Photo by Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images(SAN FIDEL, N.M.) — As Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs Wednesday night, she touched on the importance of transgender athletes getting to play sports “as who they really are.”
The message hit home for Alex Trujillo, a 17-year-old transgender teen living in San Fidel, New Mexico, who said she was devastated when she wasn’t allowed to join a girl’s sports team at her high school.
Alex was born male, said her mother, Terri Trujillo, but transitioned to female the summer between the 9th and 10th grades.
“I loved Caitlyn Jenner’s speech,” Alex told ABC News Thursday. “It was so inspirational and I’m really glad she’s finally becoming who she is. One thing she said about … thousands of transgender youth are coming out and finding themselves, and that really spoke to me. And also because she was an athlete, and she has this huge platform, and she’s not just being selfish about it. She’s actually doing stuff, and she spoke about others in her acceptance speech, and I love that.”
Her mother added, “Caitlyn Jenner comes out, and little does she know that she’s opening doors in small Pueblo communities … that she’s probably never even heard of. And it’s given us a voice to speak for transgender issues.
“I cried most of the time during her speech,” Terri Trujillo told ABC News. “People don’t see how hateful words hurt our children. And I’m glad she’s bringing light to this issue. And my daughter’s thankful for it, also. If a famous person can come out, it makes it easier for us to come out, because we’re not the only ones.”
Terri Trujillo said she knew Alex’s true gender “from the very young age of 3 or 4.”
“She would always wear a towel on her head,” she added. “She was Pocahontas. That was who she was. She didn’t want to play with the boys’ toys.
“I wanted her to tell me what she was,” Terri Trujillo said. “In this small community, you don’t really hear too much about transgender. So she was really struggling to find who she was. Also being afraid of what other people were going to think of her. In 8th grade … she would wear eyeliner at school and wipe it off before she came home.
“The summer she transitioned … I saw her full face with makeup, her hair done,” she added. “She had her eyelashes curled and everything. And she was standing there in her boy clothes and I looked at her, and it wasn’t her. And I said, ‘Let’s go buy you some clothes to go with your pretty face.’
“The smile on my daughter’s face that day, I will never forget,” Terri Trujillo said. “It was just like a flower blooming right before my eyes. She got her clothes and that’s when she knew it was OK for her to be who she wanted to be.”
Alex, who will be a senior next year at Laguna-Acoma High School, said she wasn’t usually interested in sports, but last school year she started to play volleyball with her friends “and I just got a passion for it.”
“Some of the volleyball girls helped me, and some of them said I was pretty good,” Alex said. “Some people started telling me I should do volleyball and I really wanted to do it.
“So I talked to the principal and the coach … if it was OK for me to start going to volleyball conditioning. And they said they didn’t see a problem with it, but they would check with the NMAA [New Mexico Activities Association] to make sure it was OK,” Alex said.
However, according to ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, the NMAA says the gender on your birth certificate will dictate which team you play for. Birth certificates can only be amended after reassignment surgery, KOAT-TV reported.
The NMAA did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
“So I went to one day of volleyball conditioning, and a few days later I was told that I couldn’t [play] because the NMAA said you have to play the sport that your gender is on your birth certificate. That was really devastating for me,” Alex said.
Laguna-Acoma High School declined comment to ABC News Thursday. The district superintendent and district athletic secretary did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.
“I just cried,” Alex said. “It may not seem like a big deal … but it made me feel like I was less than my peers, that I didn’t have the same rights and the same privileges. And it really hurt knowing that I was still seen as a male in the state’s eyes.”
Terri Trujillo said Alex was the first male-to-female transgender in their small, Native American community.
“When she first started coming out. … we got a lot of ridicule,” she said. “It was hard, as a parent.”
She said one incident involved Alex getting suspended for using the female restroom.
“She was told to use the male restroom or ask the teacher for a key,” Terri Trujillo said. “If she couldn’t find a key, then she’d have to run from her classes to the front office to the only unisex restroom up there.”
Terri Trujillo said she started advocating for change at Alex’s school. She also started a transgender support group in the area.
“We have a high-rate of suicide in our community, and the majority of these students are members of the LGBT community,” she said. “I used to think we were alone … but … people have been more accepting. We’ve gotten a lot of support.”
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.Read More →