Even if you weren’t one of the 17 million people who watched Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer, chances are you’ve heard by now that the former Olympian has come out as a transgender woman.
“For all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” the 65-year-old Jenner told Sawyer in the 20/20 interview.
Interestingly, Jenner who won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, would have not been allowed to participate in those very same Olympics as a transgender woman.
In fact, transgender athletes have only been able to compete in the Olympics since 2004. Since then, no openly transgender athlete has qualified for the Olympic Games.
With Jenner’s announcement in mind, we’ve decided to look at five transgender athletes that have competed as their chosen gender, and who’ve opened the door for other aspiring transgender athletes.
In 2010, Kye Allums became the first openly transgender athlete to compete in NCAA Division I athletics. Allums, who is now a transgender activist and public speaker, came out a transgender man while playing women's basketball at George Washington University.
Allums played three seasons at GWU – averaging 7.4 points per game in his final season. He graduated by GWU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Allums is also the author of Who Am I, which chronicles his relationship with himself through poems and letters.
Transgender advocate and triathlete, Chris Mosier competed in his first triathlon as a male in 2010. Mosier is the founder of transathlete.com, which serves as a resource for students, athletes, coaches, and administrators to find information about trans inclusion in athletics.
Mosier was named Athlete of the Year at the Compete Sports Diversity Awards in 2013 and became the first openly transgender man inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. He was also named Best Personal Trainer of the Northeast by Competitor Magazine in 2014.
Active in mixed martial arts since 2012, Fallon Fox is the first openly transgender athlete in MMA history. During her three years in the sport, Fallon has amassed a 5-1 record with 3 wins coming by way of knockout.
Fallon’s career has courted controversy, however, over an alleged advantage she may possess over her opponents. Both UFC champion Ronda Rousey and UFC commentator Joe Rogan have both stated that Fallon holds an unfair advantage over her fellow female fighters.
Conversely, Dr. Eric Vilain, director of the Institute for Society and Genetics at the UCLA told Time magazine that "Male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males" and supported Fox’s right to fight as a woman.
One of the most influential athletes on our list, Mianne Bagger has played an integral role in gaining eligibility for transgender women to compete in professional golf.
After turning pro in 2003, the Danish-born Bagger became the first transitioned woman to play in a professional golf tournament when she competed in the Women’s Australian Open. She is also the first transgender woman to qualify for the Ladies European Tour (LET).
In addition to the LET, Bagger currently competes in the Australian Ladies Profession Golf Tour, the Nordea Tour, the Banesto Tour, and the LET Access Tour.
A role model and spokesperson for the transgender community for nearly four decades, Renée Richards played professional tennis for four years from 1977-1981.
Richards was initially denied entry into the 1976 US Open, one year after undergoing sex reassignment surgery. Richards disputed the decision and one year later, the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor.
Richards, who turned pro at the age of 43, competed in two US Open tournaments and was ranked as high as 20th in the world.
Richards, now 80, is an ophthalmologist in New York.
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