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Meet the trans athletes

From golf to dodgeball, out competitors helping to change the rules

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Fallon Fox, gay news, Washington Blade
Fallon Fox, gay news, Washington Blade

Fallon Fox (Photo by Rolando de la Fuente; courtesy CFA)

The United States has an estimated transgender population of 700,000 people, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.

What this means for the sports community is that the standards and rules that have been put in place by the many different sports need to include provisions enabling transgender people to participate according to their proper gender identity.

Organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the International Olympic Committee, the Ladies Professional Golf Association and the United States Soccer Federation have all adopted such policies.

Many of the policies adopted by the governing sports bodies require surgical or hormonal treatment verification prior to competitions. This creates economic barriers for the athletes due to high surgical costs, which are rarely covered by insurance carriers.

Interscholastic athletics are governed by state athletic associations and each of the 50 organizations must put in place their own polices. To date, several have adopted a wide range of policies, not all of which are as inclusive as they should be.

What we have been seeing too often is that the rules are not being followed and the trans athletes are being subjected to discrimination.

Below is a list of just a few of the trans athletes who are competing openly and that have received the permission required from their sports’ governing bodies.

Schuylar Bailar. While he was in high school in McLean, Va., Bailar was recruited by the Harvard women’s swim team. Now 19, he took a year off to transition and subsequently received an invitation to swim on the Harvard men’s team this fall. The governing body for Harvard sports is the NCAA, which has a recommended policy, but each individual school adopts its own policy.

Fallon Fox. After some initial struggles with licensing and discrimination, Fox is competing in mixed martial arts (MMA). Originally from Toledo, Ohio, her last match was the Prize Fighting Championship 10 in Denver on Aug. 14. Licensing is state-run and she has been promoted in the past by the Championship Fighting Alliance.

Chris Mosier. Mosier is from Chicago and is the executive director of GO! Athletes. He is also the founder of transathlete.com. He recently qualified to represent Team USA at the 2016 Duathlon World Championships in Spain in the men’s 35-39 category. The governing bodies are USA Triathlon and the International Triathlon Union.

Gabrielle Ludwig. In 2012, in the middle of a debate over transgender legislation in California, Ludwig returned to the sport of basketball at age 51 by joining the Mission College of Santa Clara team where she played for two years. The 6’6” Ludwig grew up in Wyoming and New York and is a Desert Storm veteran. Assembly Bill 1266 went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014 and requires that California schools respect the gender identity of all students and allow them to participate in all activities, including sports.

Ryland Whittington. Whittington is from San Diego and was diagnosed as deaf at 13 months old in 2009. After receiving his cochlear implants at 19 months, he began communicating to his parents that he identified as a boy. Because he lives in California, he will be allowed to play soccer with no barriers. The sport’s governing body is the California Interscholastic Federation.

Savannah Burton. Burton is originally from Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada and rowed with another trans teammate in the Canadian Sculling Marathon in 2014. This year she was one of eight women selected to compete for the Canadian national team for the World Dodgeball Championships that were just held Aug. 15-16 in Las Vegas. Her impact has affected multiple sports bodies, including Team Canada, the Canadian Dodgeball Association and the World Dodgeball Federation.

Jazz Jennings. Florida-born Jennings is a 14-year-old YouTube celebrity, spokesperson, LGBTQ activist and athlete. She and her family fought for more than two years for her to be allowed to play on the local girls’ soccer team. The United States Soccer Federation stepped in and created a trans-inclusive policy for youth and adult recreation soccer players of all ages that required the Florida soccer league to allow Jennings to play.

Shane Ortega, gay news, Washington Blade

Sgt. Shane Ortega (Photo courtesy ACLU)

Shane Ortega. Ortega is active duty Army and competed in his first physique competition in Honolulu in June where he qualified for junior nationals. At his second competition this September, the Paradise Cup, the 28-year-old will attempt to qualify for nationals. Ortega is stationed in Hawaii and grew up on military bases around the country as well as with family while his mother was deployed. His participation was approved by the National Physique Committee.

