Volleyball

A Transgender Volleyball Players’ Path to an NCAA Women’s Team | Identify

(IN 2016, THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE RULED THAT TRANSGENDER ATHLETES COULD COMPETE WITHOUT UNDERGOING SURGERY.) (THIS POLICY MADE HISTORY IN THE SPORTS WORLD, WELCOMING A NEW GENERATION OF ATHLETES INTO THE OLYMPIC FAMILY.) (CHLOE ANDERSON WAS RECENTLY ACCEPTED AS AN NCAA ATHLETE. SHE WILL BE ONE OF THE NEWEST MEMBERS ON THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA CRUZ VOLLEYBALL TEAM.) (THIS IS HER STORY.) The best way I can describe it, when I was a kid, and it’s your birthday and you have your cake with all the candles in front of you, and people always tell you to make a wish, and blow out the candles, well, I cannot explain why it was my wish, but I had always wanted to be a girl. It was just something that I had always wanted. (IDENTIFY) (LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA) (AUGUST 17TH) (AFTER TWO YEARS AT SANTA ANA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, CHLOE IS PREPARING TO LEAVE HER HOMETOWN AND TRANSFER TO UCSC.) I would say volleyball came very naturally to me.

It really helped me get through high school. A lot of high school, I was not having a very good time. – How’ve you been? – I’m good. I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you too, my little baby. You want to have some lunch? – Sure, yeah. Sounds good. – OK. So that’s Chloe’s graduation picture. – Haven’t seen that very often. – No. Chloe, you know, through middle school and stuff, super athletic and everything, which was great, but Chloe barely made it through high school. I mean, seriously, by the skin of her teeth. When I hit middle school, I started to get really sad because I realised that I was hitting puberty, and I absolutely hated the way my body was changing. I wanted, you know, to be more feminine. I wanted to be a girl. Looking back, I had absolutely no care about anything. I didn’t want to be at school, I had no desire to do homework. I ended up getting kicked off the volleyball team my junior year, because my grades had dropped so low.

I realised that what I was feeling was being transgender. I really just didn’t want to exist. – You want a Coke or something? – Sure. – Yeah, I’ll take one. – OK. Here. Is that a… What is that, grapefruit juice? Grapefruit juice. Mind if I have some of that with the Coke? No. Whatever you want. When I came out to my mom, it was pretty funny. I came out immediately after getting off the plane from when I was living in Texas. I was picking Chloe up at the airport, and that’s when Chloe told me, “I’ve got to follow my true essence “of who I am as a person.” You know of course you’re like, “Uh, what?” As a parent you’re wondering, “Oh, my gosh.” You know? Initially she was really upset and I think confused, and she didn’t have a very positive initial reaction, and it took her a while to really come around to accept me.

I’m going to miss you being gone, I mean, it’s been tough and you need some support, and… I’m definitely glad that you’ve been there. A lot of issues I’ve had over the years. Once Chloe talked to me, and I was able to embrace it, and I stopped trying to convince her to not do that, and I just stopped making it about me – cos it’s not about me, it’s about Chloe and living her best life, and then I saw the wonderful things that she was doing… How could you not support somebody to be their best person in life? She was the first major supportive family member I had. So are you getting excited to play volleyball and…? Yeah, I think it’ll be…it’ll be fun.

It’ll be an experience. It was pretty nice to have my mom being supportive. She came out to a few of my volleyball games, and it was great. She’s a very loud whistler, so it’s very easy to spot when she’s at a game. – Love you. – I love you too. – Drive careful. Bye. Transitioning has definitely had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve had some of the lowest lows since starting, and some of the highest highs since starting. It’s…been a lot of mixed feelings. There’s a lot of people that made me not feel like I was welcomed, and there was a lot of average everyday things that made me feel like I was distant or in a different world than everyone else. (SANTA ANA, CA COMMUNITY COLLEGE) (HIGHLIGHT FOOTAGE) I originally wanted to play for a college team.

When I realised I was doing fairly all right in a community college team, I figured that I’d try and push for an NCAA team because it’s taking it to the next level, and it’s trying to prove not only, like, to myself but to everyone that told me I couldn’t do it, that I could. I had looked up schools in different divisions, and of the division two schools that I spoke out to, only a few responded when I disclosed that I was trans. Very quickly I got rejections.

I don’t know if it’s connected or not. The myth that trans athletes, specifically transgender women, have an advantage in sports, I feel like it’s kind of a fear. It’s an unfounded scientific fear. Growing up your whole life, going through puberty, you’re kind of understanding how your body works, you know, you get used to it. Well, transitioning is like going through puberty backwards, the other direction, twice as far. There’s a noticeable difference in my athleticism. For the first few months on hormones, like, I had a lot of muscle pains and my shoulders would hurt a lot, and I realised it’s all my male muscle going away. It was pretty challenging at first just having all my muscle basically melt off my body. I definitely can’t jump as high as I used to.

