By Fred J. Robledo
Normally the first day of practice isn’t a big deal, but at Azusa High School, it was a groundbreaking moment as senior Patrick Cordova-Goff, the state’s first transgender student-athlete, attended her first practice with the Aztecs softball team after learning last week she made the varsity team following tryouts.
Cordova-Goff, who was born male, but identifies herself a female, took fly balls and played briefly at third base during the nearly two-hour practice on Tuesday.
New rules that went into effect for the 2013-2014 sports season state that students can participate in CIF-State activities “in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.”
Cordova-Goff, who also ran for homecoming queen and was a member of the school’s cheer squad, tried out for softball because of a new law that began in January written by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano — Assembly Bill 1266 — that states all schools in California have to allow students to participate in school activities — including athletic teams and competitions — and use facilities consistent with the gender identity with which the student identifies.
“That’s why when California passed A.B. 1266, I knew I would play softball,” Cordova-Goff said last week, referring to the amendment to the state Education Code prohibiting public schools from discriminating on the basis of gender issues. “At first, I was kind of nervous because I thought maybe I lost my talent, but it felt natural. And I think because I played for so long, and I loved the sport, it was like I was back where I belonged.”
Cordova-Goff said she has a softball background and that she didn’t try out to make a statement to anyone but herself. Listed at 5-foot-8, Cordova-Goff played on the Aztecs’ freshman baseball team but quit toward the end of the season because she admittedly didn’t “fit in.”
“I know that I tried out for softball strictly because I know I loved the sport, and that’s what my family revolves around,” she said last week. “I tried out just for me; it wasn’t to change the world.”
Azusa High principal Ramiro Rubalcaba closed practice to the media, asking reporters attending Tuesday’s practice to take photo’s and video from the street adjacent to the softball field.
Rubalcaba said coach Lisa Montes has been instructed not to speak with the media and would prefer players be interviewed with parental consent.
However, Rubalcaba took questions and explained the challenges that lie ahead with the state’s first transgender student athlete.
“We’re going to continue to operate like we always operate,” Rubalcaba said. “We’re going to put a few things in place in order to really raise awareness and talk about diversity and how to embrace it as a community.
“We’re reaching out to outside agencies that can help us, have conversations with the students and the community so that everybody takes this as an opportunity to learn and opportunity to grow.”
There has been mixed reactions on twitter, blogs and other social platforms whether a person born a male has a competitive advantage over females, and whether a male should compete against females in an all-female sport.
“I’ve read some of the blogs and the stories out there,” Rubalcaba said. “From our community there hasn’t been any concerns regarding an unfair advantage. Some of the articles out there from other coaches of other schools didn’t really express any concerns. Softball like any sport is competitive and you’re going to have students with more abilities than others.”
Other concerns is how Cordova-Goff will be accepted by her teammates, coaching staff and parents of players on the team. And how will opposing teams and players feel about competing against a transgender student athlete?
During Tuesday’s practice, everyone seemed to get along like a normal softball team.
“We’ve sat down with parents and talked about some of the logistical things they’re concerned about,” Rubalcaba said. “We’ve sat down with every parent that has come to my office. We’ve made some decisions for anyone who feels uncomfortable to feel comfortable and with the arrangements that we’ve made, everyone seems to be just fine.”