Kye Allums is about to become the first openly trans person to play NCAA Division 1 basketball. And while his life hasn't always been easy, a lot of people could learn from his story.
According to Cyd Zeigler of Outsports, Allums was born a girl, but often preferred to identify and dress as a boy. His mom wasn't always supportive. Allums recalls,
I've always felt most comfortable dressing like a boy, but my mom would take all of my clothes from me and she'd force me to wear girl clothes. I'd bring sweats and basketball shorts and put them in my backpack. I'd just change every day when I got to school, and I had to change back before I went home. It was annoying, but it was the only way I could go to school.
But it was a text from his mom that sparked an epiphany — his mom wrote "Who do you think you are, young lady?" and he realized "He wasn't a young lady at all." Says Allums,
I used to feel like trans anything was really weird and those people were crazy, and I wondered, ‘How can you feel like that?' But I looked it up on the Internet and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I'm one of those weird people.' And I realized they're not weird. It's all in your mindset and how you think.
When Allums told his (female) teammates about his gender, they initially made jokes. But then they began to take him seriously. Says one,
We were all just talking, a bunch of teammates, and he said that he's a guy. At first I didn't understand, and then he explained that sex is how you're born and gender is how you identify yourself. Then I started to understand.
Allums was especially concerned about his coach Mike Bozeman's reaction, because of comments the coach had made about religion. And while the conversation started off tense, Bozeman ultimately said,
Why would you think I wouldn't have your back? I've had your back through everything. Our relationship has grown from nothing to this, and now you think I'd just turn my back on you because you told me this? No. I love you and I'll always be here for you.
Allums has faced some obstacles — one opposing coach said, anonymously, that "he might have a problem if a team in his conference had a player who identified themselves as a man." But his team's reaction is instructive — even though transphobia still runs rampant in some circles, we also shouldn't underestimate the ability of young athletes to accept a trans teammate. The report On the Team provides guidelines for encouraging participation of trans athletes, including a section on hormone therapy, which Allums is forgoing in order to continue playing on the women's team. It also says, "Transgender young people have the same right to participate and benefit from the positive aspects of athletics as other students do." Allums, his team, and his coach have recognized this — it's time for everyone else involved in college sports to do so as well.