Gender and critical sports rhetoric is a growing field of study. In 2014, Michael Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL and popular press became interested in the relationship between athletes, gender, and sexuality. In response, academics interested in these topics gained a wealth of rich texts to analyze. Ryan Rigda, Women’s and Gender Studies graduate certificate recipient and doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, studies queer sports rhetoric.
Rigda states, “I am interested in studying the rhetoric of sports and gender. More specifically, I am fascinated by the way individuals communicate about gender within a sports context. I argue that sport is an ideal place to study gender because of the commitment to the separation of women’s and men’s sporting events, which reify gender performances.”
Rigda’s current project, Mediating Identity in Men’s Health: Can a Transgender Man be the “Ultimate Guy,” examines the mediated framing of , the first transgender man to be featured in Men’s Health magazine. He notes, “The appearance of a transgender man in a men’s magazine is a giant step forward for the trans community as it increases visibility of the trans individual. However, the way in which Dowling is represented through his performance of gender, may actually do more harm than good for our understandings of sex and gender, as well as how transgender men are expected to perform masculinity.” Rigda argues that the way in which Dowling appears in the magazine marginalizes the trans body through a very narrow depiction of masculinity. His masculinity is always in reference to cis-gender hyper-masculinity. As Rigda suggests, “This mediation further subjugates the trans body as it distinguishes between those that fit socially accepted gender norms and those that do not.”
Rigda is expected to graduate with his Ph.D. in 2018. He is also the Graduate Director of Texas A&M’s award-winning Speech and Debate team.