A personal story by our Youth Okanagan contributor, James Sieben
Involvement in sports is one of the biggest parts of my identity. However, when I came out as trans this summer, I risked losing that part of myself.
I play volleyball and ultimate frisbee and have competed at the National level in both sports. I was a pretty solid female player who had a hopeful career in front of her.
Then, I came out as a man.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret coming out at all. I probably wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t. That being said, the sports world is very difficult to navigate as a queer person who doesn’t fit into ‘typical’ binary expectations of gender, and it can be quite unforgiving.
Once I started testosterone hormone replacement therapy, I started to match up against my cis male counterparts. I found I was rarely able to keep up with them, and felt I had lost all the progress I worked so hard to achieve. I had established myself as one of the better female players, but now as a man, I was at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.
Most cis men have the upper hand in sports due to testosterone, muscle mass, bone density…. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Pair this with the very binary-centered sports culture, and you get a twiggy trans guy being constantly misgendered and surpassed by other men (and women, too).
To be quite frank, I cried a lot and thought about quitting almost every day. But then I thought about who I would be without ultimate (and sports in general), and I didn’t like what I saw. The truth is, I have been involved in sports from the time I could walk. Sports have become as much a part of my identity as my being a trans man is. If I wasn’t involved with sports, I don’t think I would be me, like I was still in the closet.
I have started training harder to get myself up to a level where I can compete against cis guys, and I have begun being a lot nicer to myself. Whenever I get frustrated, I try to remember that most of the guys have had upwards of fifteen years to train with the advantages of testosterone and I’ve had just about four months.
I’ve also used my position on the board of directors for the Kelowna Ultimate Players Society to design a policy that seeks to acknowledge the exclusive culture of sports, particularly for those with diverse gender identities, and to promote respect and inclusivity for all players.
If you want to read the full policy, check it out on the Kelowna Ultimate website: https://kelownaultimate.com/inclusivity and if you want to give ultimate a try, come on out to one of our many events: https://kelownaultimate.com/leagues!