Thank you, Lava Magazine

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I am in the June 2016 issue of Lava Magazine!

Screenshot 2016-05-06 22.15.14I am a firm believer of “NEVER READ THE COMMENTS” – but once in a while I get caught, and it’s usually not great. I learned this the hard way, early on in my being in the press. One of the best and biggest breaks for me was being featured in the New York Times in 2011 when I did my first NYC Triathlon race as male, after doing the race as female two years before.

I learned a lot in that interview. I was SO nervous. I didn’t know how to pivot, or how to navigate topics I wasn’t comfortable with. In 2015 I got to talk through it a bit with the author, Fred Dreier, who wrote about me again in The Wall Street Journal. While that was great closure for me, there were a few pieces I’ve carried with me and often discuss from that article as being motivation for me through today.

I often talk about how the article painted me as a “middle of the pack guy” and that didn’t sit well with me. Part of that was my uncertainty of how I would do, and part of that was assumptions from others based on gender stereotypes. That was the inspiration for what came next: getting my coaching certification(s) to learn more about the sport, better training, harder and smarter training, and new dedication to being the best I could be.

That is certainly a big part of my story, but there’s another piece: in 2011 when that article was published, the editor in chief of Lava Magazine at the time, tweeted out my story, saying, “Damn! Can’t believe the NYTimes scooped on this juicy feature (dripping with sarcasm) [LINK TO ARTICLE].”

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Lava Magazine was one of two triathlon-specific magazines that I subscribed to. Triathlon is the sport I love, and overall I have had a wonderful experience with other triathletes and USA Triathlon. This hurt. I brought it up to the writer of my piece, who said he was friends with Brad and that it was a shot at him… but the tweet didn’t name the author. It was just an indication that not all of triathlon was as inclusive as I had experienced.

I had been following Brad, so I saved the screen shot, book marked the tweet, and unfollowed. I have thought about this tweet a lot. So it was amazing to get to speak with Chris Foster a while back and be featured in a story about transgender triathletes in the June 2016 issue of Lava Magazine.

This is to say thank you to Brad Culp, former EIC of Lava Magazine, for not believing in me and for thinking my story was not worthwhile for a major triathlon magazine. There are absolutely no hard feelings; I thought of this as positive inspiration. For the last five years your one tweet has provided endless motivation for me to continue to work hard in both triathlon and trans athlete advocacy, and it is a true honor to get seven pages with two full page photos in the June issue.

 

I have wanted to be in Lava ever since I first subscribed. I am proud to check this off my list!

Dooster!

I’ve heard about these Doosters.IMG_9517They make amazing films. I’ve seen them around, mostly blending into the sidelines, capturing random footage that I’m never sure what it’s for or where it will end up.

Recently I got to spend some quality Dooster time, and it was pretty rad. And while I don’t know what they are using it all for and how it will turn out, I am pretty excited to be a part of it.

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photo by Dooster

NYU Moving Up Day

I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the NYU Moving Up Day celebration. It was a great opportunity to think about my journey, because I really began to settle into my identity as a trans guy during my time at NYU and while working in the NYU LGBTQ Student Center. It was a nice opportunity to reflect, share a bit of my journey with others, and celebrate the accomplishments of the amazing students there. And to be celebrated!

 

NCAA Inclusion Forum

The NCAA Inclusion Forum was in Indianapolis this year, and I was able to present again – last year I did a solo session, but this year I teamed up with the LEGENDARY Helen Carroll to present on NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Athletes.

These events are amazing because I get to meet a lot of people and help them create safer spaces for student athletes. But it’s basically a family reunion for me too, because I get to see so many of my favorite people:

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It was a great event – very happy to be a part of it!

NYC bathroom and locker room use

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order requiring all city agencies to ensure that everyone in NYC has access to bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity or expression. The executive order stipulates that no one will be required to show identification, medical documents, or any other documentation to verify their gender in order to use the facilities.

City agencies have three months to post this new policy, and will be required to provide training for city agency managers and front line staff who interface with the public.

As a transgender athlete who was denied access to a locker room in a public facility, I appreciate Mayor de Blasio’s effort to protect LGBTQ people in New York City. This policy will protect not only LGBTQ New Yorkers, but also all of the guests we have in our city. This makes NYC one of the most inclusive places for transgender athletes.

The key piece of this is the educational component. By requiring training for both supervisors and front line workers, we will ensure this will not be another posted policy that people ignore or forget. This will change the culture of our city services, including NYC Parks and Recreation facilities, which operates more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 550 tennis courts, 66 public pools, 48 recreational facilities, 17 nature centers, 13 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches in the five boroughs.

In the past six months, I have presented on LGBTQ Inclusion in NYC Recreation Spaces twice, to over 100 front line workers and managers. I applaud NYC Parks and Recreation for their proactive approach to incorporating this training in their inclusion summits and ongoing education, and look forward to seeing other city agencies get trained as well. Using the bathroom is a basic human need, and all people should be allowed to do so without jumping through hoops.

New York City’s public schools already has a policy that students must be allowed to use locker rooms or restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

 

Texas discriminates against transgender high school athletes

Yesterday it was announced that representatives from Texas school districts had overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal aimed at barring transgender boys and girls from participating in athletics alongside their cisgender peers.

The Texas Observer reports “District superintendents and athletic directors voted 409-25 in favor of using birth certificates to determine student athletes’ gender, according to results obtained by the Observer through a request under the Texas Public Information Act.

Transathlete_K12_infographic_feb16This is not a well-informed or inclusive policy, and ranks Texas among the worst states in the nation for transgender youth.

This policy actively excludes students whose gender identity does not match their birth certificate – a document that is challenging for a young person to change. It forces students to negotiate their own gender identity in a way that stalls their ability to be their authentic selves, and is a barrier to inclusion.

There are many documented physical, emotional, social, and educational benefits associated with playing sports that last into adulthood. These include characteristics, skills, and values I personally developed through athletics, such as leadership skills, teamwork, communicating with others, goal setting, dedication, my work ethic, and perseverance, among many others.

Trans people practice the last of these mentioned, perseverance, every day by existing in a society which tells them they do not belong and are not wanted. High school is a time when all young people struggle with self confidence and long for acceptance from peers, but trans students face discrimination at a higher rate than their cisgender peers, and they are constantly “othered” by peers, teachers, and administrators who are not educated or equipped to support trans students. It is the responsibility of those in charge to stand up and advocate for all students, and Texas has failed to do so.

Texas is denying transgender youth the opportunity to connect with others, enjoy competitiveness and the benefits of physical activity, and have a high school experience similar to their peers.

At the high school level, the focus should be on enabling athletic participation for all students. Texas school leaders have a responsibility to ensure that transgender athletes can participate in a way that is safe, comfortable, and affirming of their identity.

Allowing athletes to participate in accordance to their affirmed gender identity the best policy when considering equity and fairness for all students.

For more information on high school policies for transgender athletes, visit the K-12 page of TransAthlete.com.

For tips on how to create inclusive policies for high school trans athletes, click here.