[personal profile] tara_hanoi
There's a new obsession in my life. It's been building slowly. It's rollerderby.

For those that don't know what it is, this video explains it pretty well. What the video doesn't convey is the raw energy that hit me when I went to my first bout. Similarly with my second... and third. At the first bout, I really couldn't stop buzzing; it infected me. I suppose it doesn't help that I know one of the referees, and one of the girls who was involved in the Dublin league at the start. It wasn't the clothes, or the names, or the afterparty; it was the attitude. It was the fact that girls of different shapes, sizes and ages were involved and kicking ass... and it was our local sports team (seriously, I've never gotten that before).

Being trans, and my own 'neurotic'* self, I kinda shied from the idea of joining, even though I really wanted to; my baseline policy is to assume every seriously gendered space is as hardcore essentialist as the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and that each member has a shrine to Julie Bindel in a prominent position in their house. However, my friend checked with the league, and I was told that I'd be welcome to join the next FreshMeat - the programme that leagues run to train skaters up to the basic skill levels.

After some dithering, I eventually mailed the league, and got a response. I was told when Freshmeat was. I then spent an unholy amount of money on gear (it was ok, as I'd recently come across some money); I didn't really have to splurge like that, given that the league rents gear out to folk at a reasonable price, but I like to know that the stuff I have is mine, and I couldn't be guaranteed that they'd have gear in my size.

I did my first FreshMeat session last Sunday. After one and a half hours of drills and skating, I was wrecked. My t-shirt and bandanna were seriously wet to the touch from sweat. When I came home, I crashed on the couch for about 4 hours. The next few days left me feeling like my thighs were on fire.

But I was obsessed.

That session was a wakeup call as to how much work lies ahead, and it drove me into thinking about what I need to do better. It's not that I'm comparing myself to anyone else at the sessions, but part of me is screaming, "Let's do it right, dammit". So, I'm trying to find ways to improve things like my balance, my posture, and my flexibility. The last session reminded me that these folks are athletes. When asked what I thought of my first session, my response was that I felt like "an idiot on skates". By the end of training, I want to be a slightly more competent idiot on skates.

Right now, in terms of derby, I'm not thinking of making the team, or any other grandiose notions, but just making it through the basic training.

However, one little mental shrine I have is my Derby Name. From all the reading I've done around the subject, you don't go in with a Name. However, I have a name and roster number in my head, one that I want to earn. That's my goal so far. Aside from one or two who know the name and number, I'm not telling anyone. I'll use it when I'm told I can. This isn't anything that I've been told, but I just don't want to get ahead of myself; my first priority is to show that I'm not a danger to myself or others on skates.

But I have to say Derby Names are an interesting topic. The best explanation for them that I can find is this video. Part of the fascination stems from the draggy aspect of the names, in that there is almost always a pun, innuendo, or in-joke. The other part is the persona. There's also the fact that most names tend to involve some aspect of violence.

Again, from reading around, some blogs mention that trying to come up with a good name that isn't already taken is difficult.

Now, here's the fun bit. Given that the sport has a lot to do with self-empowerment, the names also allow a chance for the skater to choose a name for herself; she might not like her given name, but it doesn't have to bear any relation to what she's called on the track. It's a trick that a lot of other subcultures have used (mostly online communities).

If I was a psychologist or sociologist, what I'd be really interested in is what happens with folk who've already chosen a non-derby name for themselves; if you're going to go to the trouble of changing your name, surely you'd have chosen one you like (I'd assume nobody wouldn't legally change their name to Assumpta unless they liked the name, and how it felt on them). So, I'd really like to know if there was a difference between folk who pick a Derby Name having never chosen their own name before, as opposed to someone who has chosen their own name before.

I honestly can't say I'm unbiased; hell, I'm not even sure anyone's asked that question before. I'm sure someone has but, while you can find plenty of transwomen who play Derby, I haven't found any of them rushing to form a group, and people who've changed their name for other reasons probably aren't going to be eager to discuss it either.

At any rate, my name can wait; I want to be able to use it, but I'm cool with waiting.

And here's the real cincher: I'm pretty sure that none of what I've written sounds in any way rational. I haven't mentioned why I want to do it, beyond the energy of the events that struck me when I was watching as a fan. I haven't mentioned why I want to put myself through that much duress just to get to somewhere that I haven't even thought ahead to. Like I said, I don't know if I'll ever be good enough to play in a public bout, but all I know is that I don't want to stop, and that I want to give it a good shot, even if I don't meet the skills the first time around.

To be honest, I'm not going to over-analyse my motivations, I think it might ruin whatever it is that's driving me, and I haven't felt something like that for a long while. So, I'll just let it ride.

* Warning: probably not clinically neurotic
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September 2015


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