Purchase College men's volleyball player Taylor Edelmann came out pubicly today in The Journal News, which services counties outside New York City. Edelmann had played for the school's women's team; This year was his second year on the men's team and was a captain in his senior season.
"The thing is, I'm not different at all," Edelmann said. "It's just, I took a different course of action to get where other people are, and that's totally fine. That's kind of how I see it. It shouldn't really be a big deal."
Edelmann isn't one to exaggerate. Trapped in the wrong body? No, more like aligning his body with how he felt.
"I just had to make a couple of alterations to it," Edelmann said. "Basically, kind of like, change the tires, put a new paint job on, that kind of thing."
Edelmann told Outsports he is coming out now to help educate people on trans issues.
"In society now, trans rights are at the forefront," Edelmann said. "It's something we need to deal with. Someone you know knows someone who's going through this. A lot of people don't want to come forward with this. It's just getting people cognizant of these issues, and these issues are pressing. I'm in a good place, but so many trans people have it bad."
Purchase College is a Div. III school located 30 miles north of New York City on the Connecticut border. Approximately 4,000 students attend the college. The school couldn't be more proud of Edelmann.
"Purchase College is very proud of Taylor as both a student and as an athlete and he personifies the cultural diversity found at Purchase College," Ernie Palmieri, Vice President of Student Affairs, said in a statement. "He has shown tremendous leadership both on and off the court as evidenced by the fact that he is not only captain of our men's volleyball team, but is also a resident advisor, co-president of a club on campus and is a member of a jam band at our school. I believe Taylor is also appreciative of the fact that Purchase College provided him with a supportive environment."
For Edelmann, the gender transition was coupled with a transition in his game. The difference between men's and women's volleyball is stark. Like tennis, the women's game is more finesse with longer volleys; The men's game is a power game that puts brute strength on display.
"To see Taylor make that transition is a testament to the amount of work he went through emotionally, physically and mentally to prepare for something like this," Bobby Ciafardini, sports information director and compliance coordinator at Purchase College, told Outsports. "And it's a credit to how much he wanted this to not be half-heartedly done."
To help the transition, Edelmann has taken testosterone. Ciafardini said the school has been in constant contact with the NCAA about the treatment. The NCAA's policy on trans male athletes does allow medical exemptions to banned substances:
A trans male (female to male) student-athlete who has received a medical exception for treatment with testosterone for gender transition may compete on a men's team but is no longer eligible to compete on a women's team without changing the team status to a mixed team. A mixed team is eligible only for men's championships.
The other athletes on the men's and women's volleyball teams at Purchase College have been very supportive of their trans teammate.
"My teammates have been so good," Edelmann said. "The only one thing I've ever heard was from one of the guys saying that a girl he knew thought I was cute but wouldn't date me because I'm trans. But my team has really protected me."
He hasn't heard anything particularly negative from opposing teams, either. The only whispers he hears are when his Purchase College team visits other schools. By rule, they have to request a gender-neutral bathroom when they travel. Because the Purchase College administration doesn't share the identity of the trans athlete on the team, their competitors are left guessing who it is.
"I'll hear murmurs about it during a game, 'Who's the trans one? Oh that one has sideburns, can't be him.' It's funny to me. I don't take offense. People are just curious."
Ciafardini said Edelmann's transition hasn't been a problem for the school's athletic department in any way.
"Taylor has excelled so much on both teams, it was never a problem for us the entire year, whether it was playing other schools or on the team," Ciafardini said. "It was a very smooth transition. I don't think it's honestly ever spoken about."
Ciafardini said Edelmann is one of several trans athletes the school has worked with in the last few years.
"That just crushes any kind of comments or questions or concerns anyone could have about a trans person being good enough to play sports," said Kye Allums, a trans man who played on the George Washington University women's basketball team. "It's someone who is just a good athlete. He dominated on the women's team, transitioned, and is still dominating on a men's team. It's a great example of what happens when you just let athletes play."
For Allums, seeing that Edelmann was named captain of his team sends a powerful statement.
"To vote someone who is openly trans your captain, it says the team trusts him and they want him to be their leader. It's a huge honor. Cisgender men voted a trans man their captain. It says a lot and sets an example for the rest of the world. Trans people can be anything they want to be, it's just about giving them the space so they can feel comfortable to do the things they love."