Although I am a political person, I try not to get too political in my weekly musings and updates on the running community. But the recent threats (and suit against the Federal government) by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and henchman-in-chief Dan Patrick over who is allowed to use public facilities is an affront to the Austin running community. Or, at the very least it should be.
In the name of safety, Abbott and his ilk are attempting to discriminate and deprive transgender people of their civil rights by forcing them to use public bathrooms that correspond to the sex indicated on their birth certificates. Rather than insuring the freedom for all Americans, this is an attempt to exclude a few Texans, much like when we had separate bathrooms for white men and women and a single “colored” bathroom for African-Americans, regardless of their gender.
(Interestingly, there have been two separate incidents in the last couple of years in Austin public bathroom when someone—guys, presumably straight guy–secretly photographed women using these bathrooms, including the very public restrooms right near The Rock at Austin HS and the UT locker rooms.)
But this bathroom controversy is entirely reminiscent of when Texas fought long and hard against the Supreme Court decision paving the way for same sex marriages, rationalizing the country would fall apart if such marriages were allowed. Last I looked the world was still spinning and the institution of marriage is still viable for straights as well as gay and lesbian couples.
Why this latest discriminatory action is an affront to the Austin running community is because it directly impacts and marginalizes an already embattled minority who live mostly in the shadows of accepted society. It’s my guess that few of us know any transgender people—I’ve heard estimates as few as 30 live in Austin—but their numbers doesn’t matter. Their civil rights do.
I’ve been fortunate to know and respect one such transgender person. About a year ago, this person in the group I train with asked several of us to start calling him Carl, instead of Carla (this is a pseudonym). That certainly got our attention, but it wasn’t exactly a shock that he was undergoing a change as he’s always seemed more like a guy than a woman. He’s married to a woman and is a career officer in the military. Although we’ve done countless long runs together and numerous races, we’ve never discussed his sexual identity because it was so blatantly obvious.
After his transformation to guy was complete, there was never any issue that I’ve been aware of with the shared bathrooms we use before and after our training runs. Admittedly, the first time Carl took his shirt off, there was a little bit of a shock factor which soon wore off. He’s one of the friendliest runners in town (a solid 3:10 marathoner) and some of his best friends in our training group are self-described conservative Republicans who accept him as readily as everybody else has.
That is, except his chosen profession. Carl has represented his branch of the military by running on its national team. But, he’s done so as a woman. When we finished the Houston Half Marathon together in January and had breakfast with some of his teammates, he admitted that it was all very confusing and disheartening to him to be accepted by the Austin running community as a man, but still have to run and work as a woman.
Currently, transgender men and women are excluded from military service, just like they were until five years ago when openly gay men and women were barred. BTW: the Secretary of the Army—Eric Fanning—is an openly gay man who has come out in support of transgender people serving in the military.
I don’t know if my friend is going to come out as transgender in his job. So far, one person who is in the infantry—a Staff Sgt. Patricia King in Colorado Springs—has transitioned while remaining in the military. King said, “To know that the Secretary of the Army is supportive of open trans service, supportive of me not only as a solider but as a person, is a comforting feeling.”
The very least we should do is accept transgender people for who they are, rather than make a political statement by robbing them of any of their civil rights. Texas emerged from the Jim Crow era of segregation more than 50 years ago. Let’s not return to it by marginalizing any Americans.
O Mike Gitre is one of the good guys in Austin. Been training with him for years, but we won’t be running together anytime soon. Mike was playing basketball a couple of weeks ago (he described it as a “light scrimmage”) when he planted for a jump shot and ruptured the tendons on both quadriceps. Rushed to a hospital, Gitre had surgery to repair both tendons. The recovery is long and tedious, but because of his overall fitness, Gitre is hoping to reduce the year-long process to a more manageable 6-7 months. Get well. We need you back on the roads with us.
