Are you a footballer?

The radical potential of women’s football at the national level

Authored by: Anima Adjepong

Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138503472
eBook ISBN: 9781351141963
Adobe ISBN:


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In December 2016, two border patrol agents at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport stopped me. I was trying to check into my British Airways flight back to Austin, Texas where I lived at the time. After scanning my US passport, which identifies me as born in Ghana, the male agent, who told me his name was Perry Donkor, called his colleague to also come review the document. 1 As Ann Drury made her way over, Perry asked me, “are you a footballer?” Tersely, I answered, no, aware that I was about to experience the kind of harassment that agents of the heteropatriarchal state impress upon their victims (Alexander 2005; Arnfred 2004; Currier and Cruz 2014). After being held unreasonably long, questioned about my gender, and forced to present additional forms of ID, which without explanation Perry took multiple photos of, I was finally allowed to check in for my flight. The experience of harassment by border patrol agents is not a new one, and transgender scholars and activists have spilled much ink advocating for better treatment of gender nonconforming people and other sexual minorities (Ekine and Abbas 2013; Nyeck and Epprecht 2013; Tamale 2011). But this essay is not about the harassment of trans* 2 people or the state’s hyper-surveillance of those who attempt to cross borders. Instead, I focus on the question “are you a footballer?” as an entry point into the paradoxes of national women’s football team in Ghana. This question, while seemingly benign, gestures towards forms of gender harassment that transmasculine people face. The question also reveals a slippage between sportswomen’s masculinity and the specter of the mannish lesbian, which puts these women at risk of homophobic and transantagonistic violence.

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