Kit Steinkellner
October 29, 2014 9:36 am

Kye Allums, the first openly transgender NCAA Division I athlete, came out as a trans man while he was playing on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University in 2010.  It was a ground-breaking moment for college sports and for the world. Allums, now 25, is a pioneer in a trans athletics movement that is pushing to allow trans athletes to play for whatever team, male or female, that aligns with their gender identity.

A full-time advocate, traveling around the country visiting schools and helping students understand and respect what it means to be trans, Allums is also one of the stars of fellow trans advocate and OITNB star Laverne Cox’s new doc-series, The T Word.

Allums recently gave a great interview with Time in which he helped readers understand the intricacies of being a trans athlete. He explained to Time that one of the reasons he knew he needed to come out was because he knew he needed to be completely honest about who he was for the good of his team.

“I needed to be comfortable,” Allums explained. “Playing on a sports team, you become very close. These girls were like my sisters and having them refer to me using female pronouns every single second of the day and not knowing how that made me feel, I couldn’t keep playing like that.”

Allums went on to explain that as the first openly trans Division I college basketball player, he experienced virtually no pushback from the other schools or their players:

“At other schools, we were anticipating a lot of negativity, but the schools were actually very supportive. Some would reach out and offer a gender neutral space for me to change. With the players, it was all business.”

Unfortunately, the acceptance Allums found on the court did not extend to the bleachers:

“The fans were different,” Allums told Time. “Whenever I walked onto the court, people would just stare at me. They would stare at me and point, as if they were expecting me to be a 10-foot monster.”

Allums went on to dispel myths about trans athletes, specifically the “Should a trans woman be allowed to play on a women’s basketball team if her height is going to serve as an unfair advantage?”

“People talk about that as if men are super-human, as if just because you were born with a penis, that means that you can defeat every single female. And that’s not true. This world values men. We value men. We value male bodies. We don’t value women. . . People need to stop placing limits on how strong people can or should be, and what their bodies should look like.”

Being a pioneering trans athlete, Allums of course had some solid advice for trans athletes who are currently figuring out how to come out:

“Make sure you have a positive support system around you. Come out only if you’re ready, and just because you come out does not mean that you have to come out to your entire team. You should be able to go to an athletic director or a coach . . . Also there is no right or wrong way to be trans.”

Allums sums it up best when he says:

“If you want to identify as being a gladiator, as queer, as gender nonconforming, I really don’t care. Are you going to make this basket when it counts? Sports is about winning. It’s about competing. It’s about respect. And it’s about how you play the game. It’s not about the body you’re born into.”

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