Houston refuses to be defined by gender identity

Olympic hopeful Emma Houston is a non-binary athlete but they are also so much more than that.

Like many other trans sportspeople, the 31-year-old breakdancer has often made headlines simply for being who they are.

As a teenager, the Stirling native found dance and with it a way to express themselves like no label could do.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to assign a label to oneself,” Houston said.

“And I just think, regardless of anything, my experiences of the world and how people experience me is very non-binary and it always has been.

“That’s just my unique perspective on how I’ve moved through the world. The last thing I want that to be is a barrier to people knowing me or seeing me beyond any labels.

“Because sometimes I feel that when there’s any sort of label then suddenly that becomes the shining light on the situation.

“Or it can be, and then the person behind the label is still behind something, right? That is a philosophical answer from me!”

Breakdancing are supported by funding raised by National Lottery players – this funding provides vital assistance on Houston’s pathway to Paris 24.

Houston ends their impassioned response with a laugh and a smile but the biggest grin is reserved for discussing their ambitions to represent Team GB at Paris 2024, when breaking makes its debut.

If they qualify, Houston will become the first out non-binary athlete to represent Great Britain at an Olympics – a fact that sparks the most unbridled and purest expression of queer joy.

“Even just saying it is like ‘freaking heck’,” they beamed. “That would be a dream come true and a dream I couldn’t have even imagined for myself really.”

With the Paris 2024 Olympics only one year away, the Games are set to inspire people and communities all across the country. Houston hopes that by sharing their story it will give others motivation to get involved into sport.

Houston must build up their ranking points to sit within the top 16 b-girls in the world in order to reach next year’s Games but is still confident of doing so.

It is this part of their story that deserves the headlines, because if they succeed they will have made a remarkable comeback to dancing.

The former theatre performer was sidelined for over a year with long Covid, having to learn to dance again before setting off on the path of Olympic dreams.

Their route into dancing started in Stirling but came alive when they moved to bigger cities and found other people interested in the breaking scene.

However, with that, Houston stepped into a space that was not always safe for people who were not straight cisgender men.

That is why they use their position and voice to share their experiences and to show that breaking, and sport, is a place for all.

Houston said: “The sexism in breaking has been, just like anywhere else, a problem. Now that there’s more of an awareness, there’s now more opportunity for women and anyone else who’s not cis male to be in these spaces and be safe in these spaces.

“Because it’s one thing to be in the space, and it’s another to be safe in it, and then it’s another to be actually included in it.

“I think the more that there’s gender diversity in the scene, the better that is for everyone.

“It is a tricky one of being quite open and then feeling like the focus can sometimes become about me being a spokesperson in relation to a whole topic while I am just my one little me.

“I’m just saying these things and then people pick up on them and can make it into as big or as little a thing as they want.

“But ultimately, I want to express myself through how I dance and move. What I have to say is hopefully useful and important as well and can bring people together.

“That’s my aim, rather than create more divides, it is to create more compassion and shared understanding.”

National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

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