O At the Hoka One One Meet in Los Angeles, favorite son Leonel Manzano finished DFL (last) in his 1500-meter heat in a disheartening 3:43.86. Leo was in contention for the first two laps, but dropped way back on the bell. Manzano has had awful early results before—such as ’12—when he ran an awful mile right before the Olympics and yet still won the silver medal in the London 1500. In the 5000, former Longhorn Ryan Dohner was ninth in 13:51 and in the steeple, Rogue’s Austin Bussing also placed ninth in 8:49.82. Another Rogue steepler—John Sullivan—was sixth in his heat in 8:41.45. Sarah Pease and Lennie Waite of Rogue finished the women’s steeple in fifth and sixth. Pease ran 9:46.74 with Waite a fraction behind in 9:46.88.
O Bussing, the Cap 10,000 champ, will attempt again to get an Olympic Trials qualifier in the steeple next weekend in Nashville in Music City Distance Carnival. Bussing, who lost a shoe halfway through the Hoka One One steeple, needs to run 8:32 to qualify for the Trials.
O Matthew Maton, a former Austinite, was named the Pac 12’s freshman of the year in track. Maton and his sister Ashley—a senior– run for the University of Oregon which swept the Pac 12 team titles. Matthew finished second in the Pac 12 1500 in 3:39.97. BTW: The Maton’s younger brother Daniel qualified for the Oregon State High School Champs as a freshman by running a 4:17 1600 (mile).
O The Pre Meet, the only Diamond League meet in the US and one of the best invitationals in the world, is this weekend (May 27-28) in Eugene at Hayward Field. The meet will be televised on Friday (4:30-6 p.m.) on NBCSN and then on Saturday on NBC from 4-5 p.m.
O Former Longhorn wide receiver and long jumper par excellence Marquise Goodwin was named USATF athlete of the week for last week (May 18). In a meet in Guadeloupe, Goodwin jumped 27-8.75 which is the longest jump in the world so far. Goodwin, a third year wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, finished 10th in the London Olympics and is going for another Olympic berth in Eugene at the Track Trials.
O Kevin Rowe, a member of the Austin FD, is also an officer in the US Navy Reserve and has just returned after spending a year-long mobilization in Djibouti in eastern Africa. While there, he continued to run and even ran in a race called the Gran Bara. It’s 15 kilometers long and in a completely straight line (no turns) through the heart of the desert. Rowe wrote, “It was an amazing experience. I’ve run Boston, Chicago, Marine Corps, Sacramento and Austin and this race was right up there with Boston for incredible running experiences.”
O Congrats to former UT runner Betzy Childers after receiving her medical degree from UT Health Sciences Center in San Antonio. Dr. Betzy will do a general surgery residency at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
O Don’t forget one of the final races of the spring is this Saturday. The 39th annual Daisy 5-K is at Camp Mabry, starting at 8 a.m. There is on site race registration, beginning at 6:45.
O The Rogue Trail series culminated last weekend with its 30-K. Former Columbia University runner Paul Morris was the overall winner in 2:22:41 with Josh Beckham second in 2:26:01 and ultraman Paul Terranova third in 2:28:31. Beckham was also the first masters runner with Terranova second and Mike McGinn third. Top woman was the indomitable Amy Baker in 2:41:15, followed by Sarah Watson in 3:07:24 and Abigail Huntoon in 3:12:04. First masters woman was Kim Batiansila (3:38) and Charlotte Harris (3:45) as well as Sara Ferniza (4:01).
O The UT men and women are in Lawrence, Kansas this weekend for the NCAA West Regionals which will determine who goes to the NCAA Championships in Eugene in June. Texas won both the men’s and women’s Big 12 titles last weekend for the second consecutive year.
O No surprise, but UT sprinter Morolake Akinosun was named the women’s outstanding performer of the year award in the Big 12. She’s the first woman to win the Big 12 100 and 200 meters three years in a row.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Slowhand” by the incomparable Eric Clapton. Been listening to EC practically my entire life and continue to love every note he’s ever played.
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