Kye Allums: 'Got too tough to not be me'
WASHINGTON -- Kye Allums can't have the surgery, can't start taking testosterone -- not as long as he wants to keep playing basketball for the George Washington women's basketball team.
But he can change his name. He can ask people to stop calling him a woman. He can show off his mohawk, face a dozen cameras at the Smith Center after a practice and declare: "Yes, I am a male on a female team."
So, for now, part of the dream is deferred for another. Allums is choosing basketball, a 21-year-old transgender player starting his junior season on the Colonials' roster.
"It is hard," Allums said, "because I would love for everything to happen right now. But, to those who wait, good things come. So I'm waiting and just focusing on basketball and school, and it's going to come. As long as I think like that, it doesn't seem like a hard thing."
Allums' story first surfaced Monday on outsports.com, which reported that Allums "will be the first publicly transgender person" to play NCAA Division I college basketball. By Wednesday, the interest had reached the point that the university had to hold a media day just for the player formerly known as Kay-Kay Allums, giving him a chance to address the many questions that come with such a unique status.
Allums says his plan was not to come out now and just finish his GW basketball career first.
But plans change.
"It got too tough. It got too tough to not be me," Allums said. "People would call me a girl and say, 'she' and refer to me as someone I knew I wasn't."
In high school in suburban Minneapolis, Allums decided he was perhaps a lesbian, but the transgender thoughts were triggered when his mother, during a testy back-and-forth, texted him the message: "Who do you think you are, young lady?"
Maybe, Allums felt, he wasn't a young lady after all.
"Before that, I was one of those people who would look down upon 'trans' or whatever," Allums said. "And I was like, 'How could you feel like that?' But when my mom sent me that text message, and I was like, 'Wow, I'm one of those weird people I was talking about.' And I actually looked it up, looked more into it, and that was just me."
Allums talked about the "two boxes" of male and female, and how he feels he belongs in the box marked "male." He started telling teammates and coach Mike Bozeman, but telling mom was the hard one.
"I wrote her an e-mail explaining everything," Allums said. "I took me 15 minutes to write it, and it took me about five hours to send it."
It took about two days for Allums' mother to deal with the news, but Allums said he's received nothing but support from both her biological family and her GW family. He's been part of the team's locker room bond for two years, averaging 6.2 points in 37 games, and Bozeman and team captain Ivy Aviona said that won't change.
It got too tough to not be me. People would call me a girl and say, 'she' and refer to me as someone I knew I wasn't.” --Kye Allums
"My initial reaction was that I support Kye to make that decision," Bozeman said. "I'm a basketball coach, that's what I do. My players are a basketball family, and I just immediately felt I needed to support Kye in any way possible -- as I would any other student-athlete under my watch."
NCAA rules say "a female who wants to be socially identified as a male but has not undergone hormone treatments or surgery may complete on a women's team." NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said it is left up to the school to determine an athlete's gender designation.
Allums considered having his surgery and treatments now -- and then playing on a man's team.
"I thought about it," Allums said. "That wasn't really my goal. Maybe for somebody else."
Allums shrugged his shoulders while answering many questions, looking relaxed and comfortable with his decision to go public. He knows he'll be a lightning rod for taunts by opposing fans -- but he also knows he can be a role model.
"I wanted to set an example for other people who are afraid to be themselves," Allums said.
Allums knows there are stereotypes associated with women who play sports, and that he could be reinforcing those stereotypes. He was already getting taunts in high school and college before telling people he was transgender.
"People come up with all kinds of crazy stuff, but the only thing you can do is just be clear with what is actually happening, and that's what I'm trying to do," Allums said. Don't "fear what you don't understand and actually look at things to understand it. Yes, transgender, there's so many different things people think it is, but actually look it up.
"Do research, don't just assume something. ... Feeling-wise -- how I feel on the inside -- I feel as if I should have been born male with male parts, but my biological sex is female, which makes me a transgender male."
It just so happens that George Washington opens its season Nov. 13 against Green Bay in a tournament at Minneapolis. While much of the focus will be on Allums' homecoming, the coach is ready to move on and talk basketball.
"This subject is going to be closed, as far as I'm concerned, after this," Bozeman said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press