its own politics when it gets big enough. That is inescapable. We shouldn’t hide from it.
HEMA, we have to talk – talk more and not stay silent.