Two women skaters from Suffolk Roller Derby will compete on men’s squad this season
Two pageant queens took a step into the fast lane to show their support for a sport that is blazing a trail for gender equality.
Natalie Moloney, Mrs East Anglian Earth, and Tracey Hanes, Ms Suffolk Curve, watched Suffolk Roller Derby (SRD) take on the Lincolnshire Thugly Ducklings in Ipswich at the weekend, wearing their sashes with pride.
Roller derby is a full-contact sport on roller skates that is dominated and managed by women.
It is celebrated for its feminist ideals and inclusivity, being accepting of all ages, body types and sexual and gender orientations.
At SRD, there is a coed team, made up of both women and men; a men’s A team; and a women’s A and B team.
The oldest competitive skater at SRD is a 56-year-old man, who goes by the name ‘Bad Grandad’ on the track.
This year SRD is taking advantage of a stipulation in the MRDA (Men’s Roller Derby Association) rules that allow women to play in men’s teams. Only skaters identifying as female are permitted to skate with women’s team.
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Laura Scott and Hannah Cutler have chosen to compete with the SRD men’s team, which is currently playing at a higher level than the women’s squad.
Astrid Coxon, president of SRD, said: “It’s about making it accessible and making a sport inclusive for everyone and not making people feel they are not welcome if they do not identity with the gender they were assigned at birth.
“It’s a problem in other sports, where people have transitioned and they can’t play as the gender that they identify as, but roller derby has set the stand for gender inclusivity.”
Speaking on why men can’t play in women’s games, Astrid said: “Because it started as a women’s sport and it’s a safe space for them. It’s unusual to find a sport entirely driven by women.”
Men’s captain Guy Bewers is happy to have the two women skaters on board.
“We have got two women playing in our team and I’m so glad they want to, because it can be daunting because there’s huge blokes out there and it can be hostile,” he said.
“They have got the skating ability and the derby brain. I don’t think there’s a man on our team who wouldn’t want them on our side.”
He added: “Roller derby is accepting of everyone. Anyone can just turn up and put on a pair of skates, that’s one of the things I love about it.”
Ms Suffolk Curve Tracey, who is a positive body image ambassador, said: “They are basically smashing all stereotypes and it’s great.”