SCHUYLER BAILAR MAKES A SPLASH!
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MARCH - APRIL 2021 COMPETESPORTSDIVERSITY.COM FEATURE 18 Amazin LêThi Talks With Schuyler Bailar 16 Fallon Fox and Chris Mosier: Proving Trans Athletes Don’t Have A Physical Advantage 28 Caster Semenya: Raising Questions of Gender as Only Binary MVP 24 Kaylee Parker LEGENDS 26 RuPaul and the Transgender Community HEALTH 34 “Biohack Your Brain” FROM COMPETENETWORK.COM 36 Nong Toom (Parinya Charoenphol) Fights Transgender Stereotypes Figuratively and Literally GYM BAG 38 Hot Items You Shouldn’t Do Without EVENTS 40 Compete Calendar of Events FIT & FAB 42 Are You Making These Fitness Mistakes? BEDROOM SPORTS 44 What I’d Like More of in 2021
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MILLENNIAL ON SPORTS
DO TRANSGENDER ATHLETES HAVE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE?
here have been lots of discussion and debate surrounding the inclusion of transgender athletes in sports for several years now. Through all my research and the many articles I’ve written on this topic as well as my background in exercise science and sport psychology, my conclusion has always remained the same – there is no valid evidence that athletes who identify as transgender have any kind of unfair advantage. Physiological and anatomical attributes that would create any kind of noticeable advantage for the large majority of athletes worldwide are simply moot. Whether it’s in youth, high school, college or recreational sports, differences in performance are attributable to the level and volume of training as well as the competitive experience of each athlete. Specific sport types are well known to favor certain body types. These differences, however, only tend to become relevant when the performance margin becomes smaller, something that occurs as the sport becomes increasingly competitive and elite. For example, tall swimmers with long arms and a long torso have an advantage but the advantage only becomes useful when they approach higher levels of competition where only hundredths of a second determine the difference between first and last place. All the arguments debating “biology” and “physiology” regarding performance advantages of trans athletes versus cisgender athletes on the basis of biological sex are moot – there is no statistical evidence to support any such conclusion. Any physiological differences can just as easily be attributed to individual differences within a generalized population. When compared to Earth’s cumulative population since 1896, every athlete who has ever competed at the modern Olympic Games would be considered a statistical outlier. Yet while transgender athletes have been eligible to compete at the Olympics since 2004, not one openly trans athlete has ever competed (Tokyo may be the first). And if you cast a wider net to include all world champion events, there is only one openly transgender athlete I’m aware of who has won a world championship in their sport. But did this athlete have a competitive advantage over their cisgender competitors? Forget arguments regarding the biology and physiology of the transition process; let’s look solely at performance statistics.
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In 2019 Veronica Ivy, formerly known as Rachel McKinnon, a Canadian philosophy professor, competitive cyclist and transgender rights activist took to the track for the UCI Master's Cycling World Championship in the women’s age 35-39 sprint final. Upon winning her gold medal, she set off a firestorm from people challenging the validity of her win. Yet none of these people bothered to look at Ivy’s actual results nor those of her competitors. For her gold medal win Ivy posted a time of 12.509 seconds and 12.325 seconds in her first two heats; fast enough to best her opponent (Ivy is listed as McKinnon). The winner of the bronze medal final posted a time of 12.818 and 12.296. Note the second time of the cisgender bronze medalist of 12.296 is faster than Ivy’s second time of 12.325 but these respective races were for gold and bronze medals based on their placement during the prelims and semifinals in accordance with the tournament design. Had the athlete who posted a 12.296 raced against Ivy’s 12.325 then Ivy would have lost that specific heat. If you continue to compare Ivy’s fastest times of 12.509 and 12.325 seconds with the cisgender winners in other age divisions shown on the Cycling Masters website for the 2019 finals, her potential outcomes show a mixed result: F35-39-Gold; F40-44-Gold; F45-49-Tie Breaker; F50-54-Silver; F55-59-Tie Breaker. Basically, Ivy’s performance doesn’t show any clear advantage over her cisgender competitors. In fact, her times are all within the same performance margin as her competitors, meaning her actual gold medal win is more attributable to the quality and volume of her training and racing strategy than from her being transgender. While I acknowledge that one anecdotal case isn’t enough to make an argument about an entire population, to date Ivy is the only transgender athlete I’m aware of to win a gold medal at a world championship.
Dirk Smith (he, him, his), SDL Sports Editor email@example.com @competedirk
Transgender Athletes Should be Allowed to Play: Trans Females are Female; Trans Males are Male! Why are unconscionable attacks being perpetrated against transgender student-athletes in at least 28 states in the U.S.? Because as I see it, within the entire LGBTQIA+ community, the trans population has always been the most vulnerable and at risk since they’re the least understood. And because of that, they’re the biggest target for attack, especially trans women of color. In trying to protect their version of “polite society,” the far right has tried various wedge issues to keep the LGBTQIA+ community from attaining basic civil rights – marriage equality, bathroom bills, puberty blockers – none gained much legal traction. But the latest wedge issue being pushed by the GOP is banning transgender female student-athletes from participating in female sports, mostly at the middle and high school levels. The overall campaigns of the many U.S. states now passing these anti-trans bills talk about protecting the “fairness” of women’s sports but it’s just transphobia in a more nuanced form. What it boils down to is a campaign that trades on old cultural mores – males are the stronger sex; ergo male athleticism is stronger and better. Being the weaker sex, females, therefore need strong male protection in every area of their lives, including sports competition; ergo they should be protected from competing against biological males, aka, trans females. Like I said – IT’S TRANSPOHBIA! First of all, there are very few trans athletes competing in sports, especially at the middle and high school levels. Transgender athletes have been permitted to compete in the Olympics since 2004 and in 2011 the NCAA created its Transgender Handbook for athletes. Those that have been and are now competing have been doing so without the dire consequences declared by the far-right politicians pushing the issue. So while lawmakers have gone seemingly crazy in 2021 passing these bills to “protect women’s sports,” none of them talked with any transgender athletes or their families about the issues involved nor did they know of any problems in their states. It's a solution in search of a problem! Jack Turban, child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine who researches the mental health of transgender youth, wrote the following in the March 16 issue of the “Scientific American”: “While we haven’t seen an epidemic of transgender girls dominating sports leagues, we have seen high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide attempts. Research highlights that a major driver of these mental health problems is rejection of someone’s gender identity. Forcing trans youth to play on sports teams that don’t match their identity will worsen these disparities… Legislators” he continues, “need to work on the issues that truly impact young people and women’s sports — lower pay to female athletes, less media coverage for women’s sports and cultural environments that lead to high dropout rates for diverse athletes — instead of manufacturing problems and ‘solutions’ that hurt the kids we are supposed to be protecting.” We’ve known since at least 2004 when the International Olympics Committee approved a set of rules governing the right for trans athletes to play on teams of their identified gender that trans women have no physical advantage over cisgender women. Regrettably, this deeply political push is one that has finally gained real traction with the American public without legislators seemingly looking at any of the short-and long-term consequences of their legal actions. If politics as blood sport is your life’s obsession, have at it. But when you’re so caught up that your obsession is to win at all costs, including the health, safety and general welfare of transgender children unable to fend for themselves, then you need to seriously question your value system! This issue contains stories on Fallon Fox and Chris Mosier, two trailblazing transgender athletes, an interview with swimmer and recent trans man, Schuyler Bailar; and a story on legendary LGBTQIA+ icon, RuPaul and his growth thanks to the trans community. But we’ve also included an article on elite runner Caster Semenya who is intersex. Most people have no idea what an intersex athlete is but may have heard about all the legal turmoil Semenya and other intersex athletes like her have gone through and then think it means transgender athletes. In order to reduce and eventually eliminate the confusion and stigma attached to being trans and intersex, we need to do a better job at educating people in a positive, non-threatening way that gender really isn’t binary. As humans, we’re all complex, messy beings both inside and out. But that’s what makes us so interesting and endearing. Please open your hearts, your minds and your arms and give someone a big hug today (virtual, of course until everyone is vaccinated ).
