I read this week about Nattaphon Wangyot, transgendered high school student born as a boy running as a girl at the Alaska State High School Track Championships. Apparently Wangyot also played on the girls volleyball and basketball. Seems the Interwebs are up in arms over this. I am not sure why. I played on my schools girls soccer team at Northern University High School in Cedar Falls back in 1976!
I should probably clarify, I am a cis-gendered male. Meaning that:
My gender self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to my biological sex.
It’s even difficult to write that, perhaps I really am that old guy who doesn’t understand the modern world!
In 1976, in Iowa soccer was a novelty, there were few teams and even fewer leagues neither the Iowa High School Athletic Association nor the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union recognized soccer as a varsity sport. At the time, I was playing on a local boy’s soccer team that was made up primarily of junior high students … middle school had not been invented yet!
Since we were in a university town, many of the guys on the team were the children of foreign born professors. My French friend Jean-Marc played and we had guys from Italy, Columbia, Cuba and a couple of other countries. I think our roster consisted of about 10 junior high students with 3 or 4 in elementary school and another 3-4 of us in high school. In those days it was very hard to find other teams to play. We played college teams (our coaches would play with us then), adult city teams, elementary school teams .. pretty much anybody who could put 11 bodies on the field.
Our team was pretty good. Many of my teammates had grown up playing soccer and were very good athletes. I was only an average athlete but I had played a lot of soccer. I played mid-field, defender and goal keeper.
I also practiced with the guys team from the local Christian high school. They barely had enough guys to make a team so I helped scrimmage with them.
My sophomore year, there was a notice at my high school about a soccer team. A couple of the guys from my team approached the coach and asked if boys could play. The team was really just a club and played a few other local schools. The coach was what would have been called in those days a “woman’s libber.” She said that there was nothing in the rules preventing it so we were welcome to play. I think there were three or four of us, my French friend, who was an amazing player, two other American guys who were very accomplished athletes and me. The girls welcomed us and we enjoyed practicing together.
The most important thing I learned about girls soccer is that girls are vicious! I remember an early scrimmage, I was the goal keeper for my side and I had just blocked a shot. I was lying on the ground cradling the ball under my body by my head. Meanwhile a friend of mine, a really good-natured girl, was kicking me repeatedly in the head, trying to get the ball!
The guys on the team all had played much more soccer than the girls so in practice, our roles became more like player-coaches than anything.
Finally it was time for our first game. Even though we were from a Cedar Falls (a big town for Iowa) we were a small class I-A school. Our first game was against Dunkerton High School. Their team only had girls on it. I played mid-field, one of my friends played wing and my French friend played center. In the first 10 minutes of the game Jean Marc had scored 5 goals and I and the other guy on the team had assisted directly in 4 of them.
At this point our coach wisely decided that this should probably be a girls only league. We stayed with the team as assistant coaches for the remainder of the season but never played in another game. Physically, Jean Marc was quite small, smaller than many of the girls on the team, but I am sure that he was dribbling a soccer ball as soon as he could walk. The three of us American guys on the team were a different story, while many of the girls were faster than me, soccer is a very physical game. At 5’10” 185lb I am sure that I was intimidating. As I remember it, none of the girls on the other team wanted to go up and fight with me over a header. The other two guys were both track athletes and not just fast but physically intimidating. It didn’t take long to figure out that none of us should have been out there with those girls.
Wangyot may indeed ‘self identify’ as female but the Alaska High School Athletic Association should identify him for purposes of athletic competition as male.