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‘Changing the Game’: Athletic Trans Youths in Sports

‘Changing the Game’: Athletic Trans Youths in Sports

The month of June, or Pride Month (as it is regarded in the community), is a whole month dedicated to celebrating who we are as a community. So, it comes as no shock that many companies are airing films, series, and documentaries that highlight the LGBTIAQ+ community. For this month, Hulu kicks off its celebration with a controversial and enlightening film. The 2019 documentary by Michael Barnett Changing the Game takes a look at transgender athletes and their time in high school sports.

The film follows three different high school teen athletes at different stages of their personal and professional lives. One of the lives focused on is Mack Beggs, a trans teen who identifies as a boy. Beggs made headlines by winning the Texas State Championship in the girls wrestling division. Sarah Rose Huckman, a trans teen skier athlete from New Hampshire is also making headlines by becoming an activist and a policymaker for trans youths. The final trans teen athlete is Andraya Yearwood. Andraya is a track star in Connecticut who is openly competing on the girls track team. The lives of these three teens are documented in such a way that highlights their joy, competition, and even hardships.

One of the most influential aspects of the documentary is that it attempts to give a more objective view. These multiple viewpoints help to flesh out some of the arguments that are most commonly brought up in the debates for trans individuals competing in sports. While a diverse group of people are being interviewed for their opinions on the topic, the camera never shies away from capturing how these viewpoints affect the actual people being discussed. It allows many to see how their opinions can impact those who are just trying to be who they are and play the sports they love.

Changing the Game has a powerful message behind its cinematography. It blends together the written word, music, interviews with local figures, and helpful information that assists audiences in gaining a deeper understanding of the controversy behind transgender youths playing in sports teams. One of these informational transitions that are sprinkled around in the film includes “policies for transgender high school athletes vary from state to state.” These tidbits of information help to round out the policies and the narrative that is presented.

The film allows these trans teens to express their own stories from their own perspectives. One of the more interesting aspects of the documentary is that it happens to show conservative family members. The film doesn’t hide the fact that many trans youths have conservative family members, but instead shines a light on them and illustrates nuances in firmly established and preconceived arguments. Maybe that is why it is so interesting to watch from start to finish. There are instances in the film where parents or guardians will make note of their viewpoints and political affiliation. One of these is Mack Beggs grandmother Nancy, who has come out and identified as “a hardcore Republican.” Yet, despite this identification she has voiced out love and acceptance. This is just one scene in the documentary, but there are others where parents come to terms with how they identify yet they still preach love and acceptance for the LGBT community.

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The documentary doesn’t romanticize or even solely highlight the great aspects of queer lives. It does instead get real and personal with every trans youth it focuses on and how multifaceted and complicated trans lives can be. While it would be ideal to have family members and friends who all think similarly, that is not always how life works. By allowing conservatives to be seen here, it allows for a conversation to start with regards to sports and how people view them in the states and why LGBTQIA+ kids have to fight for human rights while acknowledging that we can’t judge everyone the same.

The amazing crew that helped build this documentary to what it is today all deserve a special thanks for their accomplishments and for bringing such brave stories to the public eye. Director Michael Barnett wears many hats in relation to this film and was instrumental in bringing together these stories. This of course could not have been done without his cinematographer Turner Jumonville, and writers Amanda Griffin, Michael Mahaffie. The music composition credit is given to Tyler Strickland. Strickland’s work has such a resonating quality that it makes for a perfect addition to this documentary. All of these talented individuals including producers Clare Tucker and Alex Schmider bring their special skill sets together for an impactful narrative on who is allowed to play on sports teams.

As powerful and moving as this documentary is, the goal is that the people who are viewing this will get a sense of seeing others as more than just labels. The documentary showcases the difficulties of trans lives, and the fight they still have to gain acceptance in the sports area.

This documentary series is currently available to stream on Hulu.

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