George Washington University junior Kye Allums is one courageous basketball player. Though he debuted as a GW player in November 2008 (by scoring 12 points against Coppin State University), this month he’s making another and even bigger debut – as the first openly transgender athlete on an NCAA Division I team. Transitioning from female to male on a women’s basketball team may seem like a daunting challenge, but the university, the NCAA and Kye’s teammates are behind him, according to reports that were all over the media this week. Under current NCAA policies Kye isn’t eligible to compete on a men’s team, and he still has has a scholarship to play on the women’s team. Though this will probably take a little getting used to for some, the GW Colonials are setting an example for other teams but respecting Kye (and referring to him) as the talented young man he is. Soon enough, the press attention will pass, the season will get going, and Kye and his teammates will keep focusing on their game and their studies – which is the way it should be.
Pursuing athletic competition and being part of a team are a dream for many young people. Yet transgender athletes face numerous obstacles, including lack of understanding and acceptance from teammates, coaches or opposing players, to organizational rules that frequently exclude them altogether. Fortunately, a growing number of school athletic organizations – such as the high school athletic associations in Washington and Colorado – have begun to develop new policies to include and support trans students, and the NCAA has announced it is revising its own policies. A new report issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Women’s Sports Foundation last month outlines best practices for providing equal athletic opportunity at all levels of student competition. The report explains that schools must act affirmatively to ensure that trans students are included and treated equally, and to protect their personal privacy. It also explains how concerns about trans students having an unfair competitive advantage are either unfounded or exaggerated, and urges the development of comprehensive national standards that would give every student the opportunity to compete.
We hope that the NCAA will incorporate the principles in the report, and that being part of the team will soon be easier for all transgender students. We salute Kye and the GW Colonials, and all those who have supported Kye in approaching this very public transition — and wish them a very good season.