A League of Fans Special Feature
Dr. Bobbi Lancaster, a successful and well-regarded physician in Arizona, is a transgender golfer trying to earn an LPGA tour card while playing on a couple minor league golf tours.
Born Robert Lancaster, she underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2010.
Lancaster grew up in Canada, participating in soccer, football, baseball, tennis, golf and track and field. She gravitated toward golf, her father’s sport, early on.
Her quest to join the LPGA has resulted in a lot of media attention. As a result, she’s embraced the opportunity to be a role model for others – especially athletes – who might be struggling with their gender identity and wondering if there’s a place in the sports world for them.
Today, she carries a message of “Be true to yourself!” wherever she goes.
Ken Reed, League of Fans’ sports policy director, recently interviewed Lancaster.
Reed: Let’s jump right in and talk about your quest to become a member of the LPGA. A lot of people have claimed that you have an unfair advantage over genetic women. How do you respond to those accusations?
Lancaster: I am acutely aware of comments that suggest I have an advantage over a genetic woman. As a result, I have chosen to compete against elite athletes 30-40 years younger than me to be sure in my mind that it is fair competition. I do think that it’s fair. At least I hope it is. In the end, I have been well received by the competitors as well as the LPGA.
In the lab, at least, I look like a female. My testosterone levels are almost nothing. My estrogen levels are very high.
Reed: What exactly needs to be done before you’re allowed to participate on the LPGA tour as a woman who has transitioned from being a man physiologically?
Lancaster: Well, the LPGA policy, the Olympic policy, and basically the policy of every major sports governing body is that you must provide proof that you’ve had gender-reassignment surgery, you must be at least two years out from that surgery, you must provide evidence that you’re on female hormone therapy, and you must have lab reports on female and male hormone levels that show you’re in the required category. And then I think you’re good to go.
I believe “fairness” is the key word in athletics. We have to constantly develop and modify policies to make sure sports remain fair. And that includes competitions involving transgender athletes.
Personally, it’s really important to me that I believe I’m competing fairly. At this point, I think I am.
Reed: Okay. Let’s step back a little. You seem like someone who is completely comfortable in her own skin today. But in reading a little about your background, that wasn’t always the case, was it?
Lancaster: Oh, heavens no. I needed a psychologist to help me debunk all these lies I’d bought into my whole life about who I am. Basically, I believed that I wasn’t worthwhile, that I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me, and on and on it went. I had a whole laundry list of negative ways that I thought about myself. My therapist helped me realize that there’s nothing wrong with me and never has been. I had to unlearn a lot of lies that I’d held very close before I could come close to being happy.
I’m no longer depressed or obsessed with killing myself. That was on my mind all the time. I wasted so much time thinking self-destructive thoughts. Thankfully, those thoughts are all gone. I’m very happy now. I’m living a joyful and magical life and it’s all because I finally made the decision to live openly and be true to myself.
Reed: How long will you continue to strive to get on the LPGA tour — or at least play golf professionally on some level?
Lancaster: I will keep competing primarily because I am trying to get better. But I will also keep competing because I feel I have inadvertently become a role model and an inspiration to so many individuals and I want to represent them well in my own small way.
When I started this golf quest, I had no intention of becoming a social change agent. I just wanted to pursue my dream and try to become the best golfer I could become. I also wanted to challenge myself in a lot of ways and just put myself out there.
The result has been extremely heart-warming. I’ve received all kinds of feedback – letters, emails, Facebook messages, etc. People tell me, “You’ve changed everything for me. I can talk to my parents now,” things like that.
I never thought I’d be inspiring to people. I never expected that to happen. But I do feel I’m making a positive impact. There just aren’t many role models for young athletes struggling with gender identity issues. In my small way, I want to help change stereotypes.
Reed: What’s your message to people – young and old – who are struggling with their gender identity?
Lancaster: We are all perfect and miraculous when we start out. Because some of us are different than the norm, we get marginalized, stereotyped, bullied, beat up and worse. If we buy in to others’ opinions, then we are doomed to a life of hiding and self-loathing. It causes terrible damage.
The individuals who finally push back and live the life they were meant to live are truly brave and have to be celebrated. It is so liberating to live your truth. And so much can be accomplished when a person is finally at peace with him or herself.
And the people you thought would abandon you, for the most part, stay with you, and the bonds are even stronger.
One of my key messages when I speak with people is to “be true to yourself, to live authentically.” I think that applies to all of us as human beings, not just those struggling with gender identity. It won’t serve you well, if you’re struggling with certain issues, to hide things, to live closeted. In the long run, you’ll just damage yourself and your relationships.
My life’s certainly an example. I lived closeted for a long time and I suffered from self-loathing, lack of confidence, a lack of self-respect, etc.
Young and old have to hear this message. It’s never too late to get it right, to be true to yourself and follow your dream.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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