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Juniper Eastwood is the first out Division I transgender cross-country runner

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Transgender runner, University of Montana student Juniper Eastwood, recently became the first out trans Division I competitor in the sport — here’s her story.

Juniper Eastwood, transgender, runner, cross-country, track-and-field, University of Montana
Juniper Eastwood

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle recently ran a profile on 22-year-old Juniper Eastwood, a transgender athlete on the University of Montana (UM) women’s cross-country team, the first Division I trans athlete to compete in her sport.

While running boy’s cross-country and track as a student at Belgrade High School in Belgrade, Montana — a town nearly 90 miles southeast of Helena — Eastwood won state titles and eventually received athletic and academic scholarships to UM. During her first two years at UM, she achieved some of the best times among her teammates at the Big Sky Conference championships.

But she’d begun questioning her gender identity around fifth or sixth grade, and while sitting out for an injury during her sophomore year at UM, she started coming to terms with her trans identity. Without running as an outlet, she became depressed and began abusing alcohol to cope.

“I felt kind of stuck,” Eastwood told The Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “I had done this running thing for so long and was pretty miserable doing it, because I was pretty miserable in men’s racing,”

Juniper Eastwood, transgender, University of Montana, track-and-field, cross-country
(image via Juniper Eastwood’s Instagram)
Juniper Eastwood’s Instagram

She finally made the decision to quit the UM men’s team and independently looked into the NCAA intercollegiate rules on trans participation. Per the rules, she took a year off from competing while transitioning and taking testosterone-suppression pills for 12 months.

She has since come out to her UM cross-country and track teammates — something she called “nerve wracking” — and now has the full support of Brian Schweyen, head coach of the University of Montana’s track-and-field program.

The hormones suppressants have made her lose muscle mass, endurance and speed. She also expects possible blowback for competing alongside other women, but Eastwood says she merely wants to make it easier for future generations of trans athletes to compete.

The entire article is worth reading, especially since it covers the unique hurdles trans people and athletes face on the road to self-actualization and competing on-field.