Two choices, no clear answer

For students who don’t fit gender norms, sports teams and locker rooms can pose bigger questions than usual.

Alan Schaeffer, Sports Editor

Alan Schaeffer/Bear Witness

“Keep marking her! Keep marking her, don’t let her get past you!”

“You’ve got him wide open on the far side. Play him the ball and he’ll be through on goal.”

“If you know she’s faster than you, back off of her a little bit so she can’t blow past you again.”

“I’m going to go open the locker room so he can pick up his P.E. clothes that he left there on accident. I’ll be right back.”

“Great win, Girls! All of you came out to win today, and I’m happy about that. We’re playing Leland on Friday and if all of you play like this again we’ll beat them for sure.”

For years, everyone has been used to referring to people as either male or female. In sports, this issue beconmes exacerbated, as schools have always had a boys and a girls locker room. A boys and a girls soccer team. A boys and a girls restroom.

According to athletics director Landon Jacobs, the most recent dats shows that there are 9 students on campus that identify as non-binary. And for these students, such as senior Cameron Krolik, who identify as transgender or non-binary, these black and white options do not fit their needs.

“I always went into the girls locker room when I was a freshman and sophomore,” he said. “I needed somewhere to go and the boys locker room was kind of never really an option.”

Krolik, along with sophomore Kaevan Mantilla, both identify as trans males, and say that they would feel uncomfortable or unsafe changing in the boys locker rooms.

“Even though I want to be in a guys locker room, I’m scared to undress, like to take my shirt off,” Mantilla said. “I have a chest, you know? So that’s something that kind of freaks me out.”

Students like Krolik and Mantilla have very few comfortable options available when it comes to alternatives to the locker rooms. Krolik describes that he had been encouraged to use the nurse’s office in the Student Wellness Center when he needed to change for P.E. as an underclassmen.

“The school always said to use the nurses office,” he said. “Which I do not like. And it’s kind of one of the worst options because you have to go through a lot of people to change. It’s very awkward.”

For Mantilla, the locker rooms are just the start of a whole line of decisions that he needs to make. He has played on the girls soccer team for both of his years at Branham, despite never identifying as female in that time.

“I always played on girls teams,” he said. “Then I thought I was non-binary for about a year, so that’s why I went on the girls team, mostly because I wasn’t out to all of my family yet and I was still kind of confused.”

Mantilla says that he realized his desire to identify as male in December, right in the middle of his time on the girls soccer team. He says that when he came out to the team, all his teammates and coaches were supportive and made sure to use his preferred name, even before he legally changed it.

“They adjusted quickly, the coach adjusted quickly and that’s okay, but I feel like it definitely made me uncomfortable to be on the girls team,” he said. “I’m very confused about what team I want to be on, because I would like to be on the boys team but I’m afraid that, first of all, I don’t have the same physicality, like in general, guys are just more built than girls.”

California is one of 15 states, as well as Washington D.C., that allows K-12 athletes to compete on the sports team that matches the gender they identify with. While students like Mantilla are eligible to play for the boys team, concerns regarding physical ability make the decision a difficult one from themselves.

Mantilla has expressed his interest in going on testosterone and has said that an appointment is being made to talk to a doctor about it.

“I want to be able to build muscle mass and be able to fit in with guys,” he said. “Right now I’m talking deeper on purpose, I’m using my stomach to talk deeper on purpose and it’s painful to do that all day. So it’s all really uncomfortable for me.”

J said that all students had access to whichever facilities they identified with. This means that if a student identified as male, despite being assigned female at birth, he would be eligible to change in the men’s locker room, use the men’s bathroom, and, as California law states, play on men’s sports teams.

Earlier this year, the school installed a new gender-neutral bathroom in the J Building, with the hope of creating a better, safer, place for transgender students who don’t feel comfortable enough to use the bathroom that they identity with, and for non-binary students.

Krolik doesn’t think that a gender-neutral restroom will solve everyone’s problems entirely, because everyone has their own situation and levels of comfort. He’s not sure what will fix this complicated issue, but he does give credit to the school for its recent pushes for inclusivity.

“I definitely like what the school is doing. Like they are trying, and I understand that it’s hard with infrastructure to create new things, but yeah. They’re doing as good of a job as they can.”