Fordham University in The Bronx, N.Y., has a lot to brag about when it comes to an alum from the Class of 2020 who wore a jersey with “Cavanaugh” printed on the back:
- Started in all 32 games as a junior
- Finished season with 100 consecutive starts since arriving on Rose Hill, before the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic
- Team captain
- Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and First Team member
- ECAC and MBWA First Team
- WBCA All-America Regional Finalist and Honorable Mention
- Named to A-10 All-Championship team
- Won Fordham’s Hobbs Family award for the top female student-athlete
Although Bryson Cavanaugh came out to the world as transgender in an Instagram post on October 7, he came out to his girlfriend and then his parents back home in New Jersey last month.
“They’re fully supportive,” Cavanaugh told Outsports. But at first, he wasn’t sure what his girlfriend’s reaction might be.
“I was afraid to tell her. I was like, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know.’ I worried she might drop me,” he said in our phone conversation. “I was kind of nervous to tell her, but I did, and she said, ‘I don’t care. I love you no matter what.’ And she wants to be a part of the process. It’s not everyday you find someone like that. So I was definitely very happy, and relieved.“
A week later, Cavanaugh told his mom and dad. And then he decided that was enough for awhile.
“I really didn’t come out to my family or anybody else,” said the former WBB guard. “I posted on Instagram, and that was basically me coming out to everybody. Nobody had any idea.”
Fortunately, Cavanaugh said, reaction was almost universally positive.
“It turned out pretty great. I got so much positive feedback,” he said. “A bunch of people reached out to me from the basketball world, different colleges.” While the 24-year-old said he was prepared for all the changes that coming out entails, he wasn’t expecting a few responses that were, frankly, tactless.
“I’ve heard some people say, ‘I’m shocked!” Cavanaugh recalled. “I don’t really care. I’m really good with not caring about what people think, say, do. I’m the type of person, I don’t give a shit if you’re unsatisfied.”
And then there were the curious few who pressed for explanations.
“They asked me so many questions about, ‘When did you decide this?’ But it’s not a matter of when you decide,” said Cavanaugh. “Growing up, I believed I was a boy, starting at age 7, and I told my parents that. They told me, ‘You’re not a boy,’ and I of course replied, ‘I’m a boy!’ But after that, I kept it to myself. I was really good at basketball and I knew basketball was going to get me where I needed to be, whether it was a free education, or, leading me to the job I want.”
That job he wants is in law enforcement. Cavanaugh said he is pursuing his masters degree after graduating in August, and he currently works as a security guard. I asked him about this summer’s wave of protests nationwide against police, and why, as a Black man, he would pursue a career that critics say is an integral part of systemic, institutionalized racism. With all that going on, why does he want to become a cop?
“To protect all,” he said.
Cavanaugh chose law enforcement and living authentically over basketball, even though he said he was on track to be drafted by the WNBA. “I worked my ass off to get those awards!” he said. “I was on track to 2-thousand points. I made Fordham history. I was preparing myself to be drafted, even though I didn’t really want to, but I was still going to give it a shot because I was good enough to be drafted.
“I’ll be honest: I like basketball. I don’t love it, not to the point where it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. A lot of people are shocked by that, but I mean, it is what it is.”
Cavanaugh stopped playing in his senior year at Fordham so as to begin his medical transition. He’s already seeing some effects, but looks forward to many more changes ahead. And he counts among his supporters his biological brother; Their parents adopted both of them when they were little. Cavanaugh said he’s talked about the possibility his brother may transition from male to female, too.
“I told him, ‘If you’re unsure, then don’t do it.’ This is not something you just ‘choose’ one day, There’s no going back once you do it!”
If you are out in sports in any capacity as openly LGBTQ and want to be featured in Outsports, drop Jim an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.