Op-ed: Transgender Student, Softball Star

By Pat Cordova-Goff

Originally published on Advocate.com April 07 2014 7:00 AM ET

When most high schoolers make varsity for a sport they love, their biggest concern is, Will I be good enough? Will I disappoint my team?

As a transgender student trying out for varsity softball, I knew that my experience would be more complicated. I prepared myself for a battle that would test me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. This has started.

I’ve played baseball since age 4. My sisters all started softball at the same age. My family’s life has literally revolved around this sport. Monday through Saturday, right after school and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends, we were at New Temple Park in South El Monte, Calif.

The love for the sport was always there, and I am proud to say that after years of pushing ourselves, my sisters and I were known as one of the top families in the league. My older sister was a four-year varsity player in high school, and I looked forward to following her path. But as I began tryouts in high school, I knew this wouldn’t last. On the field with the boys, I never felt included or even wanted. I was pushed away and soon felt very uncomfortable. After months of hostility, the situation escalated when a false accusation was made and I knew I was in danger. I quit. I wa s in love with baseball, but months of fear were not worth it in my eyes.

I came to terms with who I am toward the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. Having the support of my family, I began to express myself in a manner consistent with my identity. Starting with nail polish and then stepping into makeup and clothes from the “girls’ section,” I felt comfortable being who I was at school. I was constantly bullied and made fun of, but that didn’t outweigh the beauty of finally being myself. Coming into my own, I thrived. I rose to the top 10 of my class at school. I ran for student body president and won. I founded the gay-straight alliance at my school and became a youth leader with Gay-Straight Alliance Network, training other young people to push back against all forms of oppression in their schools.

At the same time, I was and still am dealing with a home situation — or rather, “lack of home” situation. For the past four years, my parents, sisters, niece, and I have lived in motels across the San Gabriel Valley, unable to afford a permanent household. Some nights we can’t even afford the daily rate to sleep in our motel room. I know who I am, but I cannot always afford makeup or the clothes that accurately express my femininity in the way I want to. When my family is in need, though, that is not a priority on my list. I ran for homecoming queen in the fall and wore the best attire I could afford. I loved the way I looked.

When the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) passed, I knew that I would finally get the chance to play softball, the sport I had envied my sisters for playing for years. I tried out for the team and was beyond happy to be back on the field. I eagerly waited for the results and could not believe my eyes when I found out I made the varsity team. Never mind that I was one of the first transgender student-athletes in my state; I was just happy to be on the team, and happy to rub it in my older sister’s face when she came home.

I am beyond appreciative that my district, school administration, and peers are supportive. But once I stepped back onto the field, the attention didn’t stop there. The media soon got word — by soon, I mean later that afternoon.

Reporters for national publications, who know nothing about me, or what it means to be transgender, responded with accusations, allegations, and slurs. Their focus on the “advantage” I supposedly have is not only an assumption, but an insult to myself, softball players everywhere, and the hours, if not years, of work we’ve put in. A perfect example remains the third baseman on my team, nicknamed A-Rod, who is a year younger than I am and can throw a ball to first base faster than I can even begin to field it. Put my older sister in the pitcher’s circle, and I’d be struck out in three pitches. I know for a fact that so many softball players out there would be a challenge to play against, and automatically stating I would dominate the field is robbing them of the credit they deserve and ignoring their years of work.

Nevertheless, I will continue this season with a bow in my hair and Aztec pride in my heart. I know this is only the beginning. Reporters will continue to incorrectly refer to me as “him,” and people will not always understand or even want to understand. But I intend to take the field, and remain on the field. I will show transgender youth (and adults) out there that being happy is possible. No longer do youth need to hide behind the identities society expects of us. Whether someone is male, female, transgender, or anything else, that is who they are and that is who they should be.

My name is Pat Cordova-Goff, proudly transgender, and I am an Azusa High School varsity softball player. Lady Aztecs, you know.


PAT CORDOVA-GOFF is a senior at Azusa High School and youth leader with Gay-Straight Alliance Network.