The Other Olympians
Fascism, Queerness, and the Making of Modern Sports
by Michael Waters (me!)
In December 1935, Zdeněk Koubek, one of the most famous athletes in women's track-and-field sports, announced that he was going to be living as a man.
The story caused an instant sensation, and Koubek became a global celebrity. For a brief moment, he seemed to be ushering in a new paradigm for sports. Readers flooded popular magazines with letters asking how a gender transition was possible; doctors wrote op-eds urging the public to accept him; queer Americans wondered how they, too, could follow a similar path.
That might have stayed true if it were not for a small cadre of sports officials at the International Olympic Committee, who in early 1936 raised the alarm over athletes like Koubek. Unbeknownst to the public, they began devising a system of “sex testing” techniques that, they hoped, would keep trans and intersex athletes out of professional sports forever.
To unveil their plan, they chose a controversial venue: the Berlin Olympics, set to be hosted in Nazi Germany that summer.
Weaving together Koubek's story alongside the institutional rise of the IOC, The Other Olympians: Fascism, Queerness, and the Making of Modern Sports uncovers the history of one of the most important forgotten athletes of the 20th century.