CORRECTION: This story originally misstated the NCAA’s rules on transgender athletes. The NCAA allows female-to-male transgender athletes to play on men’s teams if they are undergoing testosterone treatment. Male-to-female transgender athletes may continue to play on men’s teams, but cannot play on women’s teams until completing one full year of testosterone suppression treatment. The story also misidentified Sheila Ridley. She is a a licensed clinical social worker.
As a former guard for the Buffs women’s basketball team, University of Colorado alumna Lauren Lubin knew what it meant to be in the spotlight.
Lubin, 27, said on the basketball court she was accustomed to scrutiny for mistakes, but her latest project will put the spotlight on her challenges off the court.
Lubin and her creative team are working on a documentary called “Gender Blender: A Movie About a Third Gender,” that follows Lubin as she undergoes surgery to remove her breasts and transform her currently female body to become gender neutral. She said this will mirror how she feels inside.
“Even as a kid, it seemed weird to me that people were either male or female,” Lubin said. “My body was female but my mind was both male and female. I’m neutral and I fit into this unlabeled, unrecognized third gender.”
Despite a strong support system, including friends and family, Lubin faced several challenges growing up with a body that didn’t quite match how she felt inside.
The film will give a glimpse into Lubin’s daily routine, which includes taping down her breasts with bandages, in hopes of steering people away from immediately identifying her as female.
With her documentary, Lubin is hoping to share her lifestyle and the challenges that accompany it.
The film is intended to share stories of those who find it unnatural to call themselves male or female, provide support and comfort to the transgender community and give the public a small “window into the lives of the third gender,” Lubin said.
“The biggest thing I keep saying is that if this existed when I was growing up, oh my gosh, things would have been so much more clear,” Lubin said.
Lubin’s story will be featured in the film along with other transgender stories.
“If you have curly hair, there are all these people out there who want to help you find the right products to manage your curls,” she said. “We were just born this way, too, except there aren’t a lot of people out there talking about it because it’s so misunderstood.”
The team is currently hoping to raise $150,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the filming and distribution of “Gender Blender.”
Lubin said they are hoping to have the film finished by the end of 2013.
Lubin said despite her neutral identification, she was often forced to embrace gender roles — like playing for the women’s basketball team at CU.
Sheila Ridley, director of student athlete wellness for CU, said the NCAA mandates student play for a specific team (male or female).
“However you’re born, that’s the team you’re on,” Ridley said. “The physical differences between males and females create that separation.”
The NCAA does allow female-to-male transgender athletes to play on men’s teams if they are undergoing testosterone treatment. Male-to-female transgender athletes may continue to play on men’s teams, but cannot play on women’s teams until completing one full year of testosterone suppression treatment.
Lubin said her experience playing for the Buffs was a positive one, but the segregation it created is mimicked in several aspects of American society.
Ridley, who works as a licensed clinical social worker with CU’s Division I athletes, said she has not had any experience dealing with transgendered students. While the subject is gaining ground, including a recent article in Sports Illustrated, “The Transgendered Athlete,” the topic is still taboo, even in Boulder, Ridley said. The story focused on hammer thrower Keelin Godsey — the first openly transgender contender for the U.S. Olympic team.
“There is a lot of progress, but it’s definitely not where it should be for students who are facing those challenges,” Ridley said. “Gay and lesbian athletes have definitely become more mainstream, but the transgender community is still kind of in the shadows.”
Lubin said the lack of discussion about the transgender community can often feel shameful for those who identify as such — just one of the many stereotypes she is hoping will be challenged by the film.
“There’s no agenda with this project, other than to just start a conversation about it,” Lubin said. “We just want to talk about this important topic and get our stories out there for people to see and understand what our lives are like.”
“This is so much about sharing our pride in ourselves and who we are,” she said. “It’s about love, pride and self honor.”