Connie Wardman (she, her, hers), M.A., SDLT firstname.lastname@example.org @CompeteConnie
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We Are All In This Together THE GLOBAL LEADER IN SPORTS DIVERSITYTM
When I first started Compete in 2006, the original idea was to bring people together. Since then, our vision statement has been “To Unite the World Through Sports.” I always think my team does a good job of that, and I think this issue is an especially good example of us racing toward our vision. Compete brings people together every day in our magazine, at CompeteNetwork.com, at our live and virtual events and through our Sports Diversity Council. It’s not really a job for any of us —it’s truly a passion! With this issue I get to look back at how we’ve all grown as a sports community. I‘m grateful to those who came before Compete and those who have risen to the challenge of furthering sports diversity since. While I have always been open and accepting of everyone, it has been athletes like Molly Lenore, Chris Mosier and Fallon Fox in particular who, from the beginning have informed and shaped Compete’s positive coverage of transgender athletes. When Connie Wardman suggested we dedicate this issue to transgender athletes, the entire team rallied behind the idea. Connie is a visionary leader, someone who has really been key in making sure Compete stays on mission and true to our vision. The Compete team celebrates all individuals who want to play sports and recognizes that we all have a place at this important table. So please accept my personal invitation to take a seat and join us. With You,
PUBLISHER/CEO Eric Carlyle email@example.com COMPETE SPORTS DIVERSITY Editor-in-Chief Connie Wardman firstname.lastname@example.org Sports Editor Dirk Smith email@example.com Community Editor at Large Ty Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director Heather Brown email@example.com Contributors Ryan Adams, Harry Andrew, Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, Matt Boyles, Ian Colgate, Ryan Evans, Jared Garduno, Heron Gonzales, Catherine (CJ) Kelly, Miriam Latto, Kevin Majoros, Ryan O'Connor, Brian Patrick, Jerry Del Priore, K.C. Wang-Daniels, Naomi "Bez" Zebro Staff Photographer Ariel Stevens firstname.lastname@example.org Vice President Jared Garduno email@example.com Administration Bethany Harvat firstname.lastname@example.org Director, Sales & Partnerships Trayer Martinez email@example.com Jerilyn Hanhardt firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright © 2021 MEDIA OUT LOUD, LLC All Rights Reserved. Compete Unites the World Though SportsTM All Mail PO Box 2756, Scottsdale, AZ 85252 • (800) 489-1274 Corporate Office 6991 East Camelback Road, Suite D-300, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 Compete is a trademark of Media Out Loud, LLC
Eric Carlyle (He, Him, His), SDLT Publisher/CEO email@example.com @CompeteEric
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Sports Diversity Leadership Council, Sports Diversity Leader and SDL are trademarks of Media Out Loud, LLC. Subscribe to Compete Magazine online at CompeteSportsDiversity.com
As an early leader in the sports diversity movement, Compete Magazine normally gives out High Fives to deserving athletes, teams, leagues, organizations and corporations as well as high profile celebrities for their contributions to promote diversity, inclusion, equality and acceptance for all.
DR. RACHEL LEVINE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES … for being the first openly transgender female individual to be confirmed by the Senate in a 52-48 vote, also making her the highest-ranking transgender federal official. Previously she was secretary of health for Pennsylvania where she led the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and worked on programs involved with HIV, Hepatitis C, the opioid crisis and LGBTQIA+ health equity. THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (APA) … for its historic resolution against transgender conversion therapy, stating that it puts “individuals at significant risk of harm.” It also states that gender identity change efforts (GICE) “cause harm by reinforcing anti-transgender and anti-gender nonbinary stigma and discrimination; and by creating social pressure on an individual to conform to an identity and/or presentation that may not be consistent with their sense of self.” RENEE MONTGOMERY, RETIRED TWO-TIME WNBA CHAMPION … for “Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the [Atlanta Dream] team is an opportunity that I take very seriously,” Montgomery said. This, the result of the team sale following the WNBA-player revolt against former team owner, ex-senator Kelly Loeffler. Having recently announced her retirement from playing, Montgomery will be the face of the three-person investment group and will be involved in crafting the Dream’s marketing approach. THESE FOUR AMAZING BLACK WOMEN IN SPORTS … for breaking glass ceilings and advancing diversity and gender equality in collegiate and professional sports. • Kelsey Koelzer, first Black head hockey coach in NCAA history; from Arcadia University in Philadelphia • Maia Chaka, first Black woman named to the NFL’s officiating staff; from Virginia Beach, Virginia • Jennifer King, first Black woman to be a full-time NFL coach; with the Washington football team • Bianca Smith, first Black Woman to coach in professional baseball; with the Boston Red Sox DWAYNE WADE, RETIRED NBA PLAYER AND FATHER OF TRANSGENDER DAUGHTER ZARA … for praising dad Brandon Boulware’s support of his trans daughter before the Missouri legislature, saying “… Thank you for using your platform and sharing your family’s story! ‘Our kids are more than bedrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms’”
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COMPETE READER SURVEY & GRANDSTANDING GRANDSTANDING More Than A Face (Jan-Feb 2021) I have always been pleased with Compete’s covers. As far back as I can remember you’ve always featured diverse athletes. In recent years I have noticed even more women featured on the cover, which to me is a good thing. I look forward to seeing future covers. Maybe, someday, it might be me. Ella Espinoza Los Angeles, California
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DAY TO WATCH SPORTS?