Dr. Bobbi Lancaster. Hailing from Chatham, Ontario and residing in the Phoenix area, Lancaster is pursuing a spot on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. At age 64, she is currently playing on the Cactus Tour, which serves as a gateway to the LPGA. In 2011, the LPGA’s membership voted to join other sports bodies, including the International Olympic Committee and USA Track and Field, in eliminating the “female at birth” clause from its constitution.

Matt Dawkins. Dawkins, 17, will be a senior at Cherokee High School this fall in Marlton, N.J. He competed in his first meet on the boys’ track team in April and won his heat in the 100. His time was sixth best among 19 Cherokee boys. He is protected by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s transgender policy.

 

Pat Griffin contributed to this report. A list of transgender athlete inclusion policies can be found at transathlete.com.

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Sports

Out Olympian Kenworthy & Paralympian Dunkin on Tokyo & LGBTQ Sports

“The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual & gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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Screenshot via Los Angeles Blade

TOKYO – Gus Kenworthy is in Tokyo for the Summer Games, but not to compete. The  Olympic Gold Medalist recently joined Paralympian Gold Medalist Abby Dunkin in a Zoom conversation with Athlete Ally founder and executive director Hudson Taylor and the head of LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for Procter & Gamble, Brent Miller. 

“I felt like I knew that if I came out, there must be someone else,” Kenworthy said. “I was like, there’s someone else in skiing or an action sports or another kid who is going to resonate with my story. And if I can even help one person, then it will be worth it.”

This group of athletes and allies tackled the difficult issues of coming out in sports, fears of rejection, suicide attempts and competing authentically as well as the controversy over transgender inclusion in sports, both at the Olympics and in high schools and colleges across the U.S. 

“Only 24% of LGBTQ youth participate in sports,” noted Taylor. “The fact that LGBTQ youth drop out of sports at twice the rate of their heterosexual and gender counterparts, it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Dunkin credited Paralympian gold medalist Stephanie Wheeler as an inspiration both on the court and in everyday life as an out lesbian. 

“Stephanie really creates such a great environment for me and other athletes and also our staff, too, that were out at the time,” said Dunkin. “And that really impacted me to come out and be myself.“ Wheeler is also head coach of the Univ. of Illinois women’s wheelchair basketball team. 

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, there are more than 142 out LGBTQ athletes competing in Tokyo, a record for any Olympic Games. And with trans nonbinary soccer player Quinn on their way to a potential gold medal, making history with out trans woman Laurel Hubbard and out trans BMX competitor Chelsea Wolfe in Tokyo, Miller says their first steps are inspiring to people all around the world, no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation is. 

“It’s about bringing people together, supporting people, creating mutual understanding, and really celebrating all of humanity,” Miller said. “And now for us, bringing those LGBTQ+ stories forward is critically important because we see the value of what sport can bring.”

Watch their conversation with sports editor Dawn Ennis by clicking here.

Equal Representation in Sports: Why LGBTQ+ Visibility Matters

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IOC: ‘Trans Women Are Women’ Laurel Hubbard set to make sports history

Laurel Hubbard is set to make sports history on Monday and the International Olympic Committee clearly has her back

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Screenshot via CBS Sports

TOKYO – The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee praised weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s “courage and tenacity” as she prepares for her upcoming competition as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. 

In speaking to reporters in Tokyo Thursday, Dr. Richard Budgett directly addressed those who have attacked and mocked the 43-year-old New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Hubbard herself has not made any public comments except for a statement following her qualifying for the Summer Games, saying she was “humbled” by the support which had helped her “through the darkness” following a near career-ending injury in Australia in 2018.

Reports around the world have claimed Hubbard is the first trans Olympic athlete, which is actually not the case. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinn, a trans nonbinary soccer midfielder for Team Canada, last Wednesday became the first out trans athlete ever to complete in the Olympic Games. They posted about it on Instagram, saying, “I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.”

The IOC is expected to review and likely revise its policies on transgender participation following Tokyo. Trans athlete and researcher Joanna Harper, who has advised the organization and other sports policy groups, told the Los Angeles Blade her recommendation will be for the IOC to continue to regulate trans athletes sport-by-sport. “There shouldn’t be a one-size fits all policy,” said Harper. 

