Running up that hill

This trans runner is breaking barriers in nonbinary divisions

Trans marathon runner Cal Calamia has secured an exemption from the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to compete in nonbinary divisions while taking testosterone. According to the Washington Post, this is believed to be the first time such an exemption has been made for nonbinary categories. “This approval represents a turning point in conversations about trans athletes,” Calamia said.

“To have this approval means I’m allowed to be part of this conversation without being sidelined.”

At 27 years old, Calamia is both a high school cross-country coach and avid marathoner based in San Francisco. After advocating for the inclusion of a nonbinary division in the San Francisco Marathon, they became its very first winner last year.

Months later in July, Calamia received an email from the USADA warning they were at risk of sanctions for testosterone use. In order to continue competing in USA Track & Field (USATF) sanctioned events as nonbinary, they would need to apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

The email stunned Calamia—particularly, the contradiction of including nonbinary athletes while disqualifying them for gender-affirming care. Additionally, when they went through with the TUE application, they found it unnecessarily invasive. It included only two options for gender—male or female—which Calamia left blank. And in order to establish a gender dysphoria diagnosis, it required a complete medical history, including psychological records. In contrast, applicants who take testosterone for other reasons, such as hypogonadism or low testosterone, are not asked to provide their psychological history.

Calamia chose not to comply with requests they felt were clear examples of “overstepping.” And although the USADA instructed them to refrain from competing while their application was pending, they ran in the nonbinary division of the Philadelphia Distance Run, clocking their personal best time. 

“I realized I’m a runner, and I’m trans, and I’m not doing anything wrong,” they explained. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Whatever the consequences of that may be, those consequences will ultimately expose a deeper issue that we can then work to fix.”

In the end, Calamia received confirmation this week that their TUE application was approved. They are now cleared for testosterone use while competing in male, nonbinary, and open categories at USATF-sanctioned events. While the TUE is good for the next ten years, back-dated from June 2022, Calamia is still required to monitor testosterone levels every six months.

“Now that this conversation has been opened up and the TUE has been approved, there’s an exponential amount more space for other people to follow my lead in this process and have that opportunity to transition and be themselves and still be able to do their sport,” Calamia said.

But while they’ve made it through the process themself, the next step—Calamia explained—is to have a sitdown with USADA officials and discuss ways to make the process less invasive for those who come next.

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Tags: nonbinary
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