Next in our profiles on out TGI athletes, meet Kai Scott!
Name: Kai Scott
How do you identify or describe your gender?
What sports do you currently play or have you played before?
Currently, I’m a competitive runner in a variety of distances, including 10K and marathon (42K). I also swim as a form of cross-training. In the past, I have played on basketball and volleyball teams.
What’s your typical/favorite position:
Are you a professional athlete? If not, what do you do as a “day job”?
I am a consultant to the Canadian mining industry on social issues. In particular, I conduct social effects assessments, traditional knowledge studies, and engagement/consultation activities throughout northwest British Columbia, Nunavut, Ontario, Alberta, and Northwest Territories. I absolutely love my job working closely and collaboratively with a range of Aboriginal groups in the most stunning (and sometimes very remote) parts of the country. I do a lot of traveling, so running is an easy sport to maintain while I’m on the road. I pack my running shoes and shorts and I’m all set. Well, unless I’m running up in the Arctic in -60C weather and then there are a few more layers involved. And really I can’t call it running; it’s more of a shuffle at those temperatures.
How would you describe your running style?
Relaxed and joyful. Recently, I have been through a lot with all the medical and social aspects of my gender journey (including hormone therapy and surgery). So, I treat running as a release of tension/stress and also as an expression of pure joy for all the things I’ve been able to sort out and take action in my life. My main race objective these days is crossing the finish line with a big silly grin on my face. My finishing time is secondary to celebrating how amazing life is through the movement of my body.
What do you to get ready for competition?
I used to get really nervous and nauseous before races. Now, I don’t put as much pressure on myself. My present attitude is about trusting more in all the preceding training runs that have brought me to the start line. Before starting a race, I say a prayer of gratitude to the universe that I have a body and I get to move it through some beautiful setting.
What’s your most memorable sports moment or top accolade?
Given how recent the physical aspects of my gender confirmation started and that most of my running achievements have occurred in my female form, I feel that I have just started my racing career at the age of 33. That is not to negate my previous racing experience, which was important in getting me here, but I feel I have not raced against my peers. So, a special race for me was the Vancouver Sun Run in April 2013, which was the first race I ran as Kai in the male category. I was running with a binder, so my time was nowhere near my current speed. Regardless, I felt more connected and alive during that race then ever before. I felt ecstatic.
Who are your athletic possibility models/role models/heroes?
There are so many…Growing up, I had a life-size poster of Michael Jordan, who was my idol. I measured myself against the poster every day and frequently dreamt of joining the NBA when I grew up. In these dreams, I bound my chest and shaved off my hair.
Nowadays, I look up to Canadian marathon Olympian, Dylan Wykes, who I occasionally see speeding around town. I also have trans male athletes, Chris Mosier and Kye Allums, who I admire for their strength, determination, dedication, and courage to be themselves, declare that in public settings, and complete at high levels.
What have sports meant to you as a TGI person?
For me, running literally saved my life. Whether it was dealing with dysphoria, frequent moves, being picked on at school, or a tough home life, running was my reprieve and my coping mechanism. It was (and continues to be) my biggest gesture of self-love and affirmation. Running was something I was good at and it made me feel so good – almost untouchable by all the troubles around me. While in the past I was literally and figuratively running away from insurmountable problems, I have turned a corner and now I am running for joy, acceptance, and excitement.
What do you think are the most pressing issues facing TGI athletes?
I think there is a huge need for public awareness about and support for the unique needs and challenges facing TGI athletes. There is still a lot of ignorance, fear, and hate. I think more options need to be made available for a variety of identities. I see more space opening up, but it’s at a slow pace. Navigation of showers and change rooms (and other gendered spaces) is also tricky for TGI athletes. Personally, I got through the discomfort to find what works for me and also to share that with other TGI athletes and persons. I am also really grateful to high profile TGI athletes, who come out and shared their stories. I know they don’t need to, but it’s truly a gift to others and gives us all a vision for a better future.
Please describe a particularly empowering moment for you.
I jokingly call my pre-surgery era my binder training phase. Wearing a binder while running is akin to high altitude training. The common theme between the two is a sense of constant lack of oxygen. I would be gasping for air during runs and trailing behind my running buddies. I felt frustrated and isolated. I was being held back considerably. Then, I got top surgery in May of 2013.
One of the most empowering moments for me was the first time I ran shirtless after top surgery. It was an exhilarating experience as I sped along the seawall with the wind blowing on my chest. I didn’t care about the stares or the questions, I felt free for the first time and I was walking on air. Since then, I have been unstoppable. Gender affirming surgery has freed up energy formerly tied up in dysphoria. I have poured this extra energy into a variety of passions, including running. As such, my pace has quickened seemingly overnight. I used to have a hard time maintaining a 4:30/km pace. Now, I barely break a sweat and I’m comfortable at 4:00/km.
What advice do you have for young TGI athletes?
I would recommend that young TGI athletes use sport for positive purposes as a way to relieve stress, reach goals, escape troubles, and feel good. I would dissuade young TGI athletes from using sport as a way to punish or hurt themselves. During a particular difficult chapter in my life, I misused running. I ran myself into the ground. Running became a source of illness and injury. It bordered on self-harm as I acted out how upset and devastated I felt inside.
Also, it’s not talked a lot about, but there is a lot of over-exercising among trans men as a dysphoria management tool. I ran seven days a week at one point so I could minimize the curves and bumps on my body. But really I was a shell of a person with a lack of mental and physical strength. That’s a scary use of sport. So, I would encourage young TGI athletes to check in with themselves about their motivation and emotional state and whether doing their sport that day will serve them or exacerbate their situation. If it’s the latter, taking a day of rest is a good idea.
Is there anyone you would like to thank/acknowledge?
My gender journey has been amazing! There are so many people to thank and honour. In particular, especially as it pertains to sport, I am so grateful to my dear friends in my running club, the Vancouver Frontrunners. They are the ones that I first informed about my gender identity. It’s within the safety of this group that I quietly explored my relationship to a male name and pronouns as I began my gender journey about a year ago. They gladly joined me on this journey and were patient while I changed between names, never missing a beat. They were so supportive, respectful, and truly celebrated me as an individual and as one of the guys. It’s in their midst that I have finally grown up to be a man.
Any shameless self-promotion?
As part of my role on the board of the Vancouver Frontrunners, I have made an effort to develop trans and gender variant inclusive policies, procedures, and spaces. As part of this endeavour, I developed a TGI-specific page on the website, which includes information on the VFR showering policy, registration process, and resources. I am also excited about the introduction of a third race category for our upcoming Vancouver Pride Run and Walk in July, which the Vancouver Frontrunners organizes every year. As such, we will have the following race categories with prizing:
1) Female (cis/trans);
2) Male (cis/trans); and
3) Gender Variant.
It is hoped that this will not only increase participation among often marginalized parts of the LGBT community, but also provide a teachable moment to expand language and understanding to a broader audience (e.g., cisgender folks). I would love to see my fellow TGI athletes join us for this fun and momentous occasion.
This is the fourth in our series of TGI athlete profiles. Our goal with this series is to promote the diversity and awesomeness of TGI athletes and to help broaden and improve the cultural narrative surrounding us.
If you are a TGI athlete and you would like to be profiled, please send us an e-mail at TGIAthleteNetwork@gmail.com.