by Keelin Godsey
On July 21, 2012, I competed at the US Track and Field Olympic Trials in the women’s hammer throw. I competed as the first out female-to-male transgender athlete pre-medical transition. However, this was my second time competing at the Olympic Trials. At the 2008 Trials, I was closeted and placed seventh. This year, however, I was out and placed fifth. I only missed the team by a hair.
The major difference between the Beijing and the London trials was that I was fully, publicly out and everyone knew. My competitors knew. Their coaches knew. Everyone in my field knew. Prior to the games I was inundated with emails and messages, from all sorts of different people about my story and what they thought about it. Dealing with the pressure was a new avenue that I learned to navigate. I trained for 10 years to make the US team. I already had enough pressure on myself to make the team. At the same time, I felt additional pressure to succeed on behalf of the transgender community. Even though there was no direct pressure, I did not want to disappoint all the people who said they looked up to me. I wanted to give them something to look up to.
While I threw a personal best of 70.48m at this year’s Trials (which is a meter better than my previous personal best), it was hard not to feel like I let people down who supported me. Most importantly, I felt like I let myself down. I missed out on making a team I spent my whole post-collegiate career trying to be a part of. That was the hardest thing to get over. We all hear about the amazing stories of those who made the team, but we don’t hear about those who don’t – the athletes who were so close. We don’t hear how hard it is to reconcile with the kind of loss and pain of trying to determine what is left in a career as an athlete at this level. I can tell you from my perspective it is incredibly hard. Being that close to my dream has been one of the biggest struggles I have ever had to deal with.
Prior to the Olympics, I told myself that I threw really well and so I am happy with how I performed. Yet, it wasn’t until watching the opening ceremonies that it all hit me. I thought I was stoic enough to watch the opening ceremonies but all I could think about was “I wish I was there.” I felt disappointed that I was not competing in London, as I watched the games and remembered how close I had come to being there. Now, the most recent issue of what’s next in my life is also complicated by my need/want to transition my gender.
Mostly, I wonder what’s next in terms of my career as an athlete. What do you do when throwing is the only thing you want to do, or that you feel you are really good at? I am lucky that I have found another job, yet what do I do with the free time after work when I would be practicing? When you have spent most of your days focused on one thing, something that you love to do, it is a huge hole that requires a lot of energy to fill. I spent the last 10 years focusing on track and school, so I didn’t have much of a social life. I am now learning how to really get out and be active within any community that isn’t sports focused.
Competing at the Olympic Trials and being out as transgender was easy compared to this transition time in my life. I was doing what I know and what I love. I had the honor of competing at the highest level and loved every second of it. I lived for those big meets. But what’s next? Where do I go and how will it work? Another big meet could be in my future, but for this year, I will be watching the Olympics from afar.