When Kye Allums enrolled at George Washington University under a women’s basketball scholarship, he never imagined the controversy to follow. Many may wonder why a “he” would be offered a scholarship for a women’s athletic team. Well, at the time his scholarship was offered, Allums was known as a woman named Kay-Kay. Since his sophomore season ended, Kye has begun introducing himself using male gender pronouns and has told all his teammates he self identifies as a man in a woman’s body. According to an article by OutSports.com, Allums will be the first openly transgender Division I athlete in the NCAA.
While his teammates, coaching staff, and George Washing University have been overwhelmingly supportive of Allums’ transition, technicalities become problematic. Not only does Kye run the risk of taunts and insults from opposing fans, but also upon making his decision to come out publically, he was concerned about his basketball scholarship to play for a women’s team. Kye was adamant about educating himself and in doing so, educating his team and George Washington University. Because Allums was born in to a body with female anatomy, as long as he does not take testosterone, altering his physical ability, he is eligible.
While that concept has potential to be highly debated, the fact remains that all athletes, transgender included, should have the right to play collegiate athletics. The question now lingering in the George Washington Women’s basketball team locker room is the use of gender specific dressing rooms. Washington, D.C. laws ensures individuals “the right to use gender-specific facilities such as dressing rooms… that are consistent with their gender identity or expression.”
George Washington University released a statement respecting Allums gender identity and will be working with their women’s team as a whole to address any concerns or issues.
Equal opportunities for transgender athletes, while important, are complicated, especially due to the egregious amount of homophobia involved in sports. Dr. Pat Griffin, former Director of “It Takes a Teams, Education Campaign for LGBT Issues in Sport,” has announced an upcoming project with GLSEN in an effort to create safe athletic spaces for all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Dr. Griffin may help educate people on the need for safe spaces in athletics for all students, but the controversy is unsettled. Simply stated, Kye Allums identifies as a man on a women’s team. Sure he absolutely deserves the opportunity to play collegiate sports, but the question remains, for which genders team? He is still physically a woman, maintaining an egalitarian playing field, but at what point does his presence as a man mentally change the dynamic of women’s sports?
Just as he deserves a space that is gender specific, his teammates too deserve the opportunity to be amongst self identified women, particularly in terms of dressing rooms and bathroom facilities. Women have paved a difficult path in search for equal opportunity, from Title IX to WNBA basketball.
While this may be one of the many first steps in paving a road for trans identified individuals to have space in athletics, we must be direly careful to not further alienate the space self identified women are finally able to comfortably participate in.
What do you think? Does Kye Allums deserve the opportunity to carryout his scholarship and play for George Washington’s women’s basketball team? Let us know what you think about this issue.
photo credit: thanks to StuSeeger via flickr
by Nora Aboali