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Trans woman discriminated against in softball tournament



Trigger warning: Transphobic content

“Clearly he was making a point,” said Emily Clark. “He’s not the first person not to pitch to me. But to do it in back-to-back games, like a total of approximately ten times, is a bit excessive.”

Emily is on a woman’s slow-pitch softball team. During a tournament on Saturday, June 16, her team played two games against the S&S Landscape Women’s Slow Pitch Tournament Team. The S&S coach, Scott Sunderland, instructed his pitchers to walk Emily each time she came to bat.

Emily is a trans woman.

“Not to pitch to me at all, that was an annoyance but really it was afterwards that upset me quite a bit,” said Emily, “because when I got back home, a friend of mine reached out to say, ‘Hey, Scott is posting this, I thought you might want to know.'”

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What Scott Sunderland was posting were attacks on Emily, admitting that he walked her because she was a trans woman.

“I got more screenshots of what he said, each one getting progressively worse,” Emily told me. “It was really, really tough the first few days, but I’m definitely in a better place now.

“I was able to get past the initial shock, [in part because] I had this enormous outpouring of people telling me that it’s wrong and that they don’t agree with him. That gave me the strength to move forward.”

“Bias like this has long prevented transgender people from accessing the same opportunities as cisgender people,” said Ethan Huckel, executive director of the TGI Network. “Sports are no exception. Because of misconceptions about presumed advantages, transgender women are often subjected to harassment or barred from competing. We would like to see the league condemn Sunderland’s actions and assert unequivocally that all women are welcome.”

The TGI Network seeks to serve the needs of the transgender, gender-variant, and intersex (TGI) communities in Rhode Island and surrounding areas through support, advocacy, and education.

As negative reactions to Sunderland’s Facebook postings began to circulate, Sunderland took them down. These screenshots were sent to me by several people.

“He’s somebody who doesn’t feel bad for what he did, he just feels pressure because at this point he might lose something that’s important to him and now he’s kind of backpedaling,” said Emily.

I reached out to Sunderland for a comment, but haven’t heard back. Emily is considering lodging a formal complaint of discrimination to the league.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.