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Posted November 2, 2010

Transgender Man Playing Division I Women's Basketball

The New York Times

Monday was a lazy day for Kye Allums, a typically busy junior playing Division I basketball at George Washington University. Without any classes or practice on his schedule, Allums woke up late, stopped in at a team meeting, worked on a class project, then took an afternoon nap.

Kye Allums, a junior guard on George Washington’s women’s basketball team, said he grew up feeling that he was a man.

But Monday was anything but ordinary because it was the day the world would learn about the decision Allums had embarked on one year earlier: to come out as a transgender man playing on a women’s basketball team.

Advocates for transgender athletes said they believed Allums was the first Division I college basketball player to compete publicly as a transgender person, although not the first to play as a college athlete. In a statement, a George Washington official said Allums would remain on the women’s basketball team.

Earlier this year, the university changed the roster published on its Web site to reflect Allums’s name change, from Kay-Kay to Kye, and future references will use male pronouns.

He noted that he was biologically identical to any other female, but said, “I just would prefer for people to call me a he.”

“I decided to do it because I was uncomfortable not being able to be myself,” Allums, 21, said in a telephone interview Monday, hours after an article about his experience was published on the Web site Outsports.com. “Just having to hear the words ‘she’ and ‘her,’ it was really starting to bother me.”

Helen Carroll, the sports project director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said she expected other Division I athletes to follow in Allums’s footsteps. Already, she said, “we see younger and younger children, middle school and high school kids that are in athletics and are playing who are transgender.”

Carroll is the co-author of a report released last month meant to serve as a guide for schools and universities to develop fair policies for transgender athletes.

Allums, a guard who started 20 of the Colonials’ 28 games last season, said he grew up feeling that he was a man, and although he identified as a lesbian in high school, he came to the conclusion that he was transgender while he was a freshman in college.

In addition to the expected stress of breaking the news to family and friends, Allums said being a member of the women’s team complicated matters. He worried that he might lose his George Washington scholarship.

“Being an athlete intensifies everything,” he said. “I’m seen more. I’m in newspapers. I travel. I represent the school more so than a normal student would because they’re under wraps.”

The first people Allums told were his teammates, who, after initial disbelief, offered their support, he said. After that, he said he often relied on the team to break the news to others.

“They started to say things for me, like, ‘No, don’t call Kye her, say him,’ ” said Allums, who is an interior design major and plans to pursue a career as an architect or personal trainer. “They would say it to everybody.”

Allums told his coach, Mike Bozeman, in June. Bozeman said in a statement that the “George Washington University women’s basketball program, including myself, support Kye’s right to make this decision.”

Erik Christianson, a spokesman for the N.C.A.A., said in an e-mail that the association was planning a review of its policies toward transgender athletes but currently recommended following the gender classification on a student’s identification documents, like a driver’s license. George Washington officials have said that the N.C.A.A. told them that Allums was eligible for the women’s team because he had not undergone hormone treatments.

Allums said he would like to receive the treatments but had held off because he did not want to jeopardize his spot on the team.

He is looking forward to Nov. 13, when Allums and the team will compete at the Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis. The game will be his public debut as a transgender man playing on a women’s team, but it will take place on friendly turf. Allums grew up in St. Paul and the nearby town of Hugo, and the stands will be packed with old friends.

“We’re ready to go,” Allums said of the team, adding that the transition had improved his game. “I’m able to just focus on basketball now. My outside life is not really a distraction to me.”

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