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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

Pro rugby player comes out

Devin Ibañez played with New England Free Jacks pre-pandemic

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Devin Ibanez, gay news, Washington Blade

Major League Rugby player Devin Ibañez came out as a gay man on his social media platforms on Tuesday. Sharing pictures of embracing and kissing his partner Fergus Wade, the former New England Free Jacks athlete stated, “as of now I am the only openly gay rugby player to earn a contract with an MLR side. I hope that I will meet others like myself playing a high level of rugby and hoping to inspire the next generation of proud LGBTQ rugby players. So I will proudly call myself ‘that gay rugger’ in hopes that one day it won’t sound strange in men’s rugby”

Ibañez shares on his new Instagram account @thatgayrugger, “as 2020 comes to a close I took the time to reflect on my life and what aspects I could control and make positive changes to that would impact my day to day life and happiness.”

He continues, “I want to start 2021 by celebrating the love of my life and my partner @ferguswade who has been with me through the highs and the (very) lows of the last three years.”

Fergus Wade and Devin Ibanez (Photo via Instagram @thatgayrugger)
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Gay Games announces 2022 ‘contingency planning committee’

LGBTQ sports event expected to take place despite turmoil in Hong Kong

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Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade

Officials with Gay Games Hong Kong 2022, the committee organizing the quadrennial international LGBTQ sports event scheduled to take place in Hong Kong in November 2022, announced at an online webinar on Aug. 27 that a “contingency planning committee” has been created to address potential “risks” associated with the event.

Although those risks include the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing “social unrest” in Hong Kong, organizers stated during the webinar that the Hong Kong government remains highly supportive of the Gay Games. They said a team of more than 100 volunteers is working diligently to safely accommodate the thousands of LGBTQ athletes and spectators expected to arrive in Hong Kong in November 2022.

The webinar took place less than two months after China enacted a highly controversial security law giving the Hong Kong government greater authority in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters who have been holding demonstrations, some of which have become violent, for more than a year.

The Federation of Gay Games, the international governing body that oversees the Gay Games, reaffirmed its decision to select Hong Kong as host for the 2022 Gay Games during its Annual General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico last November. One year earlier, the FGG selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, who were the two finalist cities competing with Hong Kong, to become the host city for the games.

FGG officials have predicted at least 12,000 athletes will participate in 36 sports in the 2022 Gay Games, with at least 75,000 spectators expected to turn out in Hong Kong to watch the games and participate in at least 20 accompanying arts and cultural events.

“As mentioned in the webinar, Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 has set up a contingency planning committee and has drawn up a contingency plan to cover specific risks, like the pandemic and social unrest,” said Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade.

“FGG with GGHK are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2022,” Paul said. “Contingency plans are in development to mitigate the potential impact any unfortunate circumstances might cause,” he said.

“The team on the ground in Hong Kong are doing an excellent job in keeping the board up to date with concerns surrounding Hong Kong,” Paul quoted Joanie Evans, co-president of the FGG, as saying.

Paul added, “The GGHK team is composed of a team of 100 passionate LGBTQ+ volunteers and are looking forward to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games, first in Asia. They happily make Hong King their home, feeling safe in the ability to lead out, productive lives. The organization cannot speculate on sensationalized unconfirmed preconceptions.”

He was referring to a question from the Blade asking whether China might force local Hong Kong officials to arrest Gay Games spectators from Europe, North America or elsewhere if they make statements critical of China during the Gay Games cultural events.

Under the sweeping national security law enacted by China earlier this year, Hong Kong officials have made numerous arrests of dissidents denouncing China for infringing on what dissidents say was China’s 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom to allow Hong Kong to remain a semiautonomous region of China for 50 years after the British handed over its former colony to China.

Paul said the Hong Kong government has been involved in the Gay Games Hong Kong organizers’ application process for holding the Games in Hong Kong beginning in 2016.

“GGHK has been having ongoing and regular communications with multiple departments of the Hong Kong government to ensure that they are kept abreast of the process and support required from the government,” Paul told the Blade.

“In all the interactions GGHK is having with the Hong Kong government, support continues to grow within the Hong Kong government regarding GGHK,” he said. “New allies are offering support as it will be one of the biggest events to take place in Hong Kong during the next few years and stands to positively impact on the city,” said Paul.

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Arts & Entertainment

Irish national track champion comes out as gay

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Another international pro athlete has come out as gay, in a podcast interview dropped by Outsports on Monday.

Denis Finnegan, a 10-time national track-and-field title winner in Ireland, made his revelation on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, telling interviewer Cyd Zeigler that he has been “drifting” toward coming out in recent years even though being gay is only a small part of who he is “as a person, and an even smaller part as an athlete,” in order to help other LGBTQ people in sports feel less alone.

“For younger people it will hopefully give them more confidence in what they’re doing,” the 33-year-old Finnegan said. “There are still people who are scared or unsure of what’s happening, so I hope just telling my story might help one person notice there’s more acceptance out there.”

The athlete, who won his 10 championships in triple jump, said that he eventually gravitated toward track and field – as opposed to team sports like basketball and Gaelic football, which he played in his younger years – because he found the atmosphere more welcoming.

“Athletics was always a place that, because it was quite mixed, it was a place I could have gotten away from everything,” he told the podcast.

“I think those sports, because they were a team sport with males, there were times when it wasn’t comfortable,” he elaborated. “Athletics was always my favorite sport, it was always the sport that was the one that was the most open. I’d be training with girls, I’d be training with guys, and I think that did help a bit. I was never worried about any kind of comments on the track. But when I was going for, say, football, it was more of an issue.”

He also said that after growing up with sports as a major part of his identity, it was important for him to find a way to continue participating after his university years.

“I loved sport and my whole family was sporty. I’d want to be doing the sports, but there was a part of them I wasn’t enjoying at all,” he said, echoing a sentiment shared by many LGBTQ athletes who feel pressured to remain closeted due to the hyper-masculine environment and hetero-normative expectations typically found in male-dominated team sports.

In the interview, Finnegan also opens up about the strains of being publicly “closeted” while maintaining a personal life, as well as additional issues he faced in both the public and private sphere.

As a final thought, he shared a quote from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

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