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Access to athletic programs is important for trans youth

Still, during this legislative session alone, at least 75 anti-transgender athlete bills were introduced across more than 30 states. Many of these bills target kids as young as pre-K age. These young trans kids could benefit tremendously from friendships with teammates and the guidance of caring coaches. That’s what I remember most about youth sports: the incredible community.

Following my introduction to athletics via toddler soccer, I explored other sports: T-ball, tennis, basketball, cross country, track and field, and field hockey. My natural athleticism combined with my competitive spirit benefitted me immensely, but my best memories are not my times, stats, or win-loss record. My best memories are passing around orange slices during halftime at soccer games; singing on the bus ride to cross country meets; introducing my running mentor (who I absolutely idolized) to my mom for the first time; and celebrating the end of our field hockey season with a team potluck. Years after I stopped competing in sports, my memories are not about my athletic performance—they are about my athletics family.

As a teenager, I struggled immensely with my mental health. I was that one out of two transgender and nonbinary youth who seriously considered suicide. I missed a month of my sophomore year of high school and nearly two months of my senior year due to severe depression and anxiety. It was my teammates and coaches who got me through. Even when I tried to push them away so they would not see me so vulnerable, my teammates and coaches kept reaching out. They lifted me up when I felt I was not worthy of anyone’s support.

After years of suppressing my true self and fearing that I would lose the unwavering support of my athletics community, I came out as transgender. The first two people I told were teammates on my college field hockey team. With their support, I reached out to my head coach. I knew my teammates had my back even if my coach did not. Luckily, my coach was incredible and remains to this day one of my fiercest supporters. Though I was forced to quit field hockey to receive the life-saving gender-affirming health care I need, my athletics family has never left my side. When I was hospitalized for mental health reasons, it was my coach who picked me up at the end of treatment. When anxiety and gender-related imposter syndrome overwhelmed me, it was my teammates who listened to me talk as we walked circles around campus for hours into the night.

My team and I are with each other through the good times, too: winning the conference championship, bragging about each others’ accomplishments, and now celebrating the wedding of the first teammate I came out to. I am here and alive and thriving today because of and alongside my athletics family. All trans and nonbinary kids should share that experience.

What can we do to achieve this? Fight for the inclusion of trans kids in sports. Educate yourself. Follow trans and nonbinary athletes on social media. Call and write to lawmakers about inclusive legislation. Speak out when you witness a trans person getting harassed. Proactively create a trans-inclusive team culture so kids feel safe coming out.

Sport has the unique power of bringing people together in an environment of unparalleled support and camaraderie. It gives kids the space to figure out who they are, to challenge themselves to be better, to learn how to fail and keep going, and to know what true friendship is. Every kid deserves that space.

My ask is simple: Let kids play.

Prism is a BIPOC-led non-profit news outlet that centers the people, places, and issues currently underreported by national media. We’re committed to producing the kind of journalism that treats Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other invisibilized groups as the experts on our own lived experiences, our resilience, and our fights for justice. Sign up for our email list to get our stories in your inbox, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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