You know the names: Mack Beggs. Andraya Yearwood. Sarah Huckman. They are three transgender high school athletes whose desires to compete athletically became front page news, and centerpieces of the roiling debate surrounding trans inclusion in sports.
They are also the stars of a new Hulu documentary, “Changing The Game,” which allows them to portray themselves in their own words — free from political campaigns and propaganda.
The doc premiers on Hulu June 1 — just in time for Pride Month. It was first screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019.
“What just often gets missed is the humanity of the people targeted by bills and policies,” said Alex Schmider, the Associate Director of Transgender Representation for GLAAD and one of the documentary’s producers. “We lose sight of the fact that these are kids just wanting to play and be themselves. Why shouldn’t they have that opportunity?”
Director Michael Barnett started working on “Changing The Game” five years ago, when a young person in his life was starting to transition. Barnett began researching transgender issues, and came across Beggs’ story. Since Beggs was assigned female at birth, he was forced to wrestle against girls in high school, thanks to Texas’ atavistic state laws.
In 2017, Beggs found himself in the headlines when he won the Texas girls’ 110-pound championship. The following year, he captured another state title, defeating the same cisgender female in the finals.
Along the way, Beggs was vocal about his desire to compete against boys, but the state of Texas was holding him back. “Changing the Game” chronicles his battle for recognition.
“I’m not doing it for anybody else. I’m doing it for me,” Beggs says in the film. “That’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Yearwood’s success as a high school track star in Connecticut also invited scorn from anti-trans activists, and for the last year, she was a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom. (A federal judge dismissed the suit last month.)
Today, Yearwood is an activist for the rights of transgender athletes. She’s far more than a name in a court filing.
“We noticed in making our film that media was only interested in telling one specific narrative about trans young people and trans athletes, which is that there is such controversy when they’re winning,” said Schmider, who is transgender. “But what we never see is when a trans athlete is not winning, when they are just participating, there’s never any media coverage around that.”
That’s the story of Huckman, a transgender athlete from small-town New Hampshire who was originally born in Cambodia and adopted alongside her twin brother when she was seven months old. She credits sports with saving her life.
“If I didn’t have sports to clear my mind, I don’t think I would be here today,” Huckman says.
Above all else, Schmider says he hopes the project portrays the highlighted athletes as who they are: Kids.
“For a lot of marginalized communities, innocence is taken away at such an early age, because you either have to be standing in front of state legislators defending your humanity, or you just know how dangerous and violent the world can be because you simply exist as the person you are,” he said. “So part of that for us was just showing them in their communities, in their schools, with their friends, being the kids that they deserve to be, but sometimes don’t get the opportunity to be.”
Find out more information on “Changing the Game” here.