Transgender athletes reflect on their experiences with track teams

The+high+school+allows+students+to+be+on+the+team+that+most+identifies+with+their+gender%2C+but+when+an+athlete+switches+teams+they+must+adjust+their+training.

GRAPHIC BY LIA FOX

The high school allows students to be on the team that most identifies with their gender, but when an athlete switches teams they must adjust their training.

Regardless of poor weather or faltering energy after a long day, without fail, sophomore Chloe Barnes arrives precisely at 3:30 p.m. everyday for track practice at Downes Field ready to train. As she runs through the hurdle drills, her feet pound on the clay pavement and in the next lanes over, her teammates from the girls track team do the same. However, at meets, she competes alongside the boys track and field team. This is because Barnes wasn’t assigned female at birth and because she is fearful of the public’s response if she runs with the girls team at meets.

The girls and boys track and field teams train separately during practices but attend the same meets. Although Barnes is a member of the girls track team and field team, they said they requested to race with the boys track team in hopes of avoiding questions from spectators.

“I’m in an arrangement with my coaches where I practice with the girls team but compete on the boys team,” Barnes said. “It was more a result of me just being afraid of other people watching [me] race.”

In November 2014, the School Committee Policy Review Subcommittee outlined their policies regarding gender identity in the athletic departments in the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB).

“Students who are transgender may participate in accordance with the gender identity they consistently assert at school. Interscholastic athletic activities are addressed through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Gender Identity Policy (MIAA) clarification,” the PSB policy states.

The MIAA said during interscholastic athletic activities, they will rely on the gender determined by the student’s school district. This follows a document published by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education called Guidance for Massachusetts Public Schools Creating a Safe and Supportive School Environment – Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity.

“Where there are sex-segregated classes or athletic activities, including intramural and interscholastic athletics, all students must be allowed to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity,” the document states.

Girls track and field coach Lee Eddy said he doesn’t think the athletic department would ever oppose an athlete from participating on the team the student most identifies with and while the need for a more evolved policy arose recently, the athletic department would only support any athlete.

“Although there are laws that govern what we’re supposed to do and everything else, I don’t think Brookline would ever run afoul, even without the laws. I’m sure they would fully support any individual,” Eddy said.

Sophomore Adair Bluman also runs for the girls track and field team but said he hopes to transfer to the boys track and field team next year to match his gender identity. However, the girls and boys track and field teams have different mileage and workouts. While the distance athletes on the girls team might run 30 miles on an intense training week, the boys will run up to 45 or 50 miles.

Bluman said that he finds himself in a difficult position even though his coaches and teammates are caring and supportive.

“It’s sometimes hard for transgender people to be on a team that doesn’t match their gender identity. I feel like that is definitely hard for the people around. It would be nicer if it was easier to switch [teams],” Bluman said. “It’s difficult because I have to do all this stuff, talking with the different coaches and there’s differences in training.”

Eddy said Bluman and Barnes have become an integral part of the team’s dynamic and that he is very happy they are involved in the girls track and field team.

“We have all kinds of different people on the team with different characters, different types of people. Adair and Chloe just kind of added to the potpourri of what we have and they blend in like everybody else does in terms of being themselves, and they’re allowed to be themselves,” Eddy said. “I think it’s great and I think they’re great. I think actually we learn a lot from each other and I learn a lot from them.”

Next school year, Barnes said they won’t allow their concerns to deter them from competing with the girls team. They said they plan to compete on the girls cross country team next fall.

For people who want to restrict transgender athletes’ presence on athletic teams, Barnes has short a message.

“Deal with it,” Barnes said. “Just deal with it.”