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Transgender athlete's bravery worthy of cheers

By GREG COTE, gcote@MiamiHerald.com

College athletes are teenagers growing on stage into young adults, and so there might be not much unusual that one of the players competing in a basketball game against the University of Miami here Tuesday night has spent this season becoming a man.

Except for this:

It was a women's game.

The first publicly transgender athlete in NCAA Division I basketball -- in this case a player born female and transitioning to male -- played with the George Washington University team that faced UM in an 83-62 Hurricanes victory, and the juxtaposition was notable.

Just a few miles east, a huge crowd in a much bigger arena adored the Heat as it played the New York Knicks in an NBA game that tipped off around the same time. This was the Three-King Circus, the game with all the media and attention, the place where the national spotlight shone.

Over here, in a small campus arena, a crowd you would be generous in the holiday spirit to call sparse -- maybe a few hundred folks -- watched a player who in a very real way is having a season more remarkable than even LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

She was Kay-Kay Allums until recently.

She is Kye Allums now after legally changing her name.

She is changing much more than that.

She has become he -- identified now as a man while competing with teammates named Sara, Kristin and Megan.

NCAA rules allow biological females who identify as males to play on women's teams as long as they have not begun hormone procedures because the testosterone involved in the physical transition is a banned performance-enhancing drug.

Allums, a 21-year-old junior, is putting off the hormone procedure until after basketball, but make no mistake. He didn't allow room for any in this declarative in November: ``Yes, I am a male on a female team.''

There is nothing else quite like this in American sports.

``It's not something I can say is completely comprehended,'' as Miami coach Katie Meier put it Tuesday.

Allums is challenging perceptions. Inviting serious conversations beyond free throws and final scores.

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