An Iron Man
BY Advocate Contributors
November 23 2010 7:20 PM ET
As a trans guy, there was no real category for me to be competitive in at Ironman. Just finishing the 140.6-mile course is a feat, and fortunately was a great enough accomplishment to satisfy my competitive needs, but I miss the ability to compete against others.
Competing in a category more consistent with my gender identity also meant I did not have a chance to qualify for the World Championships in Kona, considered the ultimate achievement in the sport. In order to qualify, one needs to place in the top of their gendered age group category, usually within the first five to eight places. While that may have been a possibility at one point, the choice to transition significant reduced my chances.
The changing areas for athletes, ironically called “transition” in triathlon races, were large, open rooms separated by gender. There were no “gender-neutral” spaces or areas with any privacy. When I came running out of the water from the swim — what I thought would be my greatest challenge of the day — I found myself about to strip down completely in a room full of men. The clock was ticking; my best guess is that adrenaline got me through.
The issues I encountered are not just with Ironman-brand races, but in all races I’ve competed in as a triathlete, runner, and cyclist. They extend to gyms, rec centers, and LGBT leagues as well. Earlier this week I was denied entry to a gym where I play with Big Apple Dodgeball, an LGBT dodgeball league, because of a gender-related locker room issue. Even LGBT leagues are ill-prepared to adequately handle any variance in the extremely gendered world of sports.
So how then can transgender people continue to maintain their athletic identity? In a land of exceptions, special requests, and alternate accommodations, the common response is a request for the athlete to be patient and bear with the organization while it clarifies its stance or figures out its policies. Kye Allums living his life authentically is a huge wake-up call to leagues around the country, and with an increasing number of visible trans athletes negotiating their gender and sports identities, recent events should be a call to action.
There’s no such thing as fair; inclusive will have to do.