From the time she was a child, Andraya Yearwood knew one thing about herself: she loved sports. So did her whole family.
Yearwood was born in Georgia. Her family moved around a little before settling in Cromwell, Connecticut. As a kid, she did every sport she could. She took lyrical dance classes, played soccer, and was part of the cheerleading squad for years before starting to run track in 7th grade. She excelled at the sport, competing in long jump, triple jump, and high jump events, as well as sprinting. Then, Yearwood started to transition, at first privately, and then full time.
The summer before her Freshman year of high school, she met with the Principal, Vice Principal, and Athletic Director of Cromwell High to see “how these next years of high school were going to look like” for her. The faculty was supportive of her being trans. They told her she had to be on the girls team to continue running track, which was exactly what she wanted. She was able to do cheerleading as well. On the team everyone was supportive. She was happy to have a place where everyone knew and loved who she was. Her coach, as well as the girls on her team, “made it a point to not bring in what I dealt with outside–all the bigotry, they made sure to keep it out there and not bring that into practice,” Yearwood says. “They made me feel like one of them—like I wasn’t other.”
That’s why she wanted to continue running track.
And then, the wider world took notice of the talented girl excelling at the sport. The backlash came outside of the team, and outside of the school. The parents of other runners at Cromwell High were upset, claiming, like so many anti-trans talking heads, that Yearwood had an “unfair advantage” at track, despite this having no scientific or realistic basis.
She became national news. Her junior year of high school, a group of parents filed suit against her, the Connecticut School board, and her fellow trans runner Terry Miller. They didn’t just want to take away her right to play, they wanted to wipe all her achievements off the record. So Yearwood fought back, and she’s still fighting.
The ACLU got involved, and fought for Yearwood’s right to play. Her case was one of many attacks we saw—and are still seeing—around trans girls’ right to play on the correct team. Now, Yearwood has graduated high school and continues to talk about her life, her story, and the court case that tried to paint her talent as unfair advantage, and tried to take her greatest joy in life away.
Yearwood didn’t let them silence her. She’s still speaking out to make sure other girls can play freely, happily, and without fear of harassment.
In a short VICE documentary from last year, Running While Black, Yearwood talked about everything she had to deal with during those painful years when the jealousy and intolerance of others made it impossible for her to do the thing she loved. They wanted to “erase me from the track scene in Connecticut altogether,” she told VICE.
But they haven’t erased her, and they never will.