Trans athlete tells story
Written by TARA KELLER Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:08
People change the radio station simply because they don’t like the song. For Kye Allums, that same feeling can be said for changing gender.
|Kye Allums, first transgender NCAA basketball athlete, speaking to students at BGSU Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
"I like to equate gender to music," Allums said. "Music is about feeling. Gender is a feeling."
Last night, Allums explained why he changed his "song" to a group of about 40 people at Bowling Green State University's Coming Out Week.
Allums was born female, but after starting elementary school, discovered he wanted to identify himself as male.
"When I was young, I knew two things," he said. "One - I loved people. And two, I was a boy."
This discovery eventually led him to become the first transgender NCAA basketball athlete.
This discovery wasn't easy.
After coming out to his mother, she sent him to the hospital to be tested for drugs, because she thought that was the source of his decision.
Upon learning her daughter now wanted to be called a son, Allums said his mom wasn't comfortable with the change and still struggles with it.
"We killed our relationship," he said. "Now all our conversations are just on the surface."
Years later, Allums was accepted into George Washington University in Washington D.C. on a full athletic scholarship, and made the decision to change his name and take testosterone.
The reactions from his female teammates surprised him.
"They didn't understand at first, but then they embraced it," Allums said. "I never in a million years thought my team of sisters would embrace me as a brother."
The administration allowed Allums, who was now legally considered a man, to continue playing on the women's basketball team.
Because of the unique situation, Allums captured the attention of national media outlets like ESPN.
However, Allums didn't like the way ESPN told his story, and he made himself a promise.
Through his organization "I Am Enough," Allums helps other people tell their stories the way ESPN couldn't do for him - using their own words and information they're comfortable sharing.
"I don't want to tell your story," Allums said. "I want you to tell your story."
Telling stories about the LGBT community is exactly why Vision president Luke Grabski wanted Allums to be the keynote speaker at Coming Out Week.
"I was at a conference and he was there. He really popped out to me," Grabski said. "I love how animated he is, and he gave such a fun face to a transgendered person."
For BGSU student Lexie Schmidt, attending the event was helpful in two important ways.
She received extra credit for a class, but also gained insight into a community she didn't know much about.
"I'm a psychology major and I want to work with struggling teens," Schmidt said. "I'm learning a lot, and it's all interesting."
That reaction is why Allums said he travels the country to educate people.
"We need more 'transvisibility,'" he said. "Some think transgendered people are monsters. We're not. We're people."
Allums told the audience he hoped his story would encourage others to change their own song.
"I wasn't taking testosterone to become a man. I was taking it to be more comfortable with myself," he said. "I'm happier now because this is who I am."