The Daily Gamecock

NCAA basketball player discusses being a transgender athlete

Kye Allums shares his experiences with gender identification

Kye Allums caused no small stir on the hardwood at George Washington University going into his junior season in 2010. But it wasn’t Allums’ basketball talent that garnered such heavy national attention for himself and his team. It was his gender.

Allums is a transgender male — that is, a biological female who identifies with the male gender. He was the first openly transgender Division I NCAA basketball player, and he shared his experience as a transgender male on a women’s basketball team to students Tuesday night in the Russell House Ballroom. Allums’ speech was the keynote event of Ally Week sponsored by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Programs and Services and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

“People don’t understand what they’ve never been exposed to,” Allums said. “People fear what they don’t understand.”

Allums described a person’s sex as his or her outward appearance, but gender as how a person feels on the inside. Being transgender, Allums said, is a feeling.

“You know because of how you feel about it. I can’t help the way I feel,” Allums said in an introductory video.

He likened his gender identification to listening to music — being referred to by male pronouns is like hearing a good song to him.

“When you hear a song you like, you just start moving; you feel it on the inside,” Allums said.

It was that feeling on the inside that made Allums realize he was transgender, he said. A text message from his mother early in college calling him “young lady” tipped him off. Being referred to as a female bothered him, and he realized that he identified himself as a male.

Allums was not always comfortable embracing his identity, though.

“I didn’t always own ‘being me,’” he said.

As a young child, Allums considered himself a tomboy, and he described being ridiculed by classmates for not conforming to the crowd. He briefly changed his dress in middle school to try to fit in, but he said, “About two days later I was like, ‘OK, this is not happening.’”

Allums began playing sports in seventh and eighth grade and felt more comfortable around his teammates. In his freshman year of high school, Allums came out as a lesbian. He said at that point he stopped trying to fit in and caring about what other people thought of him.

“That’s when I gained my confidence,” Allums said.

His mom was never supportive of his homosexuality, and they grew apart. Worried about how she would react to his announcement of being transgender, Allums told his mom only after he had broken the news to his college teammates and coaches at GWU. He told his mom about his realization of his gender identity in an email that, he said, took him five hours to write and another month to send. His mom responded a day later that she was upset “but still loves him,” he said.

“Once I ended up telling everyone, everything was off my shoulders,” Allums said.

Allums was allowed by NCAA rules to play on the women’s basketball team because of his biology, but he played in only eight games after coming out his junior year due to a pair of career-ending concussions.

“When I stopped (playing), I wanted to speak immediately,” Allums said.

He shares his experience now at schools to give encouragement to young transgender students and athletes who may be nervous in their own situations. He is open and comfortable with talking about being transgender, and hopes to inspire others to be so as well.

“Being trans, I have to say it because you can’t see it ... Nothing’s going to change if you don’t say anything,” Allums said. “If you take the first step, you talk, you communicate, anything is possible.”

Ally Week will continue today with “Diversity Dialogue: International Perspectives on the LGBT Community” at noon in Russell House 315 and a showing of the movie “Pariah” at 7 p.m. in the Arnold School of Public Health, room 114. For more information on Ally Week events or LGBT services, visit