Serving the Trans Community
A poor fit at UCSC and struggles with depression forced Anderson away from college volleyball, but now she’s helping others overcome their struggles.
By Tylah Silva, Emerson College
Every athlete will tell you how hard they’ve had to train to be as good as they are, but for Chloe Psyche Anderson, that journey involved more hardships than most athletes have to deal with.
At birth, Anderson was assigned as a male, but later discovered that she had been a girl all along. In high school, she decided to come out as transgender, and didn’t let that stop her from doing the things she loved, including playing volleyball and track and field. In fact, coming out wasn’t the hindrance that some people might expect; it was a freeing act that ultimately made Anderson happier. That doesn’t mean, however, that her transition didn’t come with its own troubles. Going through hormonal treatments, Anderson had to deal with how her body transformed and adapt from playing as a person with high levels of testosterone, to one with little to no testosterone at all—less than most cisgender females.
It was difficult both physically and emotionally to transition and play, but Anderson endured to go on to play women’s volleyball at Santa Ana College and UC Santa-Cruz. She chronicles her path from high school to college as a transgender athlete in an article she wrote here, but just under a year later, Anderson is giving up athletics to help herself and other transgender students.
“I never doubted I could be an athlete and transition. I just had to do extensive research prior to make sure I fit into the associations legally, but my body and I have had a long and frustrating relationship to say the least. Having low doses of testosterone for a long time has made building up muscle much more of a challenge than [it is for] my teammates, as well as muscle recovery time. I always find myself under-achieving and having to push through most of the pain to try and feel like I can. This past season, I underestimated my mental strength, as I felt isolated on the team from almost all sides no matter how hard I tried to reach out. I actually began to dissociate during practice and couldn’t focus on anything. My biggest physical strengths were my ability to keep on pushing through continuously. Everything was a burst of energy that my body struggled to recover from.”
“As a transgender athlete, I have felt that I’ve been struggling to fight an uphill battle against stereotypes that I am physically superior to my teammates and that I’m not like them. While the physical superiority couldn’t be more false, the reality that I am very different than my teammates couldn’t be more obvious.”
“Women’s volleyball very much enforces women to be more along the lines of standard binary norms, so I didn’t fit in very well with anyone. Most of my teammates are heterosexual, cisgender and monogamous, all of which I am not. They were all more or less groomed by those around them since birth to be molded into this sort of expectation that society expects of women, let alone what a women’s volleyball player should be. People tell me I picked the pretty-girl sport—the sport of ‘models,’ more or less. I’ve never been exposed to the culture of popular girls, let alone those who are young enough and shallow enough to let it control their entire existence. I’ve come a very long way from when I once was, but societal norms and expectations of both males and females is something I personally cannot partake in.”
“At Santa Ana College, most of my teammates were wonderful and my coach and I had an overall pretty solid relationship despite some hard times. After transferring to UCSC however, things became a little bit more complicated. I never really made and friends, and I never felt like I clicked with my coach. There was just so little in common I had with everyone that my time through the season was painful and isolating, reasons more or less why I’m not going to be playing again next year.”
“Honestly, I wasn’t in a very good place emotionally when writing the original article, either. Writing is something that has always brought some sense of relief, and it was me processing my previous season and experiences with myself; having some sort of way to process and acknowledge some things that have happened helped me prepare to move forward, something I wouldn’t mind doing now honestly.”
“Since then things have not been positive. With only a few weeks left in my season, I had to pull out for my own emotional stability. Something I have been fairly private about is that I attempted suicide during this last season, and it seemed as if nobody even cared on the team. To know that I sank so low and yet I was still treated fairly horribly only fueled my desire to leave the team. I only attended two more games after, and they were our last two home games.”
“However, I would like trans athletes to know that if they intend to go forward in women’s volleyball that they’re not alone. I have had my own ups and downs, and feeling alone like I have was challenging and difficult. If any new athletes come forth I would happily help talk them through any of their issues, and do what I can to ensure the next generation of collegiate transgender athletes can and will succeed. It’s a fight, and I want to help out in the battle.”
“I have had a number of transgender athletes approach me since coming out publicly, only two of which are in volleyball and only one of which is planning on playing for a college team this next fall. I’m really happy they have reached out, and it’s helped me knowing that I helped inspire some to go for their dreams.”
“In the future, I would love to help out with transgender youth if possible and continue to do what I can to help the community that I’ve so fondly grown to love.”
Even though Anderson has dropped volleyball at UCSC, she hopes to transfer to a school that’s a better fit. Beyond being an athlete, Anderson is a proud LARPer who creates her own costumes, and even though she’s currently getting out of a depression due to her hardships in college athletics, Anderson is ultimately a happier person for being an out transgender athlete.
“I am myself. I got to experience playing the sport I love with many wonderful people. I felt like, for the first time in years, my life was going the way I wanted it to be. I don’t want to hide who I am to anyone. Nobody should be put into a situation where they should feel ashamed or belittled for who they are.”