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Coming Out on the Court

The reality of gender inclusivity in school sports

During lacrosse practice, senior Sam Dobbins walked up to their head coach. They anxiously thought about the conversation at hand. They were going to tell them what pronouns they go by. “Okay sounds good, thank you for telling me,” he replied. Dobbins was relieved that it went so easily, and they got to resume practice like normal.

High school sports have been divided by boys and girls for as long as we know, but the reality of the matter is gender is a wider spectrum than that, and non-binary and trans students are forced to choose a side whether they feel included or not.

“Lacrosse is a pretty chill sport and there are a lot of very accepting people, so I wouldn’t say it’s a super gender-divided sport,” Dobbins said.

Dobbins was accepted by their lacrosse teams when they came out, but there will always be people who have differing beliefs.

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“I’d say that pretty much everyone is accepting, there are a few people that might have conflicting ideas, but they still try to understand or at least try to use my pronouns,” Dobbins said.

While the people in the sport may be accepting, the sport of lacrosse is divided by gender nonetheless. The girls wear skirts as part of their uniform which can be uncomfortable for players who don’t identify as female or even for those that do.

“Most schools and clubs have skirts instead of shorts, but this year my coach told us that there has been a change where we can wear shorts instead of the skirt,” Dobbins said. “Which I appreciated because I hate running in the skirt, and I’m 100x more comfortable in shorts.”

Lacrosse is beginning to make strides that will allow all players to feel comfortable on the court. Senior Jay Shore has had many different experiences between three sports when it came to coming out.

“Volleyball, the girls didn’t really care, soccer I don’t think really any of them cared,” Shore said. “But [with soccer], I wasn’t like anyone else. So I had no friends and I was the worst on the team.”

While Shore found some acceptance in the sports he played, with some, he felt like he was alone on the field. He eventually quit the sports to focus on himself, but he still thinks about how hormones and sports should co-exist.

“If you start hormones and you decide that you want to continue sports on the same team, you have time to stop taking them and continue doing what you love,” Shore said.

Dobbins has been able to play lacrosse while also being accepted as non-binary while Jay often found more obstacles in his sports also because he was going through the process of hormonal changes.

“I just knew what I wanted and when the time came I quit everything so I could start physically transitioning,” Shore said.

Similarly to Shore, junior Toby Kelly transitioned in middle school. He is part of Color Guard. They have found it to be one of the most accepting groups of people.

“Adjusting to my preferred name and pronouns has been a challenge. Guard is where I find security though. They are probably the most accepting group of people I’ve ever known,” Kelly said. “They take in anyone no matter their background and treat them as family.”

What makes Guard stand out to Kelly, is that it is completely gender neutral with costumes that can work for anyone.

“Guard really has nothing to do with gender. It’s all about expression and improving our show/skills,” Kelly said. “One way Nami, one of our coaches, has tried to be more inclusive is when she orders our costumes she only has one kind. No boys or girls costumes. Everyone is wearing the same thing.”

Gender is adapting in society which is eventually making its way to the athletic community. Sports differ in acceptance as gender division has been evident in sports for as long as we can remember, but strides are being made.

“I just think the world needs time to decide whether sports or hormones are more important. We need time to sort out our priorities,” Shore said.

This story was originally published on FHC Today on February 2, 2024.