I’ve been an athlete my entire life. Since the time I could walk, I have run and played softball and soccer.
I went to Aliso Niguel High School in Southern California, where I joined my school’s women’s lacrosse team. I absolutely loved everything about it — the sport, the coaches, my team. Halfway through my freshman year, when I started questioning my gender I felt like I had a lot more to think about than just “am I a boy or girl … or something else entirely?”
I also wondered whether I could still play with my team if I came out. Or whether I would even want to. While I was worrying about what my gender identity was, I was also thinking a lot about the Prop 8 vote in California only three years earlier in 2008.
While the proposition (which banned same-sex marriage) wasn’t supported by many of my friends, it was supported by their parents and I thought that if the people around me don’t even accept gay people, how would they ever accept me? Because of these thoughts, I didn’t come out to even my closest friends for another year.
In the middle of the season in my junior year in 2014, I found out one of the referees who often called our games was a trans man. During one of our games, I heard some of the girls talking about him — questioning his gender and making ignorant comments.
At first, this scared me and made me want to put off coming out even longer, but I realized that I wanted to start making change and help teach my friends and teammates rather than shy away from their ignorance. After coming out to my coaches, I set aside a time after practice to gather my team and tell them all at once.
I don’t even remember what I said, only that once I finished, everyone hugged me and seemed so happy that I trusted them with this information. One of them asked me what I was changing my name to and once I told them, I never heard my birth name again.
Unfortunately, that was the easy part. As a gay athlete, my sole worry has been acceptance by team members. However, as a trans athlete, I also must worry about laws and regulations surrounding my transition.
I spent weeks afterward researching and contacting different law centers and government offices to learn about what I could and couldn’t do as an athlete as well as in my everyday life as a high school student. All I really learned from is that there are not very many hard and fast rules or laws and that everyone has a different idea of what they are.
I continued to delay my social and medical transition but it was getting harder for me to go to school when I heard people saying my birth name and “she” all day long. In the summer of 2014, I decided to come out publicly by Facebook and live my senior year, finally, as a male student.
While I ended up not playing lacrosse my senior year for unrelated reasons, I still was lucky to find a few other trans athletes in my area to connect with, one of whom started a group for GNC (gender nonconforming) people to play lacrosse, go hiking and exercise together.
Since then, I’ve moved to New York City and have been focusing on running. I am lucky that it is a mostly individual sport and I run with the New York Road Runners with my legally changed name and gender. I still, though, run with different teams and coaches throughout the year and either have to outright come out or have people question when they see that I’m wearing a sports bra but also have a beard. Even if people don’t question me, or seem to care about my appearance, I am very self-conscious of how I look when wearing tight or revealing workout clothes.
I’ve just had to realize that coming out will always have to be a part of my life and that my identity will often be used to try to separate me from others, especially in the world of sports.
I have been fighting for, and will continue to fight for, all trans people, especially those who are denied their right to do something they love just because of their gender.
Sports have always been a very important part of my health and well-being and everyone should have the opportunity to participate and be judged purely by their skill and dedication, not how they identify.
As a theater artist, I hope to create and bring to life stories that help normalize the LGBT community and show that we are not dangerous or somehow immoral.
As an athlete, I hope to inspire young people going through the same things I did to not give up and to win protections from our schools and government to be able to play with the teams we feel comfortable with.
I’d like to thank Chris Mosier for being a big advocate and supporter of me and many other trans athletes and for being visible for those of us who aren’t able to be.
If anyone needs help or wants to talk about their experience as a trans high school athlete, I am here and would love to hear your story.
Isaac Grivett, 19, is a theater technician in New York who spends most of his time running or being a trans and disability rights activist. He can be reached on Facebook (Isaac Q Grivett), twitter (@isaacgrivett), Instagram (@isaacqgriv), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.