Trans Day of Visibility: A Conversation with Oliver Lane

His fear was that he would run out of options.

When Oliver Lane first announced his gender transition to the University of Guelph Gryphons, he worried that he would no longer be able to be associated with the team he’d been playing with for three years. He was going into the fourth year of his undergrad and had deep-rooted relationships with his teammates that he didn’t want to lose. That’s when the administration came to him with ideas for his future.

“Right from the beginning, the Athletic Department provided me with different options and potential avenues I could take. They offered me my own changeroom, and even offered to create an altered uniform. Ultimately I made the decision not to play any longer, but I was proud that I wasn’t forced to shut that door,” Lane told Sport for Life.

For the remaining two years of his studies at the university, Lane became a coach. The relationships he’d cultivated in the earlier years were retained, he got to spend time on the field hockey pitch, and the experience gave him a team to belong to while he went through his transition. Though he was initially concerned about how his relationships with others would change, he was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed with open arms.

“I feel so strongly about Gryphon Athletics and my relationship with that community. I spent so much time with these people, both while I was in school and now that I’ve graduated. I think it really speaks to what Guelph cares about — they didn’t care that I wasn’t a star athlete on the field anymore. They could see ‘here’s a really great person who wants to contribute and who wants to stay involved by stepping into coaching.’”

Oliver Lane

It’s these experiences that have made Lane a strong advocate for inclusion of trans athletes and anyone else who could be excluded from the sporting community. As a believer in the principle of Long-Term Development, he would like to see sport organizations embrace pathways that lead to all participants being active and engaged for life.

“In all facets of life, it’s so important for people to feel included.Creating safe and welcoming spaces allows people to be authentically themselves. Sports can be intimidating and there can be competition but inclusion needs to be held to a really high standard rather than just pushing people out of the way.”

As society becomes increasingly educated on trans issues, Lane hopes that more organizations can learn to act as allies with young athletes. According to Lane, it’s about having compassion for them as humans, and giving them the respect to live as they choose.

“One of the biggest things for me is knowing people struggle for a variety of reasons. If it’s someone in your circle of friends, maybe someone on your sport team, and whether they’re trans or not you can’t fully understand their struggles. I think it’s important for people to have an open mind and realize they’re living a different version of a day or a life than you are,” he said. “I just think respect and support goes a long way.”

At Sport for Life, inclusion is considered non-negotiable. Work continues to make sport and physical activity organizations across the country more inclusive of all pathways and participants. That includes trans athletes, trans volunteers and trans coaches.

“For trans people, sport and physical activity can be a challenge. It is important to integrate them into the category they identify with. Sport organizations and schools need to quickly develop policies that support and enable their integration,” said Kim Samson, Sport for Life’s LGBTQ representative on the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Committee. 

“Those who have established such policies are still too few in Canada. The guide Creating Inclusive Environments for Trans Participants in Canadian Sport developed by the CCES is a good start to understanding the current research, issues and best practices related to inclusion for trans people.”

For more information on trans inclusion, see the links below.

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