Australian rugby sevens Olympic gold medallist Ellia Green speaks on gender transition to male

Ellia Green realized at an early age – long before she became an Olympic champion – that a person’s identity and the sex assigned at birth can be very different things.

Now, some 20 years later, one of the stars of the Australian women’s seven-a-side rugby team that won gold at the 2016 Olympics has become a man.

Green, who kept the same name, told The Associated Press it was the best decision of his life. Realizing that sharing her experience could save the lives of others is what prompted Green to post a video shown on Tuesday at an international summit on ending transphobia and homophobia in sport. The summit took place in Ottawa as part of the Bingham Cup rugby tournament.

The only other transgender or gender-different Olympic gold medals are Caitlyn Jenner and Quinn, who have only one name and were part of the winning Canadian women’s soccer team in Tokyo last year.

Seeing so few elite-level trans athletes and so many negative comments on social media, especially after World Rugby’s decision to ban transgender women from playing women’s rugby, accelerated Green’s urge to point out the wrong. that these things can cause to some children.

Ellia Green with her partner Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and their daughter Waitui pose in Sydney.
Camera iconEllia Green with her partner Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and their daughter Waitui pose in Sydney. Credit: Marco Baker/POPE

More importantly, it is an attempt to draw attention to a serious health problem – some studies indicate that over 40% of trans young people have considered attempting suicide.

29-year-old Green has admitted he is in a “dark place” after retiring from rugby in late 2021.

“This is what happened to me,” Green told the AP. “My rugby career came to an end and I was in and out of mental health facilities with serious problems. My depression has reached a new level of sadness.

He is in a much better place now with his partner, Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, and their little girl, Waitui.

“Vanessa was pregnant and had to go to the hospital to visit him,” Green said. “I’ve had bad episodes. This is the last time I want you to see me like this. But the only way to help heal is to talk about it. . . I would like to help someone not feel so isolated by telling my story.

The story was difficult at times. Green, who was assigned a girl at birth, was adopted by Yolanta and Evan Green and she moved to Australia from Fiji when she was 3. – lasting trauma.

Australian Ellia Green dives to score against the United States in the final of the Women's Seven Rugby World Cup in San Francisco.
Camera iconAustralian Ellia Green dives to score against the United States in the final of the Women’s Seven Rugby World Cup in San Francisco. Credit: Jeff Chiu/POPE

“I guess I witnessed from a young age that it wasn’t (the kind of) relationship I wanted to have, but it trained me to know how a woman should be treated,” Green said. “I think even in traumatic circumstances, there was a lot to learn.”

It is also a childhood that for Green was marked by an overwhelming awareness.

“As a kid, I remember thinking I was a boy in public, I had a short haircut and every time we met new people they thought I was a boy,” Green says. . “I always wore my brother’s clothes, played with tools and ran shirtless. Until my boobs grew and I said “oh no”.

“My mother dressed me in girl’s clothes. . . I always wanted to make her happy, so if she wanted me to wear a dress, I would wear a dress.

Yolanta also helped channel Green into the sport and excellence as a sprinter in athletics eventually led to a professional career in rugby. The all-action form of rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and the women’s competition came first, with Australia beating New Zealand in the final to clinch their first gold medal. Green, a flying wing, was among the stars of the show.

Meanwhile, however, deeper feelings were becoming clearer for Green and they really came to a head following the announcement of his decision to retire from rugby last November, months after he missed the selection for the Australian women’s team. for the late Tokyo Olympics.

Ellia Green with her partner Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and their daughter Waitui.
Camera iconEllia Green with her partner Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and their daughter Waitui. Credit: Marco Baker/POPE

“I spent a long time after finishing my Australian rugby career right at home in a dark room, I didn’t have the confidence to see anyone,” Green says in the pre-recorded video for the top.

“I was ashamed of myself, I felt I had disappointed many people, especially my mother and me. I felt like a complete failure, it was heartbreaking, “added Green, explaining the feelings that remained afterward. Being cut from the Olympic team. The only thing that kept me positive is that I had already planned my surgery and the treatment in preparation for my transition.It was something that I counted down the days with my partner.

Now Green wants to stand up for others, highlighting the damage that can be done when sports bans are introduced and how these policies can amplify the negativity towards trans people and people of different genders.

“Banning transgender people from playing sports is shameful and painful,” Green said. “It just means that suicide rates and mental health problems will get even worse.”

Ellia Green was a star at the Olympics.
Camera iconEllia Green was a star at the Olympics. Credit: Themba Hadebe/POPE

Green’s comments coincide with the publication of research from the University of British Columbia in Canada and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, which shows a disconnect between rugby leaders and women who play rugby. Rugby. The survey shows that while around 30% of women think trans women have an unfair advantage, the vast majority are not in favor of banning trans athletes from rugby.

Playing rugby at any level, or even coaching, is not on Green’s radar at the moment. He currently works at the Sydney International Container Terminal – “on the docks,” he says – but is also studying for a degree in international security and has the ambition to advise companies on general security and cybersecurity.

For now, Green says he’s a “full-time dad, and it’s tough, maybe tougher” than anything he’s ever done. She also thanks her partner Vanessa, who has a law degree and is currently doing her doctorate – “she inspired me every day”.

Ellia Green with her daughter Waitui in Sydney.
Camera iconEllia Green with her daughter Waitui in Sydney. Credit: Marco Baker/POPE

Green hopes her story will inspire other trans people to be confident in their decisions about who they want to be.

“I just knew it would be the most liberating feeling when I underwent this surgery and to be in the body I knew I had to be,” Green says in the video. “It was a bright spark in my mind during those dark times in the face of demons, but I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.”

He adds in the AP phone interview: “I knew one thing that would make me really happy is that, # 1, I will live the rest of my life with my partner and daughter. And that I will live the rest of my life as his. father.

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