Athlete speaks on gender transition experience

By Hannah Benson and By Hannah Benson

“Just hang on,” is the advice Brent Durah would have given a younger, female version of himself.

Durah, who is a junior at the University, spoke about his transition from a female athlete to a male athlete at We Are One Team’s (WA1T) second event of the year on Nov. 16.

The goal of Durah’s speech was to create an educational opportunity, a safe place for Durah to share and an opportunity for dialogue, said Keenan Colquitt, member of WA1T and doctoral student at the University.

“Brent is able to tell his story in a funny, entertaining and educational way,” Colquitt said. “It’s important for people to hear because it is a hard topic for a lot of people and this is a really good opportunity. It was wonderful seeing so many receptive people.”

Starting his athletic career at the University on the women’s cross country/track and field teams, Durah said the transition to the men’s cross country team has been a challenge.

Durah said he always felt different from other girls and that growing up was more difficult than the average girl.

“The first time I wore a bra I cried,” Durah said. “I was even jealous of my brother’s puberty.”

While Durah felt different, he said he just thought he was a lesbian. So, he came out as gay his sophomore year of high school.

After coming out and still not feeling like himself, Durah researched what it meant to be trans.

Eventually, Durah said he decided to transition in March 2014.

When he came out as trans to his close friends, Durah said he was part of the women’s cross country/track and field teams and had a girlfriend.

His girlfriend, who he had been dating since freshman year, said she was willing to be open minded and didn’t hesitate when Durah asked her to call him her boyfriend.

“She just wants me to be happy,” Durah said.

He said he experienced similar positivity from his teammates.

Rachel Durbin, Durah’s teammate and freshman year roommate, said she was open minded when Durah made his decision to transition and told her.

“He sat me down and said, ‘I’m gonna be Brent. Refer to me as he/him/his. I’m starting my trans journey,’” Durbin said. “He’s such a great friend that none of it ever phased me.”

She said she had never gone through someone transitioning before, but that she didn’t have to in order to be accepting of Brent.

“You don’t have to be experienced, as long as you have an open mind,” she said.

Durbin said having him switch teams was “weird, but it worked.”

She also said he set a precedent at the University in athletics.

“Before this, there was never rules or outlines on how to deal with this, but he did it,” Durbin said.

Durah started taking testosterone on January 27, 2015. Because testosterone is a banned substance by the NCAA, Durah needed permission to take it and switch teams. He said he will need to take testosterone for the rest of his life.

This fall, he was officially eligible to be part of the men’s team.

Durah said there was a difficult period when he wasn’t on either team, but was practicing with the women.

“I didn’t know who I was in terms of sports because I wasn’t on either team and I was just kind of there,” he said.

He said switching teams has been hard because transitioning genders has made it taxing on his body.

“I ask a lot out of my body to be a collegiate athlete and transition at the same time,” he said.

With his new perspective, Durah said male privilege is something that stands out to him now.

“The world caters to men,” he said. “To have people have different perceptions for me and things I should know was very interesting.”

He said being born a woman gives him a level of understanding other men may not have.

“It makes me a better man to understand women on the level that I do,” he said.

Durah hopes to maintain his changes, continue his transition, change his legal name and compete next fall with his team.

“It is really tough to be a type A person and not be able to contribute to my team’s success.”

Durah said not everybody’s transition is the same, but encourages those who are going through the process to seek support and to “just hang on.”