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Joy! Joy! Joy! (Jan-Feb 2021) To me, happiness is looking back at 2020 and realizing that it’s finally 2021. There is so much to look forward to, and your Jan-Feb 2021 issue of Compete is a beacon of hope for all of us—whether we play or watch sports. Ja’Nae Watson Seattle, Washington Please submit all Letters to Compete via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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FEATURING FALLON FOX
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FALLON FOX & CHRIS MOSIER: PROVING TRANS ATHLETES DON’T HAVE A PHYSICAL ADVANTAGE BY CONNIE WARDMAN (SHE, HER, HERS)
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DR. MARCI BOWERS, A PIONEER IN GENDER AFFIRMATION SURGERY EXPLAINED THAT FOX HAD “NO EFFECTIVE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE” AS A TRANSGENDER WOMAN. WITH HRT, PHYSICAL STRENGTH DIMINISHES AND BOTH MUSCLE MASS AND BONE DENSITY DECREASE. BOWERS ADDED THAT POST-OPERATIVE TRANSGENDER WOMEN TYPICALLY HAVE LESS TESTOSTERONE THAN THEIR COMPETITORS... While there have been other transgender athletes before Fallon Fox and Chris Mosier, since early-to-mid 2010's these two trans athletes have been at the forefront of the public’s twenty-first century awareness that there were transgender athletes competing in a gender category that didn’t match the one listed on their original birth certificates. While their stories are very different, both have been trailblazers when it comes to sharing their stories and helping to educate the public to remove the stigma that comes with being transgender. While the GOP push for making female competition “fair” by banning trans females from participating in female sports competition in schools may sound enticing to some, the fact is that “fair” is a subjective term since all people, trans and cisgender alike come with varying physiological parameters. There is equity if all female athletes, both trans and cisgender are able to compete; but there are some cis female athletes who will have physiological advantages over trans female athletes in the same competition and vice-versa – that you can’t control. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) diminishes physical strength and decreases both muscle mass and bone density in trans women. So in the adult elite and recreational sports world, it’s up to each organization to set its own policies as to who can participate and what the medical requirements for participation are. Mosier has been extremely active in getting international and national organizations to create and list their policies here to make important eligibility-to-play information easily accessible: transathlete.com/policies-by-organization. That doesn’t work for adolescents, however. As the first transgender male-to-female MMA fighter, Fallon Fox is a true fighter in every sense of the word. Although her professional career was ended by a knee injury in 2014, she’s been honored many times as an influential advocate, including being named to the 2014 Trans 100 list of prominent and influential trans individuals actively working to improve life for the transgender community. She’s also one of two athletes featured in the 2015 sports documentary, “Game Face,” directed by Michiel Thomas and produced by Mark Schoen. Loving what she calls the “intelligent aggression” and “three-dimensional fighting” of MMA, Fox was willing to
reveal her medical history to licensing commissions but wasn’t yet open to revealing it publicly. However, the unauthorized release of her medical records caused her to call Sports Illustrated and share her story on her terms. Dr. Marci Bowers, a pioneer in gender affirmation surgery explained that Fox had “no effective competitive advantage” as a transgender woman. With HRT, physical strength diminishes and both muscle mass and bone density decrease. Bowers added that post-operative transgender women typically have less testosterone than their competitors, something that Fox confirmed. “Any of the women I’m competing against,” she said, “my testosterone levels are drastically lower than theirs; it’s almost nothing.” Living his personal credo to be the person he needed when he was young, Mosier is perhaps the uber advocate for the transgender community and trans athletes in particular. In addition to the above-mentioned website, he’s been a hall of fame triathlete, All-American duathlete and a six-time member of Team USA. In 2015 he became the first known transgender man to represent the U.S. in international competition, and he was also the catalyst for change for the International Olympic Committee policy on transgender athletes. He’s a two-time National Champion and the first trans athlete to compete in the Olympic Trials in any sport in a category different than their sex assigned at birth. But with all these accomplishments, it’s important to realize that he doesn’t always beat his competition, he doesn’t always come in number one; what he does is this: he always gives it his very best! In 2016, he was sponsored by Nike and featured in his own Nike commercial which debuted on prime time during the Rio Olympics. He was also the first trans athlete featured in the ESPN Body Issue. Of course there are more accolades but let me stop with my favorite – in 2013 we honored him as Compete’s Athlete of the Year! Because of the efforts made by trailblazers like Fallon Fox and Chris Mosier as well as efforts by so many other unsung heroes, we should begin to realize that inclusivity in sports should be the gold standard, especially in younger age children where participation with classmates is important on so many levels. All people who want to play sports should be able to participate!
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Photo credit Rose Lincoln, Harvard Staff Photographer
AMAZIN LÊTHI TALKS WITH SCHUYLER BAILAR Photo credit Gail Farris, Harvard Men’s Swim and Dive (HMSD) parent and 2019 HMSD team photographer
Schuyler Bailar has a story to tell. The first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer sits down with LGBTQIA+ activist Amazin LêThi. Amazin I've been following your Instagram and story for a long time. And you know what I love? Your Instagram is really unique. I really love the body positive image that you constantly show in your Instagram. I love the uniqueness of how you share your story and the information that you give people. But tell me the journey of how that's begun. Schuyler Yeah, sure. Well, I appreciate all the thoughts about my account. I think that the body positivity started from a place of “lack thereof,” right? I didn't feel very positive about my body for a long time. When I was first learning about my body, I think it came from a place of hatred, of feeling like I couldn't control my life. I struggled a lot with an eating disorder in high school. And actually, that's the most recent posts that I've made because this week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. So this is a perfectly timed question for that. But I struggled a lot with my body image and with my body. And when I figured out that I was transgender through my therapy for my eating disorder, I learned that I needed to learn self-love for my body, right? And I always like to add the space between self-love and self-hate is not like this easy journey. First of all, we all know that, right? But you don't jump from self-hate immediately into self-love. I don't even think that the in between ground is self-like; I think it's self-appreciation. And so I started learning this journey on body positivity with body appreciation, being able to appreciate my body
for what it does. And I think that actually aligns very well with part of this conversation about an athlete, right? I think learning to appreciate my body as an athlete helped me learn the self-love as well and the body positivity. I hope that makes sense. Amazin It really does. And I always find it, when I go to your profile, so uplifting and inspirational. You know, with your posts, I was kind of thinking before we came on that, you know, I suffered as a child and as a teenager with bulimia. And I had always this low self-worth about myself – I never had someone like you, where I could see a mirror image. I think of now, what an impact that you make in the world for the trans community, but you know for Korean Americans, for Asian people, and just people in general who don't necessarily hear their stories, as well. Schuyler Yeah, I appreciate that. That's the number one reason that I share my story. I didn't see people like you. I didn't see people like myself when I was a kid. And when I came out as transgender. I knew that I could potentially share my story on some kind of platform, especially because trans stories are often so sensationalized, especially as an athlete, I knew that combination could potentially be a story. And I chose very consciously to share about it to say, ‘Hey, this is who I am. And I'm going to take the interviews, I'm going to present myself online so that a little kid can go on Google and say transgender swimmer and have somebody pop up. Because when I was a kid, nobody did, right? When I was coming out, even when I was a kid, when I was 18 and 19, trying to figure out if transgender people existed in sports, I was Googling all
AMAZIN LÊTHI TALKS WITH SCHUYLER BAILAR the time – transgender athlete, transgender swimmer – and pretty much nobody came up. That was devastating to me. I concluded, OK, fine, then I can't be myself in sport. But I was so wrong. And I'm so glad that I had the privilege of support and my own grounding to be able to walk through that and actually prove that this is possible. Now I want people to know that it's not about me appearing on that Google search; it’s about somebody appearing. Because of the fact that somebody appears, that means that kid in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the country can Google and say, ‘Do I exist,’ right? Because that's what they're really googling when they say transgenderism, or trans or whatever. They're saying, ‘Can I exist in this world?’ And the answer is, absolutely. Amazin And this brings me to your book. Because when I go to the bookstore and I think of, you know, my six-year-old self, even now I wonder ‘are there books with Asian characters that look like me, that share the same things, that happen to be in sports?’ I think your book is just so unique; I can't think of another book that had a Korean American character, someone who's trans and an athlete as well; so many different layers. And obviously when you grew up, you didn't have anyone like yourself to aspire to, just like I did. So where did this inspiration come from? And then with your book? What is the message that you want to leave behind for people that read it? Schuyler Well, thank you for sharing about my book. I'm really excited about it. It's called "Obie Is Man Enough." And Obie, like you said, is a Korean American transgender swimmer. And a lot of it comes from my life, right? Like a lot of it is imagining what my life would have been had I been younger and sort of writing a story about that imagination. It is in no way my life, you know. It's a fictional novel, for sure. I want to make that clear; but it's drawn from my experiences, and it’s what I hoped to have seen when I was a kid. And so I want those kids to read a book and say, ‘Hey, that's me,’ right? I want all the other Asian American transgender kids or folks of Asian descent who are trans LGBTQ to look at that character and say, ‘Hey, you know, I'm like that,’ especially the ones who are athletes. But I also want all the cisgender, non-Asian Americans, nontransgender, non-LGBTQ, non-athletes to be able to resonate with it to a degree as well. So I tried to make the story as relatable as possible. It's about a trans kid. But he's so much more than that. Obie is not just transgender and he's not just an athlete, either. It's really just him navigating middle school as a kid, just with all of these different sort of parts of him. And I wanted to, like humanize that. So I hope that makes sense. Amazin I'm always asked in interviews, you know, what would I say to my childhood self. But what would your childhood self say to Photo credit Rose Lincoln, Harvard Staff Photographer
