With efforts to discriminate growing amid an unprecedented level of anti-transgender hate spreading all around the world, Outsports is stepping-up in a brand new way. Although we typically announce awards in December, when the year winds to a close, every day for the rest of this month we are announcing a new winner of a new award.
The Outsports Triumph Awards celebrate a wide range of transgender athletes, coaches and other people working in the interest of trans competitors. Some names you know; others are only now making a name for themselves in LGBTQ sports. The first award goes to a student-athlete.
The swimmer for the Univ. of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has been watching the assault on trans athletes and hopes that living his life out in the open can open minds.
“It’s important to normalize the voices of trans athletes because so often they get talked over in the media, or they’re made to sound scary by certain groups,” Graham told Outsports. “When you can put a face to that group, it makes it a little less intimidating in people’s minds.”
It’s only in the last couple of years that Graham has come to realize that he’s trans.
For transitioning in the public’s eye, competing on his college men’s swim team and doing all of it in all in a more rural part of the country, Outsports is recognizing Graham with its first student-athlete Triumph Award, designed to bring attention to a new face in the push for trans inclusion in sports.
His team has been a big part of his triumph. Having just joined the team during the pandemic, he wasn’t sure what to expect from the other guys on the team. He’s truly found nothing but acceptance.
“Everyone on the team has been really accepting and supportive, especially the swim coach, Christopher Culp,” Graham said. “There’s just a natural acceptance with them.”
Through it all, Graham said his teammates have not misgendered him once that he has heard, even when he was wearing a women’s suit. It was while on the team in the last year that Graham has had top surgery. While he had to miss a short period of time in the water to recover from the surgery, he said his team has been incredible through it all.
“They took it all in stride and it was really awesome of them.”
Graham said the encouragement has been particularly important, as his return to the sport now years after graduating from high school swimming — and joining his first-ever men’s team — was a bit “intimidating.” Newly on hormones, he said he’s not yet up-to-speed as far as his physical capability.
Still, being part of a men’s team is deeply impactful for him.
“I’m glad to be part of it because it makes me more comfortable. It matches up with my gender identity.”
Because of the pandemic, Graham said he hasn’t had the opportunity to bond with his teammates as much as he’d like. Team gatherings aren’t exactly recommended.
He also hasn’t stepped foot in his new locker room, as it’s been off limits for the whole team. Yet the administration and coaching staff have already gotten ahead of next season and, working with Graham and team leaders, created a plan to bring him into the men’s locker room.
“Next year they’re planning on getting me a private room within the men’s locker room that I can use,” Graham said. “I think that’s a good solution because it allows me to shower and be part of that team dynamic, but when it comes to changing, so everyone is comfortable, I can have my own space.”
Click here to read more about the Triumph Awards, this year’s winners and other trans sports icons we are celebrating.
Outsports will announce another recipient of a Triumph Award tomorrow and every day this month, including on the Trans Day of Visibility on March 31.