Positive strides for gender empowerment were made last week. Well, “positive” if you share a similar liberal view. Others watching Kye Allums help his women’s basketball team win, legend Nancy Lieberman coach men, or Daisy Lane officiate an NBA D-League game might have wondered if an apocalypse was in the forecast.
Nope. Just snow…for Washingtonians.
I volunteer for Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and coincidentally this year there was a program on gender-bending. One flick was called “Genderbusters” and I kind of liken Allums to the heroes in the flick. Sports is a great forum to bring up discussion of world issues and his decision to be honest about what he’s feeling in regards to gender and George Washington supporting him — from coaches and players to school officials — is admirable.
It remains a touchy subject. Women basketball players are already marginalized, referred to as men by hecklers. Then there’s the sweeping assumption that all are lesbians, forcing many to take extreme measures to prove there can be a balance between femininity and competitive-aggression.
Now Allums is taking it a step further, demanding everyone involved respect that gender is simply “in your head” that we all have female and masculine traits, which we identify with has nothing to do with our physical makeup. He identifies as male and appreciates to be acknowledged as such. GWU doesn’t mind, following NCAA rules that Allums can compete with his original team as long as he doesn’t undergo any surgery or start taking any hormones.
The short films, some humorous, depicted the complicity in Allums plight. How gender is shoved in your face everywhere. The fact that he’s taking this on publicly and still able to focus on basketball, getting the first win of any openly transgendered NCAA player? An inspiration.
But where will it lead? Allums isn’t the first athlete to go public with a gender switch. If steps to make his identity physically permanent — chest surgery, testosterone, removal of genitalia — then where should he compete since if done after puberty, organizations like the International Olympic Committee and NCAA don’t immediately accept an athlete.
Even if partially done, meaning no surgeries, if Allums’ body-type changed like transgendered pole vaulter Balian Buschbaum (below before and after from his website www.balian-buschbaum), it would clearly not be fair for him to play hoops against women. But, like Buschbaum did after placing in the European championship (1998 and 2002), isn’t it just as unfair to tell an athlete they can’t compete with the gender they identify simply because they weren’t born that way? Or can’t/don’t have the surgeries to fully transition?
It’s a difficult question I’m sure Allums’ follower will challenge.
On the flip side, Lieberman (pictured above by NBAE) and Lane have succeed in gaining equality last week.
Men have long coached and officiated the WNBA, and women’s FIBA, NCAA, and AAU whether qualified or not. While Lane is following in the footsteps of barrier-busters Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner, who broke into NBA officiating together, Lieberman became the first woman to head coach a professional woman’s team. Her Texas Legends lost to the defending champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers 123-115 on Thursday.
“Every game is going to be like this,” she told reporters. “Every game, there’s going to be curiosity. Every game is going to be special and unique. But our guys know it’s not about me. It’s about them.”
Former Sonic Antonio Daniels, who’s trying to break back into the league, told Texas media he’s learning a tremendous amount from Lieberman, who was 46-48 in three seasons coaching the defunct Detroit Shock (1998-2000).
The team appeared sound and if there’s a call-up to the NBA, that’s only gives Lieberman and women more credibility that the saying “basketball is basketball” is true. Hopefully in the future more owners — people — will stop looking at gender as criteria for capability when it comes to job qualifications.
Or maybe that’s the sign of the apocalypse.
RANK ‘EM: There was plenty of fun on the court for women’s basketball fans. Seems parity is continuing to rise with No. 2 Baylor just missing a chance to defeat No. 1 Connecticut, No. 13 UCLA using overtime to get past No. 18 Notre Dame, and No. 3 Stanford needing late three-pointers to slip out of Spokane with a win against Gonzaga.
It caused some shuffling in my vote for the Associated Press poll, especially since I was able to see more teams play. Those rankings are below. For the official final tally, go here.
1. Connecticut: It’s a miracle, Maya Moore doesn’t have to do everything!
2. Baylor: Pleased to meet you Odyssey Simms
3. Xavier: Home of one of the best one-two punches in the county
4. Stanford: Ahem, Geno, get your posts ready.
5. Tennessee: Welcome back to the limelight
6. Kentucky: Coach Matthew Mitchell becomes new 6K man
7. Ohio State: A little trickery keeps the Buckeyes in the mix
8. Duke: Still wondering about the Blue Devils
9. UCLA: The 4-0 start is best in 14 years
10. Oklahoma: Side note, Oklahoma has better weather than Seattle today, hmm
11. Nebraska: I’m liking this scrappy team led by local PG Lindsey Moore
12. West Virginia: Mountaineers building depth, Paradise Jam might not be beachy
13. Texas A&M;: Know team loaded, waiting for Aggies to be challenged
14. North Carolina: (See above)
15. Iowa State: Another Paradise Jam participant to make the island hot
16. Florida State: Headed to Bahamas after tight 72-66 win versus Vandy
17. Georgetown: Hoyas won 17th consecutive home game, first versus Maryland
18. Georgia: Undefeated at 3-0, play Southern California on Tuesday
19. Notre Dame: Getting a feeling the Irish will be back in top-10 by spring
20. Vanderbilt: Nearly defeated FSU, showing promise
21. Texas: Tough road matchup with Stanford on Sunday will be telling
22. Maryland: Jury’s still out
23. St. John’s: Probably erred and should have TCU in my poll
24. San Diego State: Possibly my West-Coast bias vote, but plays tough
25. Gonzaga: Not a moral victory vote, just seeing a strong team
TV ALERT: HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” debuts on Tuesday at 10 p.m. PST with a feature on UConn coach Geno Auriemma. Correspondent Frank Deford goes one-on-one with the top women’s head basketball coach in America and has contributing bits from former players, like Storm All-Star Sue Bird.
“It’s definitely more of a mental kill,” Bird says of Auriemma’s motivational tactics. “He finds ways to push your buttons. And he will push them until you wanna walk outta the gym…There was no malice behind it. You know, he’s not a malicious guy by any means. I might go home that night as a 19-year-old and I’ll be, like, ‘Oh, he’s such an (expletive).’ But he’s not.”
POW: UCLA senior guard Darxia Morris was named Pac-10 Player of the Week. She tied the score against No. 18 Notre Dame with a three-pointer with 8.8 seconds remaining in overtime. In the second overtime with three seconds left, her steal and two free throws helped the Bruins seal the win.
GOLDEN APPLE: Spokane’s Angie Bjorklund is my pick for the best performance by a player with Washington links. She used the zone-busting three-pointer to help carry Tennessee past Virginia 85-73 on Thursday. Bjorklund tallied six treys, a game-high 26 points overall.
STREAKING: Did you know a women’s basketball team has already won 81 games? Uh, before Connecticut. Yep, from 1998-2001 Washington University, a Division-III school in St. Louis, beat 81 consecutive teams — the longest winning streak in women’s basketball history.
The Huskies, who matched the 81-win mark against Georgia Tech on Sunday (71-51) look to surpass it versus Howard on Friday in the World Vision Challenge.
CASH IN CHINA: Storm All Star Swin Cash announced via her own website that she’ll be playing in China this winter. After Seattle won the WNBA championship, Cash made several appearances for the league and her own business ventures, including work for her charity.