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AMAZIN LÊTHI TALKS WITH SCHUYLER BAILAR THE REAL CHANGE HAPPENS WHEN WE STEP OUT OF THIS CONVERSATION. I ENCOURAGE EVERYBODY TO WALK FORWARD FROM HERE. YOU'RE HERE, YOU'RE LISTENING; TAKE THIS CONVERSATION ELSEWHERE AND ADVOCATE FOR US IN OTHER CONVERSATIONS. you right now, if they could come back and see the person that you've become, see this book that you've written? Schuyler So what my childhood self would say to me now? I think that like, when I was first trying to figure out if I was even going to transition, if I even was transgender, and kind of breaking open that process, I actually stopped and I thought, ‘What would my childhood self say to me?’ And this was at a point where I was in a much more hyperfeminine adult, like overcompensating feminization stage of my life in how I was present presenting myself. And I thought I was like, gosh, ‘I think he'd be pretty disappointed.’ Because in my childhood, I feel like I knew who I was; I presented as male, my hair was short, I liked dressing the way that I felt I was comfortable. Everybody gendered me as male just because of the way I acted and presented and you know, there's gender roles there, of course, but I presented myself in a way that felt comfortable. And then something broke in high school where I was like, ‘I gotta fit in, I got to do this the way everybody else wants me to, I got to be this person, this woman that people say that I am.’ And so in that place of presenting as female, when I thought about what my childhood self, my eight-year-old self would have said, I was like, ‘crap, he would be like, nope, this is not it.’ Because he knew, right? And I, instead of learning and growing into who I was, I learned and grew into what everybody else wanted me to be. And that was a pivotal turning point for me, where I said, ‘Gosh, I gotta, I gotta rethink this, I got to go back. And just be me.’ So I hope that made sense. Amazin It does. I want to move on to the pandemic because it's obviously very difficult for all of us. I love your last post that you did recently that activism is exhausting; you went through your own self-care routine. You know, during the pandemic we've had, I think something like, you know, 29 anti-trans bills that have been sweeping through the nation. Some have passed and very specifically targeted at trans people in sports. Obviously you know there are many people online listening from all across the world, all across the U.S., many of them are in states with these anti-trans bills going through. What would you say to a trans youth right now who happens to be living in those states? Schuyler Yeah, I mean, I think the first thing is just recognition, right? This is really difficult; this can feel devastating, it
can feel like a lot of dead ends. A couple things: the first thing is know that we are fighting for you there, there are masses of people that are fighting for trans folks, and specifically trans kids right now. It's super easy to feel alone when you're reading all the terrible articles about it. But there are so many really amazing people fighting for you, for trans youth. And I just like to remember that we're not alone. We're not just here, like yelling into the void. Sometimes we are yelling into voids, at times we have a lot of people who are supporting us and a lot of people in legislation, a lot of people specifically who are lawyers, right? And in the ACLU there are people fighting. So that's the first thing. The next thing is that this is not a new fight, right? The LGBTQ population has been marginalized and beaten down in many different ways. And we've always found a way to move forward. We are a very resilient and powerful population of people because of the oppression we've had to endure and survive through. And to me, I can see that both as difficult and sad, or as empowering, knowing that I have the power of all of these other ancestors, trans siblings, queer siblings, queer ancestors, that existed and fought for us to even stand here to have this conversation – for me to be able to have top surgery because somebody had to pioneer that at some point, right? All of these things are what empower us today, here and now. And I think as young people, we can’t forget where we come from and the shoulders upon which we stand. And to remind myself of that history, and the fact that we have been able to move through that reminds me of the community resilience that we have, and that is so grounding. Amazin What are some of the things we can do right now, as allies and advocates to support the trans community? Schuyler Yeah, absolutely. I think that people forget that small actions are what changed the world, right? Society is made up of people doing small things, right? Societal norms are made up of how I interact with you and you act on somebody else's, and that sizzles to make a societal norm. And the more we can normalize transgender people, talking about transgender lives, experiences, athletes, the better. So every time somebody misgenders, somebody that contributes to those anti-trans bills, every time that somebody doesn't understand that gender dysphoria is real or that trans people should have access to medical, you know, medical care to gender affirming care; every time people don't understand that, it contributes to the
bills. Every time a parent misgenders their trans child, that contributes to the bills. Because all of this is creating a society that is steeped in transphobia, right? And so it actually has a huge impact to correct somebody when they misgender somebody, even if that person isn't present, right? So somebody is misgendering me and I'm not there, my allies, my friends, my people should definitely be correcting people when they're misgendering me, even if I'm not there. Same with public figures, right? So calling Laverne Cox the right pronouns, calling Caitlyn Jenner the right pronouns. I think it's so important to step up in those moments because that's how we change those bits of society. And when you put all that together, then you change the world. And so those small moments number one, call us the right pronouns and the right name. That's it, that's a primary easy, super impactful way to be an ally to the trans community. Two correct other people when they when they call us out. Three, advocate for rights, anywhere you can write, whether that means in a conversation with your transphobic uncle or your transphobic partner or a random person that you're starting to talk to, advocate for our rights. Have a conversation but do it from a place of grounding, never yelling at somebody calling them out, you want to call them in. Value conversation over confrontation. I think that is such an important part of allyship. It's having those conversations with people who disagree, because a lot of times we exist in these echo chambers where we have the same conversation, the same things over and over again. I'm talking to you and you agree with me, right? You're already a supporter. And that's awesome. And I, you know, I am so grateful for you. But the real change happens when we step out of this conversation, right? So I encourage everybody to walk forward from here. You're here, you're listening; take this conversation elsewhere, right? And advocate for us in other conversations. Amazin I always say it's being my champion when I'm not in the room as well. That way, and we have a question that's already come in. When is your book available? Schuyler Yeah, my book is actually available for pre order now. So if you go to my website, it's www.pinkmantaray.com/obie, or if you just Google Obie is Man Enough, it will come up either way. You can buy it anywhere you buy books. But yeah, www.pinkmantaray.com/obie is where you can preorder it again or anywhere you can buy books, and then it will be released officially September 7. So this fall, but you can buy it now. And I would be super appreciative if you did, because it helps drive sales, and pre-order stuff, which is really cool.
Amazin I want to talk about your sports, because obviously, we're both athletes and you've achieved so much. I mean, after the pandemic is over, do you see yourself competing again, what's your hope as an athlete? Schuyler Yeah, I don't know. I thought about it a lot. I think every interview I give these days asks me are you swimming or do you keep swimming. I haven’t touched a pool in almost a year which is really sad. And that's because of the pandemic. There aren't as many open pools and hours are difficult. And I'm not really keen on going to a place where I can't mask. You can wear a mask when you go to the gym but you can't really mask at the pool. So I haven't been able to swim recently. But I would love to get back at least on a team after the pandemic is over. And when people are training sort of normally again, probably would want to compete but I don't know what that would look like so I’m unsure. I also competed for 18 years straight and I think that that was a lot and I just really enjoyed the break from that intensity to kind of taking some time to just explore other interests that I have. I kind of have a bit of a childhood that I didn't have, in many ways, partially due to my transition, partially due to sports. I spent my life underwater. So it's been cool to explore myself outside of sport as well. Amazin This has just been such a lovely conversation. It's always a pleasure to connect with you. I want to thank Compete Sports for making sure that, you know, Asian athletes are amplified and particularly that trans athletes are amplified. So have a wonderful weekend. Thank you everyone for listening in. And I look forward to speaking to you again next time. Schuyler Thanks so much, Amazin. It was good to see you. And yeah, thanks Compete Sports for even hosting us here. Amazin Thank you. Bye. Take care. This is a lightly edited transcript of the full interview. Check out the entire interview on Compete's Instagram page.
