For transgender individuals, not disclosing their transgender status, also known as “living stealth,” has been the norm. Too many transgender folks have lived in fear of ridicule, discrimination, and rejection leading many to live a lie. But today, change is upon us; history is being made. October is LGBT History Month, 31 days that celebrate the successes of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender icons, making now an ideal time to shine a light on transgender trailblazers who have excelled professionally while living openly. Of the icons featured this month, three are transgender: Kye Allums, Victoria Kolakowski, and Amanda Simpson. It’s brave change makers such as these that are propelling North American society toward greater acceptance.
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Kye Allums launched LGBT History Month as “the first openly transgender athlete to play NCAA Division I college basketball.” In November 2010 as a 21-year-old sophomore, Allums made history on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University (GWU) for coming out as a transgender male. Having received a basketball scholarship from GWU and not wanting to jeopardize it, his original plan was to wait to reveal his true gender when his eligibility expired the following season, but Allums explained to USA Today that, “… it just got too tough not to be me. I heard people call me a girl and say ‘she’ and refer to me as something that I wasn’t.”
Apart from his fortitude and courage in staying true to himself, Allum’s story also stands out because of the outpouring of support and acceptance by his teammates, coach, and school officials. GWU’s official statement, which refers to the star shooting guard as Mr. Allum, includes his heartfelt sentiments about the university:
“GW has been supportive during this transition. This means a lot. I didn’t choose to be born in this body and feel the way I do. I decided to transition, that is change my name and pronouns because it bothered me to hide who I am, and I am trying to help myself and others to be who they are… My teammates have embraced me as the big brother of the team. They have been my family, and I love them all.”
Due to several concussions, Allums will not be playing his senior year, a choice GWU respects. At present, he is uncertain whether he will continue his transition by pursuing gender reassignment surgery or by taking male hormones. In the meantime, Allums has been telling his story at various speaking engagements with the goal of spreading the message that “it’s possible to be out and to be comfortable with yourself and still be successful.”
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The second transgender icon featured during LGBT History Month is Victoria Kolakowski, the first openly transgender person to be elected…
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