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No Openly Transgender Athletes Have Competed in the Olympics

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I have always been taken with the Olympics. During the Games of my elementary school years, I would imagine my country's medal count would rest on the outcome of neighborhood races. I would end days with sprints to the driveway imagining the final meters to the tape, and would cross the threshold of my mailbox and curbside garbage cans victorious, hands thrust overhead to a cheering crowd of mom reminding me again that dinner was ready.

During unmotivated high school practices, I imagined what I thought it would feel like to run a victory lap around a stadium, flag in hand. I would try on the expressions I would make on the podium as the national anthem played. I imagined where on my body I would get my five rings tattoo, and what color my Nikes would be when they sponsored me and released the Air Mosier.

Even into my early triathlon races in 2009, I carried visions of Olympic competitions through training; it was only within the last three years that my Olympic dream died. I had just found out I received a sponsorship from First Endurance, a premium endurance nutrition line. A friend congratulated me and jokingly asked if I was going to go to the Olympics. It hit me at that moment: regardless of how much I improve, how great my finish times are, and how well I do in races, I will not be able to compete in the Olympics in the foreseeable future.

No openly transgender athletes have competed in the Olympics.

In 2010, I came out as a transgender male, and began competing as male after previously competing as female in triathlons and other races. I started testosterone therapy, and became more comfortable with myself and more serious about my training. My race times improved as I gained more experience. But the better I get, nevertheless the distance between my Olympic dream and me gets longer still.

In 2004, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) clarified the guidelines for participation for transgender athletes. The IOC rule states that participation is based on sex, and those wishing to compete against athletes not of their birth sex are required to undergo sex reassignment surgery along with two years of either testosterone suppression or testosterone supplementation.

To clarify, "sex reassignment surgery," for the sake of the IOC's policy, means "surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomy," with eligibility beginning no sooner than two years after the gonadectomy. While many other sporting leagues are unsure of how to handle transgender participants, the IOC policy affirms that transgender athletes exist, but in the same breath it tells me that I'm not good enough to compete as a man if I do not have an extremely expensive, complicated and imperfect procedure done to modify my body.

Being ineligible to compete in the Olympics is not a true concern for me right now, but my eligibility in my sport of triathlon is: USA Triathlon follows the IOC's policy on transgender athletes. While most transgender age group athletes competing for fun could likely get away without having genital surgery, there is a possibility that my participation could be jeopardized or turned into a public scandal if someone wishes to contest my eligibility. In the past two years, I have placed consistently in the top three of the most competitive men's age group in the sport and in the top 10 percent overall at each of my races, and recently won my age group and placed fourth overall in an iron distance triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). The happiness and feeling of accomplishment -- proving wrong everyone who said I would no longer be competitive after transition to male -- was indescribable. So too was the concern that it would all be taken away if the right person chose to Google me.

With much consideration, I chose to be visible and open about my transition and my experiences as a trans athlete, in part because I did not (and still do not) see anyone like myself competing at a high level in the sports. It's part of the reason I am on the Board of Directors of Go! Athletes, the first national network of LGBTQ athletes and allies, so that young trans athletes can see their own reflection in someone still competing and being successful. It's also why I created TransAthlete.com, a resource for students, athletes, coaches, and administrators to find information about trans inclusion in athletics at various levels of play.

Similar to lesbian, gay, and bisexual athletes, I sometimes wonder if disclosing my identity will impact how others accept me or treat me, in and out of competition. But there's another layer to the concerns of a transgender athlete: Will I even be allowed to play?

Many trans people stop playing sports when they transition because the leagues, organizations, and sports they play and love do not have clear or inclusive guidelines regarding their participation. In a time when trans people can still be fired in 33 states in America simply for being trans, fighting for the right to play sports seems trivial; but as LGBT issues are on the global radar because of the Olympic games, it's worth considering what inclusion in athletics really looks like.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with the Sochi 2014 Olympics. The series is part of our Impact Sports initiative, which examines the intersection of sports and social good. Many of the posts in this series critique the Russian government's draconian anti-LGBT laws, though other topics include climate change and censorship. Read all the posts in the series here.

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