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Photo credit Rose Lincoln, Harvard Staff Photographer
AMAZIN LÊTHI TALKS WITH SCHUYLER BAILAR
TEAM COMPETE MVP POWERED BY TALTY BAR
Photo credit: Johnny Loaiza
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Photo credit: Johnny Loaiza
Photo credit: Johnny Loaiza
TEAM COMPETE MVP POWRED BY TALTY BAR
First and Last Name: Kaylee Parker. Age: 41. Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina. Current Residence: Phoenix, Arizona. Current Sport(s) Played: Flag Football. Relationship Status: Single. Favorite Athlete: Budda Baker.
diversity. I learned so much. I hope some have learned from me as well. If given the chance, what would you tell/teach your younger self? And is there anything you hope to teach the younger generation that may be looking up to you. The difficult paths lead to the greatest destinations. The easy road is not the best road and to fight for what is right and to be a good person. It’s not our job to be liked by everyone. It’s to love the person we are.
Favorite Team: Florida Gators. Interests/Hobbies: Hiking, backpacking, football, darts. Best Physical Feature: Height. Why You Love Sports: Competition, building bonds with one common interest. How Did You First Get Involved in Sports: Playing peewee football, and AYSO Soccer. Other Sports Played: Track, soccer, basketball. What’s Your Day Job: I work in the mechanical field; HVAC. Greatest Personal Achievement: Being a parent is easily the most difficult and rewarding thing. Greatest Athletic Achievements: Competing in middle school track in fourth grade and placing third in 100m. What’s your personal story? Please tell us something about you, what interactions you have had with the sports community, LGBTQIA+ community, etc. I’m just a transwoman trying to find my place in this world. With every group so far I have been lucky enough to be allowed to compete in leagues due to rules regarding state IDs. People's opinions aren't always the best but I know my situation is not the easiest to understand. I have played in the PGFFL (Phoenix Gay Flag Football League) since 2016 and they have been such a great group. It’s been a great place to grow and learn more about sports
Photo courtesy of Government of California, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
RUPAUL AND THE
COMMUNITY BY DIRK SMITH, (HE/HIM/HIS)
RuPaul Charles is an absolute LGBTQIA+ icon and media mogul who has gained popularity far beyond the gay community. His extensive career goes back to the 1980s where he began performing at various LGBTQIA+ bars and clubs as a drag queen, DJ, fashion model, singer, actor and performer. Along the way he’s inspired many young LGBTQIA+ people, showing them that queer people, especially those of color can be successful while still being their authentic selves. As host of his TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the subsequent Drag Race spinoffs airing globally, RuPaul has elevated the art of drag and the representation of LGBTQIA+ drag artists to heights never before seen. It’s now a given that for any drag artist to reach a wide audience and make real money performing, they have to be seen on one of RuPaul’s shows. Of course with that kind of fame and power also comes increased attention, scrutiny and, as any drag queen or Drag Race fan can tell you, drama! One of the more recent troubling pieces being RuPaul’s relationship with the transgender community. In his “What’s the Tea” podcast, he often regales his listeners of stories from drag culture of the 1980s and how he found friendship and inspiration from many drag queens in his community; more than a few of whom also identified as transgender and have since transitioned. On “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” several transgender women and genderqueer/ genderfluid contestants have participated in the show, most notably Carmen Carrera,
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TRANSGENDER CONTESTANTS AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY ARE SHOWING THAT DRAG IS AN ART THAT TAKES MANY FORMS AND IS ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE. ALLOWING PERFORMERS AND ARTISTS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES IN THEIR OWN INDIVIDUAL, UNIQUE WAYS ELEVATES THE ART AS A WHOLE AND SHOWS US WHAT WE’RE CAPABLE OF BOTH AS INDIVIDUALS AND A COMMUNITY.
Jiggly Caliente, Monica Beverly Hillz (the first queen to come out publicly on the show), Gia Gunn and Peppermint (who came out as trans prior to the show airing). However, both RuPaul and Drag Race have stumbled at times in regard to trans representation on the show, as was the case with Monica Beverly Hillz. When she came out on the show as trans, Drag Race didn’t allow transgender participation. Later on both RuPaul and the show were heavily criticized for the casual use of transphobic slurs, in particular over a mini-challenge game asking contestants to choose whether the picture of a woman displayed was “a biological or psychological woman.” Addressing the controversy it caused, the producer issued an public apology for the “She-Male” segment and said not only was it now “expunged from all platforms” but that the regular “You’ve Got She-Mail” segment was also being eliminated from all future episodes. An additional apology came from a Logo representative who said, “We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.” In an interview with HuffPo, Monica Beverly Hillz then shared the following: “After my experience of being on the show…, the use of the words ‘she-male,’ ‘ladyboy,’ and ‘tranny’ are not cute at all. I have fought, and still am fighting, for respect from society … People don’t understand the daily struggle it is to be a transgender woman.” RuPaul, it seems had to undergo an adjustment period as to how he viewed the art of drag. He learned it from the 80s drag queens when words were used without much thought about how it made others feel. And while RuPaul has transformed drag from an underground art form to a public phenomenon that’s helped attitudes toward diversity and equality begin to change, he seemingly needed his own wakeup call. In 2018 RuPaul created controversy when he mentioned that a trans queen who had already undergone
gender confirmation surgery would “probably not” be allowed to compete since he viewed drag as a social statement that lost its “sense of danger and sense of irony” when not done by men. But he faced the backlash he received with a tweeted apology expressing regret for the hurt he had caused, writing, “The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers." So it appears that “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is making a concerted effort to open up transgender representation on the show. With Season 13 currently airing, it’s notable for being the first season to feature Gottmik, a transgender male contestant who hopes to push the show’s envelope regarding transgender community representation. “It means so much for me to be on the show right now, especially being a trans guy going in a feminine perspective of a trans guy,” he said. “The trans movement is getting so big, so powerful, so strong. I’m ready to get on the show and try to win this crown for my community.” Transgender contestants and members of the community are showing that drag is an art that takes many forms and is accessible to everyone. Allowing performers and artists to express themselves in their own individual, unique ways elevates the art as a whole and shows us what we’re capable of both as individuals and a community. While RuPaul once defined the new public art of drag alone, it’s now the trans contestants and members of the community who are redefining it and RuPaul’s creative acumen in the process. It also shows just how important a cultural icon RuPaul really is. His story is now part of the critically acclaimed multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series for readers from fourto-seven-years of age. Now queens-in-waiting can start to dream about becoming the next Drag superstar rather than learning to sashay away.
