Gabrielle Ludwig, who stands 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, checked into the game amid cheers of "Gabbi!" "Gabbi!" "Gabbi!" from fans of the Mission College women's basketball team. Whether it's fair for a former man who once played community college ball in his youth was a topic of discussion both in the gym and around the country, the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, Calif., said Wednesday.
NCAA rules stipulate a player's gender is determined solely by their birth certificate. Under California law, transgender individuals such as Ludwig, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in July, can be granted a new birth certificate with proof of having the operation.
In August, Mission College coach Corey Cafferata learned Ludwig was interested in joining the team. Along with the school's athletic director, they researched NCAA rules on transgender athletes and found as long as she could present a birth certificate proving she was a female, there was nothing stopping Ludwig from joining the team.
In fact, the NCAA went as far as to grant her two full years of eligibility, ruling her season spent playing as a man in her youth was credited to her former male birth certificate.
Ludwig told USA TODAY she wanted to join the team not just to play basketball, but to serve as an example for other transgender athletes.
"If the example I can set for the kids who are transgenders in high school, for the people who hate transgender people and for those learning to deal with transgenders, transsexuals, if they see me as a normal person and we are not the boogeyman and love life and raise kids just like you," others will benefit, she said.
Cafferata said he hasn't heard much by way of criticism yet that Ludwig's towering frame isn't a fair matchup for other, smaller players. But, he predicted, if she becomes a success and dominates the league, some might complain. Though in her debut, she was a non-factor, hitting three free throws and pulling in two rebounds while missing all five shots from the field.
"If she plays like she played [in her first game], nobody will give a hoot because she wasn't a factor," Cafferata said. "If she starts going 20 points, 20 rebounds, playing 30 minutes a game, that's when it's going to happen."