NCAA athlete

 

Kye Allums, a transgender man, speaks about his transition from a woman to a man and experience as a former NCAA athlete during the Gender & Sexuality Center Speaker Series Thursday in Gregory Gym. 

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Former NCAA athlete Kye Allums may have received support from his coaches and teammates when he came out as a transgender man, but his journey in finding himself did not always attract positive attention.

Allums presented “The Transition Tour” through the Gender & Sexuality Center Speaker Series Thursday in Gregory Gym in an effort to fight ignorance and discrimination associated with transgenders by discussing the differences between gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. Allums discussed his transition from a woman to a man.

“Sex is what you have, gender is how you feel,” Allums said. “No one else should tell you how to express your gender. It is not a choice. It is a feeling.”

Allums attended Centennial High School in Circle Pines, Minn. At this time he was known by his original name, Kay-Kay. His mother raised him as a Jehovah’s witness. When he told her he was gay, Allums said she quoted Bible scriptures at him.

“The next day I woke up, and she took me to the hospital to get a drug test,” Allums said. “She then took me to a church and made me sign a contract afterward promising to pray more. Our relationship was never the same.”

Allums attended George Washington University after graduation to play women’s basketball. Allums received support from his coaches and teammates after coming out as a transgender man.

He said just a few months later the NCAA approved transgender policies for athletes.

According to NCAA policy, a student athlete may participate in sex-separated sports if they do not use hormone therapy. After a year of treatment, a female-to-male athlete receiving testosterone will not be eligible to compete on a women’s team and a male-to-female athlete receiving testosterone suppression will not be eligible to compete on a men’s team. Allums chose not to receive testosterone or undergo surgeries while playing for George Washington University.

“I wanted to continue to play with my team,” Allums said. “I wanted to finish playing when my teammates finished playing. I did not want to undergo hormones and be forced to play for a different team. If you cannot beat me, then it’s because you suck, not because of any hormones.”

Electrical engineering sophomore Joshua Bryant attended the lecture. He said being a student is stressful enough without fear of discrimination.

“We need to make every student feel safer in the learning environment,” Bryant said. “There does not need to be any added pressure.”

Ixchel Rosal, director of the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement, said UT has made great strides to help with the overall comfort of transgender students.

“Gender identity and gender expression have been included in the anti-discrimination policy, which is huge,” Rosal said. “There has also been an effort to create more gender-neutral restrooms on campus as well as the preferred name policy, which allows students to establish a preferred name in the classroom.”

Students can access more information about transgenderism at the Gender and Sexuality Center.

Printed on Friday, October 19, 2012 as: Ex-athlete tackles gender issues

As 6 a.m. arrives, and while many students lay blissfully unaware or dreaming in their beds, a small group of them wake up and begin preparing for their days.

The preparation begins with tying their shoes, then getting in a quick stretch or warm up. After that, they’re off, sprinting into the brisk morning cold that nips at the body as they start to stretch the muscles that are still asleep.

A 10-mile run, maybe more. Then, it’s back home for a quick shower, a bite to eat, then class, homework, meetings and finally back to bed.

It’s a life that could be mistaken for a NCAA athlete, but it’s actually led by normal students preparing for this weekend’s Austin Marathon.

The race compels people such as kinesiology freshman Alex Weidenheft and economics junior Aaron Nemzer to live slightly different lifestyles.

“You really have to have a love for [running],” Nemzer said. “It is one of those things that can help you feel really good about yourself because of the dedication it takes.”

To say you love running is the easy part. What separates this lifestyle from others is the sacrifice.

“Sleep is what I sacrifice the most,” Weidenheft said. “But along with sleep, there is also the food and time aspect. I have to keep a closer eye on the types of food I take in and how much of it. It’s almost like a full-time job.”

Runners like Weidenheft and Nemzer usually consume a diet full of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat and, most importantly, lots and lots of water. The diet is essential for a distance runner because it prevents the body from becoming ill and helps the runner concentrate, recover and perform better.

But, of course, running includes many mental and physical struggles. Nemzer and Weidenheft agreed on the general aspects of training such as paying attention to the way their feet land on the ground and the way their arms move while they run, but their specific techniques differ.

“When training, I try to focus a lot on my breathing. It is when I control my breathing that I can focus on muscle memory,” said Weidenheft, whose half-marathon this weekend is her first competitive race. “The rest is pretty easy.”

Nemzer is aiming for the full marathon with multiple 5ks, 10ks and other races under his belt.

“Other than a quick check of my feet and arms, I mostly just try to stay loose,” he said. “I try to do what feels right and focus a majority on the mental aspect. I get in the habit of talking to myself and occasionally singing to myself in order to keep that pace I want.”

The pair’s race philosophies converged once more when talking about the experience of running. The key, both agreed, is knowing what to expect from the wear and tear of an endurance race.

“Who wouldn’t want experience in this type of running?” Weidenheft said. “I’m really just nervous because I don’t want to disappoint myself.”

Nemzer, as a veteran competitor, is not as worried.

“The first time is always hard,” he said. “You question yourself and get butterflies. It is when you have been there and done it when you can get rid of the butterflies and trust yourself. Knowing you have run the miles before helps you train mentally. That X-factor relaxes you and helps you focus on what is going to push you to the next level.”

No matter the experience, personality or training technique, there is one aspect that remains the same for all runners at this weekend’s marathon — the finish line.