Tab59 from Düsseldorf, Allemagne, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/bysa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
CASTER SEMENYA: RAISING QUESTIONS OF GENDER AS ONLY BINARY BY CONNIE WARDMAN (SHE, HER, HERS) As of this writing, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has counted 82 anti-transgender bills recently introduced in states across the U.S. to ban trans youth from playing sports, to require teachers to refer to students only by the name on their birth certificate, to criminalize doctors who would provide gender-affirming care to trans youth – even to imposing a criminal penalty ON CHILDREN! Minnesota’s HF 1657 threatens kids with arrest and juvenile detention for using the school locker room or playing sports. The sports ban is aimed primarily at athletes in junior and senior high school levels. There are important takeaways from this story on elite intersex athlete Caster Semenya, not only from the way she and other athletes like her have been treated over the years but now, for the continuing questions over appropriate legal powers sports authorities (and today’s state and local governing bodies) should have over a student-athlete as well as their moral obligations to that student’s welfare.
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While continuing to train for the Tokyo Olympics starting in July without knowing if she’ll be able to defend her Olympic 800m title, South African elite mid-distance runner Semenya, who lost her appeal to Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court in September, is now appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to protest the rules requiring medically controlled testosterone levels in female runners. In the meantime she continues her fight for the rights of intersex athletes, those individuals born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the rigid boxes of either “female” or “male.” The double Olympic and triple World 800m intersex runner was at the center of what is a landmark 2019 legal case to decide whether or not an official sports organization has the authority or moral right to force an athlete to take testosterone-suppressing hormones in order to compete. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by The Guardian, the case was complex, “including science and sociology, gender and genetics, health issues
CASTER SEMENYA: RAISING QUESTIONS OF GENDER AS ONLY BINARY nmol/L, rather than the female range of 0.12‑1.79 nmol/L. The WA contends that the elevated levels of testosterone give DSD athletes up to a nine percent advantage over other women, hence the reason for medical reduction of their testosterone to a threshold set by the WA by either a daily contraceptive pill, a monthly hormone-blocking injection or surgery. In the heavily redacted records of the CAS hearing carried in the New York Times, to ensure fairness in female competitions the WA said, “There are some contexts where biology has to trump identity.” But this has raised a lot of controversy. Critics of the decision said it seemed like it was targeting one athlete since the eligibility criteria was only changed for middle distance runners, Semenya being the leader in that category. Semenya’s ordeal began in 2008 when she was competing in the World Junior Championships and the Commonwealth Youth Games. She won gold in the latter for the 800m and even set a new time record. Participating in the World Championships the next year, she won gold in the 800m again. That’s when people began to ask if she was a man. She was only 18.
Bob Ramsak, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
and medical ethics – and also split sport and society right down the middle.” Semenya lost her case against the IAAF, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, now World Athletics (WA), the world governing body for the sport of track and field athletics when the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled against her. The reason for the verdict? Semenya has hyperandrogenism, meaning her body naturally produces more testosterone than other women. While agreeing that the IAAF’s requirements for medical reduction of testosterone for certain athletes were discriminatory, the CAS ruled by a 2-1 majority that to ensure fair competition in women’s sport, the policy was also “necessary, reasonable and proportionate.” Based on the WA’s reckoning that women with elevated testosterone have a nine percent advantage over other women, “reasonable and proportionate” in this case requires women like Semenya to take a daily contraceptive pill, a monthly hormone-blocking injection or have surgery in order to compete against other women in the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter events. According to sports scientist Ross Tucker, if Semenya’s testosterone was lowered to 5 nano moles per liter or nmol/L, it could knock between five and seven seconds off her 800m time. He predicts she’d still be an elite athlete but it would take her out of medal contention. Rather than settle the question about how intersex athletes would be handled by the sports community legally and otherwise through final arbitration, the CAS ruling has been widely criticized by both sides of the complaint. It has asked why female athletes were discriminated against for natural testosterone levels while male athletes face no such restriction. Like it or not, the South African middle-distance runner has become the figurehead for intersex rights, challenging the discriminatory rule set by the WA. Semenya and other female athletes like her, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand being another with elevated testosterone, have all been born and raised as girls and are legally identified as female. But they are classified as DSDs, standing for differences in sexual development. DSD athletes are born with the typical male XY chromosome pattern that gives them some male biological characteristics, male levels of the hormone testosterone after puberty that’s considered an unfair competitive advantage over other female athletes. It also often includes, as it does in Semenya’s case, undescended testes. According to the WA, DSD athletes have testosterone more in the normal adult male range, from 7.7 to 29.4
Chell Hill, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
CASTER SEMENYA: RAISING QUESTIONS OF GENDER AS ONLY BINARY
“I AM MOKGADI CASTER SEMENYA. I AM A WOMAN AND I AM FAST.” The former IAAF (now WA) ordered sex verification tests for Semenya in 2009, and she called the incident, “the most profound and humiliating experience of my life.” Although she was cleared a year later to participate in female sporting events, rumors began. The results of her tests were never published but since then she has faced the personal humiliation of medically invasive testing, being constantly misgendered and the continuing scrutiny of the medical community, sports officials, fellow athletes and the media. Semenya was again able to participate in races where she racked up medals, including the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she won gold medals in the 800m. But in 2018, when the WA announced its new rules regulating testosterone levels, Semenya declared she was going to legally challenge them. “It is not fair. I just want to run naturally, the way I was born,” she said. “I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.” When the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected Semenya’s challenge of the new rule in 2019, its immediate implementation caused an international outcry. Though she announced that she would continue to challenge the rule, her ongoing battle took a toll on her, causing her to miss the 2019 World Athletic Championships. About her treatment, she has said: “I've been crucified, I've been done bad. I've been called by names. I've been called by this and that. But at the end of the day I'm still here, am still alive. I am still standing. What I can do best is just to go back there, fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and fight for their right.” Some assert there’s no scientific reason why hyperandrogenism should be treated any differently than other genetic differences that give athletes a performance boost. According to University of Southern California professor Ruth Wood, an expert on hormones, “People who are seven feet tall are favoured [sic] in basketball and we don’t require them to play on their knees.” Another often mentioned example is all-time Olympic gold medal winner, swimmer Michael Phelps who has abnormally large feet and hypermobile ankles that effectively act as flippers plus an unusually long arm span with relatively short legs that reduce drag. Another is sprinter Usain
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Bolt, winner of eight gold Olympic medals, who has fasttwitch muscle fibers. Semenya’s case has also caused many to note that other elite athletes who dominate their sports, like swimmer Katy Ledecky haven’t been targeted, also raising questions of misogyny and racial bias in the process. Ledecky has none of the physiological advantages of Phelps or Bolt. Based on all her coaches and many of the elite male swimmers she regularly beats in training, “she swims like a man,” often beating her female competitors by a full length. Her “magic” boost really comes from her personal drive and determination. But Ledecky hasn’t received the same scrutiny for her dominating performance as has Semenya. Is that because she’s white, is it because she fits society’s perceived and now outdated ideas about femininity or perhaps both? Whether or not Semenya is finally able to win her case in time for her to defend her Olympic title in the 800m in Tokyo, she certainly has forced people to question the CAS ruling as well as the world’s former understanding of biological sex and gender identity and how you determine it to ensure fair play. This is important for transgender athletes, too. Why? Because unfortunately, most people don’t understand the difference between transgender and intersex; the tendency is for people to mentally lump the two together without understanding the important differences. Visibility is important! During the Tokyo Olympics, any talk about Semenya’s case will hopefully cause viewers to wonder, question or even research if gender really IS binary. Best of all, maybe they’ll get acquainted with a transgender person and discover a personal connection from one human to another. It would be a big step toward taking away the stigmas of being intersex and transgender. As Time Magazine said when naming Semenya one of 2019’s Most Influential People, “Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to ‘male’ and ‘female’ classifications.”
