Australian Olympic rugby sevens gold medalist Ellia Green comes out as a trans man

Former rugby sevens international Ellia Green has come out as a trans man, saying he hopes the announcement will help others feel comfortable enough to make decisions about who they want to be.

The Australian Olympic champion, who said he has suffered from serious mental health issues since retiring from the sport last year, made the announcement in a pre-recorded video released at an international summit in Canada late in the season. homophobia and transphobia in sport.

“I promised myself that when my rugby career ended, I would go on to live the rest of my life in the identity and the body that I know I’m meant to be in,” Green said.

“I just knew it was going to be the most liberating feeling when I had this surgery and to be in the body I knew I had to be. It was a bright spark in my spirit during those dark times facing the demons , but I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.

The 29-year-old player, who won a gold medal at the Rio Games in 2016, becomes the first Olympian to come out as a trans man. The only other transgender or gender-diverse Olympic gold medalists are decathlete Caitlyn Jenner and Canadian soccer player Quinn, who won gold in Tokyo last year.

Green’s transition comes at a time when the spotlight is on the issue of trans athletes in professional sports.

transgender women have been blocked by World Rugby to compete in women’s rugby union while the International Rugby League barred rugby league players who made the switch from male to female from international competition. In June, swimming’s world governing body, Fina, voted to bar transgender women from elite women’s competitions.

The decisions were widely criticized by trans advocatesincluding Green, who say they only make transphobia worse and mental health issues worse in the trans community.

“Imagine not being able to do what you love because of how you identify, banning transgender people from playing sports, I think that’s shameful and I think that’s hurtful,” Green said. “I think the alarming suicide rates and mental health issues faced by transgender and gender-diverse youth are only going to get worse.”

Green has no ambitions to return to the sport itself at the moment, having retired a few months after failing to make Australia’s seven-man women’s squad for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

At that time, he struggled with his own mental health and suffered from depression, admitting he spent a lot of time “just in the house, in a dark room”.

“I was ashamed of myself, I felt I had let a lot of people down, especially me and my mum. I felt like a complete failure, it was heartbreaking,” he said. One thing that kept me positive was that I had already planned my surgery and treatment in preparation for my transition. It was something I counted down the days with my partner.

Ellia Green scores against USA in the Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup Final in San Francisco, 2018
Ellia Green scores against the United States in the Women’s Rugby Sevens World Cup Final in San Francisco in 2018. Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP

Having had a daughter, Waitui, with her partner, Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, Green said it was important to lead by example and help others who might be facing the same decisions.

“A big reason I wanted to do this and talk about it is because I want my daughter to see me one day and be like, ‘Wow, my dad was brave enough to talk about it, and my dad was brave enough. brave to share his story with others to help them live their lives a little better, a little easier than what he was doing at that time,” he said.

“It’s possible to live a life like yourself. It’s possible to find love, to have babies, to get married, to do all of that, even though there are laws and people who say that you can or you can’t do that. You can do that.”

Erik Denison, a Monash University researcher involved in research on homophobia and transphobia in sport, praised Green’s bravery and said the public support from top athletes was invaluable given the rates alarming rates of suicide and poor mental health among trans and gender diverse youth.

“I am impressed with Ellia’s bravery and her deep desire to help save the lives of trans youth by sharing her story,” Denison said. “He will be such a powerful role model for young people and sharing his story will help save lives.”

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