Kye Allums is taking a major step for himself. In changing his name from Kay-Kay Allums to Kye, he is marking an important decision in his gender transition from female to male.
He is also taking a major step for college athletics. The junior guard will be the first public transgender athlete to play Div. 1 NCAA basketball when he takes the court for the George Washington University women's basketball team on Nov. 13.
That game -- the Best Buy Classic in Minneapolis against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay -- will not be Allums' first with the basketball team, Outsports's Cyd Zeigler reports. But for Allums, whose home is near Minneapolis, the game marks his homecoming and his coming out.
In a profile of Allums, Zeigler interviews the player's coach, Mike Bozeman, as well as teammate Brooke Wilson. Wilson said that she had made sense of Allums's transition. "At first I didn't understand, and then he explained that sex is how you're born and gender is how you identify yourself," Wilson told Outsports.
In high school, Allums associated with a lesbian crowd. But some time in college, he realized he had separate gender priorities. During his sophomore year, Zeigler reports, he distanced himself from his given name of Kay-Kay and corrected people who referred to him as "she" or with other gender nouns.
Though Allums's gender status would seem to complicate his role on the George Washington University women's basketball team -- if not disqualify him outright -- Allums's teammates and coach support him as a member of their squad. Bozeman released a statement expressing that he and the women's basketball program stand behind Allums.
So does the NCAA. NCAA spokesperson Jennifer Royer told Outsports that the NCAA code of conduct prohibits transphobic language or other forms of discrimination. And D.C. law further protects Allums.
Whether he will remain eligible for the women's basketball team at George Washington University is a different question. Allums has a scholarship to George Washington to play women's basketball. The men's basketball team has not extended a scholarship offer. So long as Allums does not receive hormone treatments, Outsports reports, he can still play NCAA women's sports.
One basketball coach interviewed by Zeigler said that, because Allums identifies as a man, he should have the opportunity to play men's sports.
But Helen Carroll, a former NCAA basketball coach and author of the National Center for Lesbian Rights' report on transgender student athletes, said that there's no simple solution for schools and that athletic programs should emphasize inclusiveness.
Allums will seek gender reassignment surgery before his senior year and will receive hormone therapy after he finishes his final NCAA basketball season in April 2012.
In his sophomore year, Allums started 20 of 26 games. He averaged 7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 24.9 minutes per game, according to the George Washington University sports website. Allums set a season high of 18 points and 9 rebounds against Rice University in January.