FOCUSED ON WHAT MAT TERS EMBRACING HUMANITY. PROTECTING THE PLANET.
At MGM Resorts International, we feel it is important to respect each other’s differences. We choose to embrace these differences to achieve best-in-class experiences and cultivate stronger ties with our guests, employees, neighbors and partners. We are committed to stand up to issues of equality and aim to better unify our world. Learn more at MGMRESORTS.COM/FOCUSED.
Jacket image © by mandesigns/Shutterstock
BIOHACK YOUR BRAIN Author photograph by Shawn M. Record
BY CONNIE WARDMAN (SHE, HER, HERS)
You have the power to easily change your brain for the better, no matter what shape it’s in right now! For athletes of any age looking to improve their performance or mental edge or those looking to reverse the effects of repeated physical impacts from their favorite games, “Biohack Your Brain” by neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D. is your groundbreaking guide for a happier, healthier life! Dr. Kristen Willeumier is considered an expert in the basic science research and leading clinical research trials (including some NFL players) based on the basic belief that it is possible to change your brain. Regardless of your age, there are still easy, practical hacks you can do every day that will improve the days that follow. While Dr. Willeumier’s interest and passion for this research was influenced by her father’s neurodegenerative disorder, for many athletes, personal awareness of and interest in brain health didn’t begin to kick in until in 2012 when controversy arose over the findings of CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of retired NFL players became public. Fortunately, all this revolutionary research really has proved that your brain can be improved. Dr. Willeumier begins by sharing brain basics so you fully understand the underlying mechanisms at work and then shares stories from some NFL players and other clients as well as her own story. Additionally, she includes the latest information on cognitive health and then shares why it is you can actually change your brain for the better. What makes this book such a great resource is Dr. Willeumier’s ability to communicate clearly. As she explains your brain’s capabilities, she not only explains how each hack works but how it works best, like the best time for your brain to exercise, the best type of water for your brain, what six supplements are the “starting lineup” to change your brain and then the additional ones that are important for things like reducing inflammation, improving circulation, clearing heavy metals from brain cells and so much more. She is also pragmatic when it comes to her advice on how you biohack your brain in real time – that’s by starting small and tracking it all. Emmanuel Acho has this to say about Dr. Willeumier and “Biohack Your Brain.” As a former NFL linebacker, Fox Sports analyst and author of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” he says that following his time in the NFL he began to study the most important organ in his body, the brain. “Thankfully, I came across Dr. Willeumier, the foremost expert on research, knowledge, and practical ways to regenerate and revitalize the most valuable asset we each possess. Her passion for and dedication to helping and healing athletes’ brain function is unparalleled …”
About the Author Dr Kristen Willeumier conducted her graduate research in the laboratory of Neurophysiology at the University of California, Los Angeles and the laboratory of Neurogenetics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She received Master of Science degrees in Physiological science and Neurobiology and a Doctoral degree in Neurobiology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where she continued her work in the field of neurodegenerative disease. She was the recipient of an NIH fellowship award from the National Institute of Mental Health and has presented her work internationally. She lives in Los Angeles.
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Photo via Wikimedia Commons courtesy Fairtex from Thailand
NONG TOOM (PARINYA CHAROENPHOL) FIGHTS TRANSGENDER STEREOTYPES FIGURATIVELY AND LITERALLY BY DIRK SMITH (HE/HIM/HIS)
When we think of transgender athletes who compete in combat sports and martial arts, there are a few names that come up. Surprisingly, one of the biggest stars of Muay Thai isn’t usually one of them. Parinya Charoenphol, better known as Nong Toom is a boxer from Thailand who helped to reinvigorate the fledging sport when she roared on scene in her teens identifying as Kathoey which is a Thai word for a transgender woman who has not undergone gender affirming surgery. At 16 years old in 1998, Toom caught the attention of Thailand’s national media when she stepped into the ring at Lumpini Boxing Stadium wearing makeup to compete against a bigger, more muscular cisgender male opponent and won. While the Thai government was not keen on allowing Kathoey athletes to compete, having blocked them from participating in the national volleyball team, the sport of Muay Thai was fledgling at the time and welcomed Toom into the sport to revitalize media and public interest. Despite being a novelty and competing as a Kathoey in the deeply masculine and conservative sport, Toom quickly exerted herself as a capable fighter in the men’s division and went on to compete all cross Asia with the goal of saving up enough money to afford gender affirming surgery. She garnered a lot of publicity and stardom with several magazine profiles and appearances in music videos but despite this newfound fame, Toom had to deal with the controversy and criticism of being a Kathoey in this sport. Ekachai Uekrongtham, director of Beautiful Boxer explains, “When Nong Toom first broke into the scene, people thought that she gave Muay Thai a bad name,” said Ekachai Uekrongtham.. “Then when she revealed herself as a very good kickboxer, she earned respect, but still a lot of people believe that she is tarnishing the image of something sacred. Kickboxing evolved as our ancestors invented ways of turning our bodies into weapons to fight
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the Burmese, and it is more than just a sport. It’s a sacred tradition that is at the heart of our national identity.” This came to a head during a trip to Japan when Toom was invited to fight Kyoko Inoue, Japan’s top female wrestler at the time. Toom ultimately won the match but was confronted by a young Thai woman afterwards who had slapped Toom for “the insult she was bringing to Muay Thai.” While Toom initially entered the sport to make money, she fell in love with it and pursued it further despite her gender identity being seemingly at odds with the norm. For Toom, the sport is about more than just fighting, it’s about the historical movements steeped in the tradition of Thai culture. In 1999, Toom announced her retirement from the sport to proceed with the gender affirming surgery. In 2003, the movie Beautiful Boxer which is a biopic about Toom’s life and career was released, taking home several film festivals awards. In 2006 she returned to the sport, fighting an exhibition match to promote a gym named after her. She returned to professional fighting in 2007 and fought her first official fight as a woman against the Netherland’s Jorina Baars. She has become quite a celebrity in Thailand, but when asked why she chose such a masculine sport to make money, she explained, “I don’t equate femininity with weakness I also knew that I had to be strong, and to protect myself and the people I loved. I was born into poverty and there weren’t many ways I could earn a lot of money.” Toom has since gone on to open a boxing camp in Thailand to teach and coach boxing, Muay Thai and other formats of physical fitness. She also has appeared in various films, including National Geographic’s “Hidden Genders” and "Mercury Man." Her story was also published as part of the book “Ladyboys: The Secret World of Thailand’s Third Gender.” She is also hard at work to promote the sport for the transgender community and inspire other LGBTQ+ athletes to get involved.
