Kids Sports News Network

She’s the Man

Transgender3

The 2006 movie, She’s the Man, a modernization of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, typifies some of the concerns students and parents might have about transgender athletes in high school.  In the movie, Viola disguises herself as her twin brother in order to compete on a rival boys’ soccer team when her school’s girls’ soccer team is cut.  She runs into such comical scenarios as locker room situations and romantic entanglements with male teammates and female classmates.  The difference between fiction and reality is just this: Viola knew she was a girl dressing up like a boy.  A transgender individual, however, knows that they are not the gender that they look like or the gender that other people might force upon them.

It is not the teammates or the coaches that are uncomfortable, it is the athlete.  The 2011 publication of for NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes includes several testimonials from transgender athletes speaking to their experiences.  Morgan Dickens, former basketball and rugby student-athlete at Cornell University and Ithaca College, spoke directly to the regular inequitable treatment that transgender athletes deal with:  “The clear delineation between male and female in the sporting world doesn’t leave room for someone like me. When I started presenting in a more masculine way, I was ostracized in girls’ locker rooms, told I was in the wrong bathroom, and even once had my gender questioned during a co-ed intramural football game.”  Transgender athletes also stand to lose a lot in coming out.  Kelly Godsey, former student-athlete for Bates College and Northeaster College explain that she held off on coming at as transgender for three years for fear of losing all that she had worked to accomplish in track and field: “I was 18 when I started to figure out I was transgender, but the thought of telling anyone was absolutely frightening. I didn’t know how it would impact my track and field career.  This fear, the lack of policies and information about successful transgender athletes, and the fact that I was the track team’s biggest scorer and a national contender each year, caused me to hold off. I was so afraid of losing everything I had worked so hard to accomplish in track and field and that I would no longer be able to compete in something that defined me as much as being transgender does.”

Coming out is already a difficult process, by for transgender athletes is a process they encounter over and over again, with fear of official rejection each time.  First, they have to be honest with themselves, their family and friends.  And, then they have to come out to the coaches and their teammates.  And, yet still, any time they register with a team, an organization or competition, they still might be refused participation based on their self-identified gender.  The support and understanding of coaches and teammates makes all the difference.  Kye Allums, basketball student-athlete played in the Women’s NCAA Division I for George Washington University, 2008-2012, testified to the support of his teammate and coaches in his gender transition from female-to-male:  “I knew then that it wasn’t enough to only tell my closest friends—I had to tell everyone that I talked to on a daily basis. Once I made the difficult decision to tell my coaches, the rest of my teammates, and my family, I received nothing but support from them, which has been irreplaceable. With the love and respect of the people around me, I no longer feel like I have to choose between being true to myself and staying in school playing the sport I love.”

Today more transgender children, at even younger ages, are able to live their lives in alignment with who they are.  As it becomes common medical procedure to allow these individuals to transition in childhood and adolescents, it is become more important for K-12 athletic programs to create athletic policies that reflect this change in the landscape of student-athletes.

Of the guiding principles in the NCAA policy governing the participation of transgender student-athletes that should be applied to high school student-athlete policy should be:

  • Participation in athletics is a valuable part of the education experience for all students.
  • Transgender student-athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports.
  • The integrity of women’s sports should be preserved.
  • The legitimate privacy interests of all student-athletes should be protected.
  • The medical privacy of transgender students should be held as confidential between the student, family and school.

As transgender youth make difficult decisions with their families and doctors, schools and teams can support these athletes with inclusive policies and acceptance.  These athletes, they are still adolescents with only a few role models.  Their bodies are still developing.  They’re navigating relationships just as any other teenager.  And, gender transition does not happen overnight.   They should not have to choose between the sport they love and being the person that they really are.

 

Part One: Bill 1266

Part Two: There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Locker Room

 

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Author: Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine has degrees in English Literature and Math Education from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. She has lived in various parts of the world including Micronesia and the United States.  She currently writes for several education blogs, vlogs about her travels, and teaches middle school in the DC Metro Area.