I’m driving to meet some friends out for dinner, since it’s the last time I’ll be able to see them for a while. – How are you guys? – Hey. – Hi. – Hi. How are you? I’m going to miss you all a lot. Awww! It’s really not an easy process having a good friend group, and having people to be there helps me transition easier, cos without that sort of scaffolding, I feel like it would be a lot harder for me to pursue what I wanted to do. I’ll see you all soon. – Very soon. – There she goes… (AUGUST 18TH) (MORNING OF CHLOE’S MOVE TO UCSC) It’s funny, the last thing I grabbed before leaving was actually my, uh, Dungeons & Dragons dice set.

I was thinking, I’m like, “If we’re gonna play D&D up at college…” All righty. It’s, um, 5:52. So almost am. I woke up a little early, and just sat in bed and stared at the ceiling. Like, “Go back to sleep for the last ten minutes!” And I couldn’t seem to do it. Should take us anywhere from six to maybe seven and a half hours. (SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA) We’re currently in Santa Cruz. The drive was, uh, tiring, but overall it wasn’t too bad. This campus is literally on a redwood, like, national forest. So I think we’re going the right way. I have no idea. We shall see! All right. Cool. I think my biggest concerns with having a new team is just making a new relationship with the coach, making a new relationship with my team-mates, and some of them can speculate if I’m trans or not, I have no idea. Well, the first person I spoke to about going to Santa Cruz was Coach Morgan.

(COACH MORGAN) (UC SANTA CRUZ VOLLEYBALL) Chloe e-mailed me, and she said, “I’m a junior college transfer “and I’m really looking at UC Santa Cruz,” and I think in the same e-mail was when she told me that she was also a transgender athlete. Because I had gotten rejected from division two schools really early in the fall semester, I wanted to make it very clear for the schools I was interested in D three that I was just going to disclose it immediately. UC Santa Cruz does have a very open environment, and we really try to make that known. I sent her some footage of me playing, and she was really interested in me. What I noticed with Chloe was that she’s a strong volleyball player. She has a lot of power, and she’s also tall. We’re going to follow the trail around a little bit to the McHenry Library where the team meeting is.

(CHLOE ATTENDS HER FIRST NCAA TEAM MEETING OF THE SEASON) (AUGUST 19TH) (MORNING OF FIRST TEAM PRACTICE) Last night, at the very end of the team meeting, Coach Morgan was like, “I think we should come out to the team tonight.” and I was like, “I’m not prepared for this, “but…sure, that’s fine, I’m cool with it.” And the team read an article that I had written… (THIS TRANSGENDER COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL PLAYER (IS HEADED TO THE NCAA) ..and at the very end, after everyone had read it, Coach Morgan told the team that I had written the article, and that I am a trans athlete.

I was kind of, you know, shaking my legs a little, fiddling with my hands… because I wasn’t sure how the reaction would be. And there was just silence. And I’m just sitting there like, “Oh, no, I hope this isn’t a negative reaction,” but it wasn’t. It was just me overthinking things. We all read Chloe’s article. I think most of us had already read the article cos we’d met her at tryouts, and so you look up your team-mates on Facebook. Coming here, like, it’s really more of an open community and like, open-mindedness, it’s like a big aspect of the, like, college here. I don’t think, like, anyone on our team has anything like, “Oh, my gosh, “she’s transgender.” I don’t think that was ever the talk between any of us. It was more of just looking at her as another person that’s coming and trying to take, like, your playing time.

The only question I got afterwards, the funniest question I could have been asked, was, “Are you an English major? “Cos this is really well written,” and it was like, “Oh… Thank you.” UCSC is a very liberal campus, I think you either get the programme or get out. You either accept it or you’re not welcome here cos we include everyone. Today we’re practising as a team, but there’s also going to be a few little preliminary exercises and whatnot.

I’m just so fortunate that my entire team has been so supportive, and there wasn’t any awkwardness. Everyone was just, “OK.” And that’s honestly the greatest feeling ever. I’m just excited to finally go out and play with the volleyball. Hearing them talk about going to nationals, and I can’t believe that it’s actually come to this point, and that I made it this far. Cruz on three.

One, two, three, Cruz! Knowing that everything is at the point that it’s at is absolutely amazing. All my life dreams are literally coming true. I never expected any of them to. – Bye, Chloe. – Bye. See you tomorrow. It’s hard to describe to people how happy it makes me to be here. At the end of the day I’m just a person that loves volleyball, and I want to play it.

I just love the sport that I play, and want to try and continue to do it, so I just keep pushing to make sure I do..

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