Brazilian beauty Tiffany Abreu is making headlines and raising eyebrows. The heavy-hitting volleyball champion has her eyes set on the 2020 Olympics.
Tiffany is the first transgender player in Brazil’s Superliga, which is the nation’s premiere women’s volleyball tournament. She has competed professionally for years in men’s volleyball leagues as Rodrigo, but following treatment and transition, Tiffany now plays with other women.
“I took every needed step after my agent said I could play women’s volleyball. He knows the rules and said other transexual athletes play in smaller leagues. So I decided to come back,” Tiffany said in Sports Illustrated.
Last January, in the pursuit of human rights, the International Olympic Committee decided “transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics and other international events without undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. It is necessary to ensure insofar as possible that trans athletes are not excluded from the opportunity to participate in sporting competition.”
While athletes need only identify as their correct gender, Tiffany had sex reassignment surgery several years ago and has been taking hormone treatment ever since. She has also had all of her legal documents changed to suit her new name and true gender.
As transgender rights continue at the forefront of world headlines and governments and societies learn more and become more exclusive, the issue of transgender people in sports will get louder. In many cases, the first transgender woman on a team or in a particular sport has delivered outstanding performances. This is inspiring for other trans women, but brings questions and controversies to the surface about biology.
Hormone treatment absolutely causes a reduction in muscle mass and speed as a woman transitions to her true self. But cis female athletes correctly emphasize that the advantages are not entirely removed.
Brazil’s former Olympic medalist Ana Paula Henkel caused some consternation among trans rights groups when she suggested that Tiffany should not play with cis women.
“It is not a matter of prejudice, it is physiology… Most players don’t think it is fair for transexuals to play against women.”
Tiffany shrugs off the prejudice she faces in sports. In Brazil, transgender women have faced much worse opposition and often, brutal violence, resulting from longstanding machismo culture and misogyny. She’s tough, and just wants to play ball.