G Ryan | Athletes Connected

(mellow music) – My name is G. My pronouns are they, them, theirs, and I no longer feel that I
have to apologize for that. Asking people to learn
to change and to grow isn’t something you
need to feel guilty for even if that’s the emotion in the moment. There wasn’t one clear, direct path to get to this place of
feeling like my best self. It took time, a lot of trial and error and a willingness to ask for help. Even when I wasn’t sure
exactly what I needed. I already knew that I
struggled with depression and anxiety before I
even set foot on campus. It was hard to try and make
the binary space of athletics affirmative for me. I’m a trans, non-binary
gender queer person who swam on a women’s team and had to hold both of those identities simultaneously. As a swimmer, showing
up on deck in a swimsuit was terrible for me. I felt uncomfortable in my body. Like it didn’t fit the
image of myself in my head. I had to stay fit and strong to compete. But some days I could
barely get out of bed and get dressed without
feeling a crushing weight of my body, is something
I had to fight against. It wasn’t negative body image
in a way that we talked about with nutrition or mental health. It was something else. Dysphoria related to my gender identity and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I struggled with feeling
like I constantly had to defend my presence in
whatever space I was in. I tried to make it easier
by leaving parts of myself and my identity at the door. But eventually that
constant self censorship wore me down to the point of breaking. And I chose to stop pretending
to be something I’m not. I went to Athletes Connected, which was a great place to start. I saw a counselor in
the athletic department and a psychiatrist at
University Health Service. But it didn’t meet all of my needs. Spectrum Center offered a place for being openly and loudly queer. I was welcomed and encouraged. There were couches and
soft blankets to just relax and have a few quiet moments and there were also
large social gatherings to get together, play board games and share each other’s hardships and joys. The information is there for you to find. And there are people all
around who want to help connect you with the right places. Eventually I ended up also
seeing another therapist not connected to the university at all. It was another piece of a
balancing act of scheduling, but because I made it a
priority I was able to craft my support system. I am grateful to the
people around me who helped to build a foundation for
me to be a trans athlete at the University of Michigan. Who allowed space for my
mental health to struggle and didn’t judge me because of it. It’s easy to get lost
in the demands of being a student athlete everyday. We are evaluated through times, strengths, grades and skills, which we often internalize as
being connected to our worth. But being able to find a
support system that values you as an individual, a
complicated human being, helps remind us that we are
more than just an athlete. – We are one community. – You are not alone. – There are resources available. (mellow music)

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