As any person with an identity outside of the societal binary knows, coming out is never a linear journey, and often times it isn’t easy. If any of you find a book on steps for coming out to everyone in your life, please let us know!
Coming out is different for every person and can go many different directions in regards to how those around you respond. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive environment that allowed me to feel safe and confident coming out as a transman, and in turn this helped me be out on a team, which I will discuss more in depth and provide tips on how to make that process a little easier…but you have to keep reading for that.
This is not the case for everyone however, and according to the Human Rights Campaign “26% of LGBT youth say their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school/bullying, and a fear to be out/open.” When we read statistics like this it can be hard to WANT to come out, and in turn we live in the shadows of who we truly are, scared of how others may treat us once we are out. For a long time, I lived with the notion that it would be embarrassing to my parents and friends, or that I would let them down somehow if I identified as something that society didn’t, and still doesn’t, always depict positively.
I spent several months trying to figure out how to tell the people I love that I wasn’t the woman they all thought I was for the last 19 years. I knew who I was, but no one else did and I was navigating the world in the shell of someone I was not. The hardest thing was not telling my parents, or my professors, or even online friends, but it was telling the team that I spent every day with for the last 4 years.
These women had become my family and my home away from home, and I was terrified that they wouldn’t understand or want me around if they found out who I truly was underneath the female exterior. My second biggest fear when coming out on a sports team was how my university and ultimately the NCAA would handle a transman on a women’s team.
I found several things helpful for me as a transman on a women’s team that allowed me to abide by the rules the NCAA currently had, and still live more authentically than I was.
1.Understand that the team is going through a transition as well and meet them in the middle.
For however long, these women only knew you as another one of the girls. Being transgender is not a black and white concept and for many they cannot understand what it is like to feel like an alien in your own body. Understand that they may make mistakes and they may have questions, so be open to questions and be upfront with expectations you want from them. Just as you are learning about yourself, they are as well.
2. Ask the team questions about what they are comfortable with as well
They may be okay with you utilizing the women’s locker room with them despite your gender identity and they may not, so find out early on. My team created an environment in which it was comfortable for everyone involved.
3. Advocate for yourself as someone who identifies with male pronouns
Communicate with your coaches and team members on the importance of using the correct pronouns despite the majority of the team being female. If you find yourself in a place that articles may be written about you, advocate for the correct pronouns when referring to you in said articles.
4. Know who to talk to if issues/concerns arise
Always have an idea of who to talk to if you are experiencing any sort of discomfort or negativity while participating in a sport with women. If you feel as though you are being treated unfairly or are not being treated with the respect you give to others, know who the best person to contact is. I lucked out…the trainers allowed me to utilize the coach’s single-stall bathroom/showers so that I had a safe and private place to change.
5. Always, always, always know the regulations of the sport/division that you are playing under
Do not be the reason that your team loses an opportunity at a post-season, or risk suspension of your own. Understand that you may not be given the opportunity to medically transition if you choose to stay on the women’s team. For me, it was one more year with my second family and I was able to continue “moving forward” in my transition by having my legal name changed and made strides toward preparation of medical transitioning once I finished my season. Under NCAA rules, if you begin testosterone and would like to continue playing you would need to be playing for the men’s team. Google will be your best friend here!