August 20, 2014 at 11:00 am EDT | by Kevin Majoros
Trans athletes face harassment, confusing rules
Stephen Alexander, gay news, Washington Blade

Stephen Alexander played basketball for two years at Stone Hill College before stepping away from sports to transition. (Washington Blade photo by Kevin Majoros)

Over the past several years, many anti-bullying programs have been established to address the issues facing athletes who are unable to compete because of discrimination.

In the LGBT community, transgender athletes often face the biggest obstacles in competing openly and being treated fairly. In the past decade, non-discrimination policies have begun to be established but they are inconsistent and confusing.

There were no sports organizations with guidelines regarding the participation of transgender athletes until the International Olympic Committee (IOC) developed the Stockholm Consensus, which went into effect at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Since that time, other sports governing bodies such as the United States Golf Association, the United States Soccer Federation and USA Track & Field have developed policies that use the IOC standards as a guide.

Pat Griffin, founding director of Changing the Game, has written many educational guidelines for transgender inclusion in sports and said, “There is no uniformity among the guidelines being established. The NCAA policy is nationwide, but in high schools the language varies by state.”

For transgender athletes who have stepped forward to compete, many face a difficult road filled with rules, scrutiny and harassment.

Garret Garborcauskas identifies as male and attends Smith College, a women’s liberal arts college where he competes on the women’s swim team. Growing up, he played field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, cycling and softball.

A rugby injury led him to competitive swimming and last year he competed at the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics Championships in Seattle.

“If I begin the hormone injections now, I will lose my NCAA eligibility,” said Garborcauskas. “I love the camaraderie with my teammates and belonging to a team. I am entering my senior year and don’t want to miss out on being on the swim team.”

He added that he has always been athletic and being part of a team and going to practice is calming when it feels like the whole world is against him.

“I don’t know what sport I will compete in after I transition,” he said. “If I am fully recovered from my injury, I would really like to get back to rugby.”

Chris Mosier was athletic growing up and played basketball, softball, volleyball and basketball. In college, he played recreational sports.

“Sports were a big part of my youth experience and character development,” said Mosier.  “Being an athlete actually delayed my transition.”

Before his transition, Mosier had begun competing in running and triathlon events and had completed the Chicago Marathon and the New York Triathlon.

“My times were getting better and I kept saying to myself that I would train for one more year before beginning the injections,” said Mosier. “I was worried how the transition would affect me in sports. People were actually yelling at me during races saying I was in the wrong category.”

Mosier realized that it was more important to align his identity and began the injections.  Two weeks later, he was competing as a male and subsequently won his first event at the Staten Island Duathlon.

He is now a sponsored athlete and a USA Triathlon coach and his ultimate goal is to make the Team USA roster as a triathlete. He won a silver medal last week in his age group in the men’s Olympic length triathlon at the Gay Games.

“I want to prove to myself and other people that trans athletes can be competitive,” said Mosier.

Savannah Burton took a break from sports during her transition and returned to sports this year to train for the Canadian Sculling Marathon in Ottawa where she will compete in the 21K event on Aug. 24.

“I played baseball and ice hockey growing up and sports have always been a big part of my life,” said Burton.

Burton will be rowing in a quad sculls with a coxswain and her team includes another trans woman, Enza Anderson. They are part of a pilot program of the Hanlon Boat Club in Toronto to introduce members of the trans community to the sport of rowing.

Burton and Anderson’s participation in the event marks the first time in Canadian history that a trans-inclusive rowing team will participate in a sanctioned regatta.

“We are hoping to develop a youth program to attract trans youth to the sport of rowing and to encourage Row Canada to reevaluate their rules on transgender inclusion,” said Burton. “I want to be a role model for trans youth.”

Stephen Alexander lettered in five sports during high school and played basketball for two years at Stone Hill College before stepping away from sports to transition.

“Playing sports took me away from myself,” said Alexander. “It gave me a heightened sense of focus and there was a goal in front of me. You can see so many things when you are competing; all of your senses come into play.”

Alexander is now a pitcher in a softball league and has coached five sports for middle school and high school athletes. He was recently at the Gay Games as a panelist and spectator and went to watch as many sports as he could. He mentioned that the event may have stoked his competitive fires.

“The greatest act in sports is passing a ball,” said Alexander. “There is nothing like setting someone up for success.”

transgender athletes, gay news, Washington Blade

Savannah Burton and Enza Anderson train for the Canadian Sculling Marathon. (Photo courtesy of Adrian Cornelissen)

  • Dear Kevin.

    Your article had a Gay Games 9 Closing Ceremony photo, but your article failed to mention the location and that Gay Games has an inclusion policy for trans-people and has been a leader for trans-folks for many many years.

    PS. Thanks for the AWESOME video on Facebook covering Gay Games 9, Cleveland +Akron 2014. You rock!

  • Certainly doesn't say anything bad about GG9 but I wish they would have reached out to discuss the policies we have. 2014 Gay Games had the most trans population mainly due to scholarship funding targeting the population.

  • Thanks Kelly and David. The article was written to focus on the fact that trans athletes are stepping forward and competing despite the obstacles. I applaud the inclusion policy that the Gay Games has in place. I met many other trans athletes at the Games and am so proud that they are competing.

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