Sports

Five trans athletes who made their mark before Caitlyn Jenner

This story is a part of

Across Women's Lives

This story is a part of

Across Women's Lives

FallonFox-2760-L.jpg

Fallon Fox is the first openly transgender Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athlete in the history of the sport.

Credit:

Rolando de la Fuente

In her first major public appearance since coming out as transgender, Caitlyn Jenner used her acceptance speech for the ESPY's Arthur Ashe Courage Award to talk about her life as an athlete and a transgendered woman.

But many transgender athletes have been making waves long before Jenner. Here's a look at five others who've broken down cultural barriers over the years.

Renee Richards

Renee Richards
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Focus On Sport/ Getty Images

Renee Richards was a tennis player who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1975. The United States Tennis Association denied her entry into the 1976 US Open, but she fought the ban and in 1977, the NY Supreme Court ruled in her favor. She also coached Martina Navratilova to two Wimbledon victories. In her 2007 autobiography, Richards expressed regret over the type of fame that came with her transsexuality — but did not regret transitioning gender. She was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Jaiyah Saeula

JAIYAH SAELUA
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Handout

American Samoa soccer player Jaiyah Saeula (born Johnny Saeula) was the world's first transgender national soccer player to compete in a men’s FIFA World Cup qualifying match in 2011. She identifies as Fa'afafine, a person in traditional Samoan culture born biologically male but embodying both masculine and feminine gender traits. In an open letter to her Samoan community, Saeula wrote last month about the Fa'afafine and the need to promote understanding and support for transgender people everywhere.

"A million transgender women can be visible in their societies and it truly helps when those women are well-known (ie: Janet Mock, Lavern Cox, Carmen Carrera, Caitlyn Jenner), but change comes from society members who do not understand or tolerate. They are the target," she wrote.

Mianne Bagger

Mianne Bagger
Credit:

LET Access Series

Danish golfer Mianne Bagger had gender-reassignment surgery in 1995, and became the second transgender woman ever to be accepted into a professional sporting competition, preceded only by tennis great Renee Richards. In 2004 the Ladies European Tour voted to allow Bagger to compete on the tour, a result of her hard lobbying for gender diversity in sports. Prior to Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out, many saw Bagger as the most prominent transgender athlete in professional sports.

Chloe Anderson

Chloe Anderson
Credit:

Paul Rodriguez/ Orange County Register

Chloe Anderson plays women's volleyball at Santa Ana College in California. She began transitioning from male to female at 19 after years of struggling with her life as a gender that never felt right. Hormone treatments wreaked havoc on her body during the first six months. In an interview with The Orange County Register, Anderson addressed the backlash she's received from some female college athletes.

“People who say male-to-female trans athletes have a physical advantage have never taken hormones. It’s one thing to learn about it in biology class but another thing to live it."

Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox
Credit:

YouTube

In 2013, after a string of successful fights, Fallon Fox was forced to come out publicly after a reporter indicated he knew she was trans. In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Fox spoke openly about the discrimination she’s faced as a transgender athlete, including allegations from other fighters that she has an undue advantage in the MMA fighting circuit as a male to female transgendered person, despite doctors assertions to the contrary.