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EVENTS: FOR A COMPLETE CALENDAR OF EVENTS PLEASE VISIT WWW. COMPETESPORTSDIVERSITY.COM Compete is excited to bring back our sports calendar! We will be updating our calendar in each issue and online as tournaments and events are confirmed. For the latest updates check out competesportsdiversity.com. COMPETE SPORTS DIVERSITY SUMMIT
GAY SOFTBALL WORLD SERIES COLUMBUS
May 21-23 competenetwork.com
August 29-September 04 2021gsws.com
ASANA SOFTBALL WORLD SERIES
Palm Springs, AZ
Virginia Beach, VA
May 28-30 nagaaaasoftball.org
USA Racquetball National Championships Festival
COMPETE SPORTS DIVERSITY AWARDS: THE PETEY AWARDS
St. Louis, MO June 3-14
PRIDE RUN ST. PETE
St. Petersburgh, FL June 25 priderunseries.com PRIDE BOWL
Chicago June 25-27 chicagomsa.org
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January 13, 2022 SIN CITY CLASSIC SPORTS FESTIVAL
Las Vegas January 13-16, 2022
FIT & FAB
ARE YOU MAKING THESE FITNESS MISTAKES? BY MATT BOYLES, (HE, HIM, HIS)
In this issue I outline several of the most common mistakes I’ve witnessed – and made myself! The good news is I’ll share with you how to avoid them. 1. COMPARING YOUR ENTIRE SELF WITH A SNAPSHOT OF SOMEONE ELSE We can be prone to do this in the gym (remember those? Me neither). We see someone doing ‘better’ than us. Lifting heavier, looking like they know what they’re doing, having some physical traits we’d like … And our brain adds 2 + 2 and we get 5. “Oh, they must have it all together” we think. “They must be happy and rich and have lots of sex and ________ (replace with whatever your day-to-day daydreams are)” But we know NOTHING about those people, other than they are in this gym, right now, lifting weights. They could be desperately unhappy. In debt. Lonely. I hope they’re none of these things, but the point is this: we just don’t know. We also haven’t witnessed any of their personal journey – their dedication, hours of working out, what they might have given up to get here. So remember, in the same way that we’re multi-faceted beasts, they are more than just your idealized version of perfection, and therefore, it’s impossible for you to compare yourself to them! 2. T HINKING FOOD IS EVIL – SOMETHING TO BE “BURNED OFF’ Oh boy. I come across this a lot! The thinking I usually hear is this: “I ate so much, so now I’ve got to ‘get rid of it’.” Get rid of it?! Allow me to clarify this for you right here, right now. Food is simply delicious fuel that allows you to do what you want to do. Understanding the right amount of nutrition for YOU isn’t as complicated as it’s often made to seem. Whether you use a food tracking app or a fitness professional (oh hi!) to help you find this, it doesn’t need to be scary or a drastic change. If you take one thing from this article, let it be this: You never have to burn off anything you’ve eaten!
3. USING EXERCISE AS PUNISHMENT This links to point 2. Often before we’ve worked together, some of my clients have already conflated the two with this thought process: “I’ve eaten too much and must now exercise to get rid of it. And the harder I exercise, the better I’ll feel about what I’ve eaten.” This is so sad; it’s also something important to remember! • Exercise gets you: • Fitter! Stronger! Healthier! Happier! Faster! Hornier! To live “longerer”! • But it’s not very good for fat loss. So think of it in the above terms, think of it as something to lift your mood, or to futureproof your mind and body. But never again think of it as punishment and you’ll be much happier! 4. T HINKING YOU CAN TURN FAT INTO MUSCLE You’re not (as far as I know) an alchemist. So as lead cannot be turned into gold, neither can fat be turned into muscle – they’re two separate tissues. You might as well try to turn hair into pens. You can burn fat. You can build muscle. And that’s great. But you can’t turn one to the other! 5. T HINKING 40+ (OR ANY AGE) IS “OVER THE HILL” People slow down in life because it’s so ingrained in them that that’s what we do. Society says we slow down, do less, stop pushing, that our best days are behind us. BALONEY! I promise – PROMISE! – you can absolutely keep thriving and flourishing and growing and getting stronger and healthier and happier and fitter as you get older! And that’s key: you’re older, you’re not old. Don’t give up or take a backseat because everyone else you know has. Prove them wrong and push ahead, show them what’s possible … as literally ANYTHING is possible. So go get it and stop waiting! Have a Fitter, Confident Month!
MATT BOYLES is a regular columnist for Compete and an online Personal Trainer who specializes in working with Gay, Bi and Trans males. In addition to the more regular fitness and nutrition components he has layered in elements to support mental health, boost confidence and provide bucketloads of empathy. Find out more about Matt's sensible and holistic approach to health and fitness: www.fitterconfidentyou.net/onlinetraining.
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WHAT I’D LIKE MORE OF IN 2021 BY RYAN O’CONNOR (HE, HIM, HIS), GUEST COLUMNIST
Is it really March 2021 already? It seems just like yesterday I was out with my friends on a regular basis.
want. So I think I will start my new Top Five list of what I DO want:
We were enjoying movies together, happy hour after
1. More hugging
work and all the other fun social engagements I kept
2. More laughing
on my calendar. Well, when I stop to think about it, it
3. More love
really doesn’t seem like yesterday—it almost seems like
4. More gratitude
a lifetime ago!
5. More handholding
As this year’s winter has turned into spring – and since I remember the old saying that “hope springs eternal” – I
I don’t have to be in a relationship or even dating
am hopeful that in the next few months things will start
someone to enjoy these things. I am sooo excited about
“springing” back to the old normal. You know, the normal
the possibility of laughing and hugging it even applies
where we could meet someone for coffee or even dinner?
to complete strangers! I don’t know how much they will
The normal where we could hug and shake hands. The
appreciate it but I know I will (yes, I know I have to ask
normal where … well you get the picture.
first). As the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed more widely
With that, I have created my top five list of things I want to do when I hit the dating scene again this year:
and we all work together to slow the curve, I don’t have to wait to start implementing my list. I just deleted
1. No Grindr
Grindr from my phone, I just cancelled my match.com
2. No match.com
membership, and thankfully, I never joined eHarmony.
3. No eHarmony
I can even take my face covering off when I’m at home
4. No wearing a face covering
alone and don’t have to social distance from my cat, Prada
5. No social distancing
(hey, I didn’t name my cat, Prada; my ex-boyfriend did but I got custody).
Wow, in my haste I realized I just created a list of more
And I can start thinking about more hugging, more
of the top five things I don’t want to do. I guess that’s
laughing, more love, more gratitude and more hand
OK because I’m currently burned out on all five of those
holding. Of course that list includes more hugging,
things. But I learned a lot from my life of online dating,
laughing, love, gratitude, handholding and absolutely,
mask wearing and social distancing. I learned what I do
more dating! (Am I repeating myself?)
RYAN O’CONNOR is just a regular guy who is dating in this great big world. His advice comes from personal experience and his advice is for entertainment purposes only. We recommend you consult a physician, counselor or therapist in your area for specific advice about your personal situation. Otherwise, questions can be submitted to email@example.com
44 COMPETE march-april 2021
WHO WILL BE OUR 2021 ATHLETE OF THE YEAR? SELECTION COMMITTEE
Ryan O'Callaghan Former NFL Athlete
Lendale Johnson Professional Tennis Player
Nikol Piñon-Salvador 2020 Mark Bingham Athlete of the Year
Keli Imus Community Engagement Manager Seattle Seahawks
Eric Carlyle Compete Sports Diversity CEO
SELECTION CRITERIA > Commitment to personal achievement. > Active participation in an individual or team sport. > Commitment to supporting/encouraging others in sports. > Commitment to the LGBTQIA+ sporting community and/or the LGBTQIA+ community.
To nominate yourself or a deserving amateur athlete online go to CompeteSportsDiversity.com
CONNECT WITH COMPETE: • Read The Latest LGBTQIA+ Sports News • Find LGBTQIA+ Sports on our LGBTQIA+ Sports Calendar • Discover Current & Past Issues • Subscribe to Compete
HERE, WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM.
Come be you in St. Pete/Clearwater, where we’re proud to boast a 100% equality rating for inclusivity and embrace the entire LGBTQ+ community. Discover welcoming accommodations, 35 miles of America’s Best Beaches and sporting events made just for you. So whether you’re an athlete, a fan, or just looking for an escape—St. Pete/ Clearwater has got you covered.
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