First openly transgender NCAA athlete speaks
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 00:10
The GLBT Resource Center welcomed Kye Allums as the keynote speaker Thursday night for A&M’s celebration of Coming Out week, a week dedicated to the encouragement of honest living in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity. The event, held in the ILSB Auditorium, was meant to highlight issues faced by transgender students.
Allums, the first “out” transgender person to play in an NCAA Division I sport on George Washington University’s basketball team, focused on understanding what it means to be transgender, as well as his experiences with discovering who he was. He began by drawing a parallel between his gender identity and music.
“People think that being trans is a look,” Allums said. “Trans is not a look, it’s a feeling. I like to equate gender to music. Whenever you hear a song, you feel something. When you feel something, you make a choice to either listen to the song, or not listen to the song. I’m not choosing to feel a certain way.”
The former athlete detailed his personal journey, starting from early childhood.
“When I was five, I knew two things,” Allums said. “I knew that I was attracted to people, and I knew that I was a boy.”
Allums shared his tale, including the reactions of his family and friends as he slowly started to understand who he was throughout his middle and high school years.
“My mom and a lot of older people said, ‘Oh no, you have to be this way,’ because this is what you have,” Allums said. “You sound this way. Your hair is like this. You have to behave this way.”
After being bullied for being different and wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts in elementary school, Allums said he tried to conform to what society thought he should look like.
“I was sick of getting picked on, so I tried to fit in,” Allums said. “I tried to be all pretty.”
However, even after trying to fit in, Allums said kids wouldn’t fully accept him.
“I felt like I couldn’t fit in at all,” he said. “I tried to be who you wanted me to be. That didn’t work. I tried to be who I wanted to be. That didn’t work. Who am I? What do I do?”
Allums also detailed his high school years, specifically how he tried to conform to the label of being gay, as well as his mother finding out he was attracted to women. Allums spoke of a girl who told him he was gay the first day of school, and how he tried to embody that label.
“Once I had a label, I owned that label,” Allums said.
When his mother found out he was seeing women, she didn’t take it as well as Allums would have hoped. He detailed an uncomfortable encounter after coming home, which included reading the Bible and a ride to the hospital to check for drugs. In the end, Allums’ mother elected to change his high school in the hopes that it might make him change, but introduced new hurdles for him to jump.
“I had to go to a suburban school with 3,000 kids,” Allums said. “I felt really overwhelmed. Everybody was looking at me like I was a monster.”
It was in high school that Allums discovered his natural basketball talent, where he became good enough to draw the attention of multiple colleges. When he arrived at GWU, Allums was finally able to discover who he was.
“When I got there I felt free, I felt like I didn’t have think about my mom and whether or not she was listening at my door,” Allums said.
It was in college that Allums finally understood who he was, mostly through attending a human sexuality panel at GWU, where another transgender man shared his own story. When Allums came out to his team, he said that they were extremely supportive.
“I never knew that a word or a pronoun could be so much,” Allums said. "I didn’t teach them how to be allies, they just did what I asked, because it made me happy.”
Allums stressed the importance of creating visibility for transgender people and issues.
“We don’t see enough trans people in the world, we don’t get to hear from them, we don’t get to see them,” Allums said.
Allums speaks in colleges all over the country, and has begun to branch out to high schools and middle schools.
“This year, I wanted to take it to the next level, and get back to the kids,” Allums said. “I’ve been able to talk to ten high schools so far, and a couple middle schools “I go directly to those classes with those student who are bullying kids. Every single time I have walked away with those kids wanting to hang out with me afterwards.”