She also noted how the mainstream cisgender media is consumed with coverage of Hubbard and missing out on the bigger picture, and what it will mean for the next generation watching on TV and online. 
“The lack of attention paid to Quinn and to Chelsea Wolfe has been interesting,” said Harper.

“A few news outlets have commented on their presence in Tokyo and in Quinn’s case the comments have been mostly favorable. On the other hand, the storm of mostly negative press heaped on Laurel Hubbard has been disappointing, although predictable. I hope that the negative press that Laurel has gotten won’t dissuade young trans athletes from following their dreams. I think that the next trans woman to compete in the games will get less negative press, and eventually (although probably not in my life) there will come a time when trans women in sport generate little or no controversy.”

Hubbard issued a statement Friday via the New Zealand Olympic Committee in which she said: “The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values. I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible.”

According to a French news outlet, NZOC spokesperson Ashley Abbott told reporters the committee had seen a “particularly high level of interest” in Hubbard’s Olympic debut, and much of it has been negative.

“Certainly we have seen a groundswell of comment about it and a lot of it is inappropriate,” Abbott said. “Our view is that we’ve got a culture of manaaki (inclusion) and it’s our role to support all eligible athletes on our team. In terms of social media, we won’t be engaging in any kind of negative debate.”

Abbott reminded the media that the NZOC’s job was to support its athletes, including Hubbard. “We all need to remember that there’s a person behind all these technical questions,” she said. “As an organization we would look to shield our athlete, or any athlete, from anything negative in the social media space. We don’t condone cyberbullying in any way.”

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Non-binary Olympian leaves games without a medal but still a winner

For the first time in my entire life, I’m proud of the person I’ve worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling

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Alana Smith via Instagram

TOKYO – In a series of firsts for the Summer Olympic Games, Alana Smith left the Tokyo games with a sense of accomplishment and a couple of firsts. The 20-year-old non-binary skateboarder competing in the debut of their sport noted on their Instagram account, “My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me.”

Smith wrote: ‘What a wild f***ing ride…My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me. For the first time in my entire life, Im proud of the person I’ve worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling. Out of everything I’ve done, I wanted to walk out of this knowing I UNAPOLOGETICALLY was myself and was genuinely smiling.

The feeling in my heart says I did that. Last night I had a moment on the balcony, I’m not religious or have anyone/anything I talk to. Last night I thanked whoever it was out there that gave me the chance to not leave this world the night I laid in the middle of the road. I feel happy to be alive and feel like I’m meant to be here for possibly the first time in a extremely long time. On or off day, I walked out of this happy and alive… Thats all I have ever asked for.

Thank you to all the incredible humans that have supported me through so many waves of life. I can’t wait to skate for the love of it again, not only for a contest. Which is wild considering a contest helped me find my love for it again. 💛🤍💜🖤”

Smith’s Olympic debut was slightly marred by their being misgendered during news coverage of their events by BBC commentators misgendering Smith discussing their performance, which led to protests from LGBTQ+ groups and allies including British LGBTQ+ advocacy group Stonewall UK.

 

During the competition, Smith proudly held up their skateboard, which featured their pronouns they/them written across the top. The misgendering was addressed by NBC Sports which issued an apology Tuesday for streaming coverage that misgendered Smith.

“NBC Sports is committed to—and understands the importance of—using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms,” the network said. “While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers.”

NBC also reported that this is the first Olympics in history that has featured skateboarding, with 16 athletes traveling to Tokyo to represent the United States. Smith qualified for the third Olympic spot in the women’s street category after competing at the World Skate World Championships in 2019, according to Dew Tour, which hosts international skateboarding competitions.

According to Outsports, the online LGBTQ+ Sports magazine and NBC Sports, Smith is one of more than 160 openly LGBTQ athletes competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics and one of at least three openly nonbinary or Trans athletes.

Quinn, a midfielder for the Canadian women’s soccer team who goes by only their first name, is the first openly Trans athlete and nonbinary athlete to compete in the games. Laurel Hubbard, a Trans woman from New Zealand will compete in the super heavyweight 87 kilogram-plus (192 pound-plus) weightlifting category on August 2.

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