“It’s so strange,” Rudy Jean Rigg says, reflecting on how trans people in sport has become the focus of this election.
“I just live my life. I’ve experienced transphobia, of course. And I do find myself in situations where I am having to advocate for myself, as do most trans and gender diverse people in their day-to-day lives. But, you know, like I said, I’m just living my life, and to me, it’s very odd and peculiar that a country’s election is about my existence.”
Rigg, host of Rainbow History Class, grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne in a family where sports was part of everyday life.
‘If Sport is the Thing That Brings This Country Together, Shouldn’t We All be Able to Play?’
“When I was 21, I stopped playing because I was affirming my gender, and for people like me, sport kinda ends there. I’d like to see if we can change that,” he says.
This host, presenter, writer, director, collaborator, and lover of hot chips is currently working on TransAthletica with his friend, the co-creator and writer of Rainbow History Class, Hannah McElhinney. The two found each other through the “wonderful serendipity of the internet, Rigg said, beaming.”
Coming out on TikTok in June, TransAthletica is a 15 part documentary series that focuses on trans inclusion in sport and highlights the experiences and barriers that trans people face trying to participate in sport.
Rigg believes, “If sport is the thing that brings this country together, shouldn’t we all be able to play?”
Rainbow History Class
Speaking of the impetus for developing Rainbow History Class, he said, “I’ve had a lifelong passion for history. I did a lot of history in high school while I was coming to terms with my identity. And to be really honest, I suppose there was kind of that disconnect between the passions of my life and then my sexuality and my gender identity.”
Rigg hopes that when it comes to queer history, people understand that queer people have “been well, everywhere, forever.
“We have modern concepts of sexuality and gender. But we have been here forever. And you know, we’re not going anywhere.”
When asked about his favourite historical concept, he says, without skipping a beat, the concept that “binary gender was really only widespread after colonisation.”
“A lot of pre-colonial indigenous cultures had more than just, you know, male and female. They had [multiple] genders,” he added.
‘Coming Out is For You. It’s Always For You and You Should Never Come Out For Other People’
Around the time of the Marriage Equality Postal Survey in late 2017, Rigg was coming to terms with his own gender diversity.
“I knew I was trans when I was, well, I didn’t have the language for it, but I knew when I was about 14 or 15.”
Rigg came out as “not straight” at 12 and was very close to coming out as trans when he was 16 but he says, “for a variety of reasons, one at the time, being my participation in sport, I did not come out as trans. I was in denial. I was ashamed.”
“And then [the] marriage equality plebiscite came around, and I was in a different part of my life at that point in time, and it did get me thinking again.”
To people in the process of coming out, he has a message:
“Coming out is for you. It’s always for you, and you should never come out for other people. It has to be on your terms. It has to be for you. And you are allowed all the time in the world. But at the end of the day, it’s just for you.”