HALL OF FAMER Alexander. [Photo by Natalja Kent]
There was something triumphant about outsports.com’s lengthy November 2013 profile of Glocester sports coach Stephen Alexander. Not only did the article, “Transition Game,” identify Alexander as the “first high school coach to come out publicly as transgender,” it also described how various members of Alexander’s family and, even his hometown, itself — “the last place on earth most would expect to find a thriving transgender coach” — have rallied around the high school-sports-star-turned-coach. “The little village of Glocester, it seems, has had a transition of its own,” author Cyd Zeigler wrote.
But Alexander’s previous sports stardom (he won a combined six state championships as a tennis/basketball/soccer/volleyball/softball player, and scored more than 1000 points in basketball) was also one of the story’s sore points. At the time of the outsports.com story’s publication, Alexander had been snubbed from an induction into the Ponaganset High School Athletic Hall of Fame — a blatant slight in what should have been an “open-and-shut case,” in Zeigler’s words.
Nine months later, we at the Phoenix are happy to report that Alexander recently received word of his induction into the Hall of Fame’s 2014 Class (the official ceremony will take place this fall). We’re also happy to report that the 35-year-old multi-sport coach has also been named honorary marshal of this weekend’s RI Pridefest in Providence.
We caught up with Alexander to hear what life is like as one of the folks pushing America toward what a recent Time magazine cover story called “The Transgender Tipping Point.”
Our conversation has been edited and condensed.
HOW EARLY DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE TRANSGENDER? I knew since I was aware of myself. So, four years old, five years old. I always knew I was a boy.
I remember I would always have my shirt off when I was younger. I just had my shorts on and my shirt [off] and [I would] go play mud pies or go do Transformers or explore in the woods and make bow and arrows. . . But one of the very first memories that was traumatic for me was my mother feeling the social pressure to put a bikini top on me while we had family members for 4th of July around. She was embarrassed for me because she saw me as a little girl running around.
I was just a kid. I think that, unfortunately, what transgender people struggle with is our innocence gets taken away very quickly due to survival. We want to be who we are, and we are, and then all of sudden there’s this moment where somebody tells us. . . we can’t be who we are. And then we struggle trying to get back to that point.
Now you’re getting better stories. There’s [the Ryland Whittington] story out there that’s all over the web, where there’s a young [transgender] six-year-old and the parents were educated enough to seek some help and do their readings. And now the kid seems very well adjusted. They haven’t done gender reassignment; there’s no need for it at this point. The child hasn’t experienced puberty. They’ll have to deal with that later on. [There is a] new wave of, if you see a kid who does have a very profound sense of gender dysphoria, they can go on hormone blockers to stop certain things from growing. But that’s where it’s parents and it’s kids and . . . a gray area of what to do with the child and what’s best.