November 11, 2010 at 3:29 pm EDT | by Juliette Ebner
Training and transitioning

Kye Allums, a junior interior design major, is a shooting guard for the George Washington University's women's basketball team. (Photo courtesy of George Washington University)

In a time when athletes, like many others in the public eye, are still afraid to come out as gay, it’s surprising to hear of a college athlete coming out as transgender.

But Kye Allums, a transgender male, has done just that.

Allums, a junior interior design major, is a shooting guard for the George Washington University’s women’s basketball team, the Colonials.

He grew up in Hugo, Minn., and has been playing basketball since seventh grade. It wasn’t until his freshman year of college that he came to realize who he was.

“I finally got away from home, got away from just everybody really, and I was on my own,” he says. “I had a chance to think about who I really was, what I actually liked, and I found out that I was a transgender man.”

Allums cut his hair during his freshman year as well, but says it had nothing to do with how he felt. He didn’t like having to fix his hair.

Allums is the first transgender male student-athlete to play for the university’s women’s basketball team and one of the first in the NCAA.

“[Allums] is a role model for countless other transgender young people both as an athlete and a human being,” Shannon Minter, legal director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, says. “Because of his courage, transgender youth know they can follow in his footsteps and be successful athletes without sacrificing who they are.”

“[He] is … setting a precedent for other transgender athletes at the college … level who may now feel much safer about coming out and being their true selves,” Minter said.

Allums says it’s cool being the first, but that there’s also something sad about it.

“I don’t like knowing that other people are afraid to be themselves,” Allums says. “I know I’m not the only transgender male in the world. I’m trying to be an example for other people to not be afraid of who they are.”

Allums’ teammates and coaches have been supportive of his transition.

“The George Washington University women’s basketball program, including myself, support [Allums]’s right to make this decision,” said Mike Bozeman, the school’s women’s basketball head coach.

Allums describes the team as a family. He is the “big brother” and his teammates are his sisters.

Last month the National Center for Lesbian Rights, with It Takes a Team, released “On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student Athletes,” a report that addresses integration of transgender student athletes in both high school and collegiate athletic programs.

“The support that [Allums] has received from his coach and his teammates is incredibly heartening,” Minter says. “The university is … providing a great example for other schools of how to support and respect a transgender player. This has been an incredibly positive experience for everyone involved and it has changed the face of college sports forever.”

The report addresses issues that may come up in competitive sports considering that many teams are segregated by sex and some athletes may question the fairness of a transgender athlete playing on either a women’s or men’s team, depending on the situation.

Allums’ decision to postpone hormone therapy is what allows him to remain on the women’s team and keep his scholarship.

A large part of his decision is based on the fact that testosterone is a banned substance within the NCAA because it could give athletes an unfair advantage.

Allums is planning on pursuing hormone therapy once his college basketball career is over.

GWU will open its 2010-11 season on Saturday against Green Bay in the Best Buy Classics in Minneapolis and its first home game will be Thursday against Coppin State.

The Colonials finished last season 6-22. Allums started 20 of the 26 games he played.

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