Despite criticism, local transgender athlete eyes 2020 Summer Olympics
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As sports organizations around the world continue to update their guidelines to make it easier for transgender athletes to compete with the gender they choose, those rules are being implemented here in Hawaii. And it's becoming a controversial topic in the volleyball community.
"It's a touchy subject because volleyball is a main sport here," said Tia Thompson, a transgender athlete.
Born a male, Thompson knew at an early age something wasn't right. The Kahuku High grad says she only hung out with girls and liked girl things.
"Because of my religious background with my dad's side and my mom's side, we didn't speak of it, but we knew. As soon as I turned 18 and I moved out, I started transitioning and started taking hormones," Thompson said.
The now 32-year old says volleyball has been the constant in a life full of changes. In January, she was just approved by USA Volleyball to compete as a woman. Before that, she was required to play in the men's division at all USAV sanctioned events.
In a statement, USAV says, "all athletes over the age of 12 wishing to participate in the gender that differs from their birth gender are required to provide medical documentation to the USAV Gender Committee demonstrating that their testosterone levels do not exceed the upper limit of the normal reference range in their desired gender of play for their age group."
"It took me three years to finally get approved with all the transitioning and all the hormone therapy and submitting all my paperwork to the gender committee," she said.
There has been some push back from the community. Players and parents we spoke to who did not want to be on camera say it's not fair for teams with biological women because it creates an unrealistic level of competition.
Later this month, Thompson will be heading to the popular Haili Volleyball Tournament on the Big Island -- a USAV sanctioned event. This will be her first year playing in the tournament as a woman and the first time the tournament will have an openly transgender athlete competing.
"When we start playing, I think we'll get a lot of responses," said Angie Andrade-Morioka, who oversees all USAV events in Hawaii.
Thompson says she plans on trying out for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and hopes that will give her a platform to support other trans athletes, while educating others.
"By me coming out and opening doors, it will get more accepted," said Thompson.
Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
*This story has been updated to clarify USAV's guidelines for transgender athletes.