Trans tennis player who beat male players while still physically female claims he spent a year battling sports bosses to have name and gender officially changed
A transgender tennis player claims he spent a year battling sports bosses to have his name and gender changed – despite beating other men at matches while he was still physically female.
Tennis ace Zach Brookes, from Kings Heath, Birmingham, first came out as transgender to family in 2013 before then telling his tennis coach in his mum’s words because the 23-year-old, who has autism, struggles with social communication.
Zach, who originally played as a female from aged seven, returned to the sport in 2014 as a man and continued playing in male league until 2018.
But despite receiving such a positive reaction his tennis coach, Zach claims he underwent a year-long battle to have his new name and gender formally changed on organisation records needed for him to be able to compete at an international level.
The International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability [INAS] said they have now introduced a new transgender policy following the difficulties Zach faced.
Professional player turned coach Zach, who is unbeaten in singles since transitioning to a male, said: “I didn’t fit in with female friendship groups and that he had the attitude and behaviour of a male.
“My gender relates to my autism, and I was always an easy target for bullies.
“I always got on better with lads than girls and I struggled to reveal my true identity.
“I never felt comfortable playing against females, I feel more comfortable and freer when I play against males.
“I feel over the moon, it’s been a long process. It’s given me a huge confidence boost.
“It didn’t affect me much back then, but now I can just relax and be proud about what has been achieved for not just me but for other people.
“I didn’t expect them to do it straight away, it involves a lot of politics so I knew it would involve a lot of emails.
“Eventually, the INAS made the decision to allow me to change my name and gender on the register so I could compete officially as a man.
“I was so relieved when my true gender was finally recognised – all I wanted was to be included, play as who I am and do my job.
“Since they updated their transgender policy, I have been able to compete internationally for people with disabilities.
“Transgender people are still human, we get on with our lives – we still want to be included within society.”
Zach first realised he was male when he was very young after he played with action man and Spiderman instead of more traditionally ‘girly’ toys.
The sports star, who shares his hometown with famous tennis player Ann Jones, spent five years battling the INAS – who Zach claims struggled to know what to do surrounding trans players.
The player, now turned coach, has had ‘top’ surgery to remove breast tissue and is also receiving testosterone treatment from the Sheffield Gender Identity Clinic, which will enable him to become more masculine and deepen his voice, before he undergoes full gender reassignment surgery.
The sportsman has also followed in the footsteps of decathlon Olympian, Caitlyn Jenner, a tennis fan who announced her transition from male to female in 2015.
Zach said: “Everybody in school knew I wasn’t a girl, they knew I was a boy.
“My coach made it easier for me to come out, she accepted me, other colleagues accepted me.
“Before I felt isolated because I didn’t know how she would react, but I feel more welcomed since coming out.
“When I announced my gender change I prompted the INAS with emails all the time.
“My performance coach always told us to prompt them when I went to training weekends.
“After my top surgery in 2018, they had a panel meeting and they introduced a trans policy which meant I’m able to compete internationally.
“There’s still there’s a long way to go for equality in sports.
“I wish people focused more on what they can do rather more than what they can’t do.”
In a statement, INAS said: “The International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments (INAS) were made aware of the first known case of a transgender athlete under its governance in early 2017.
“In order to meet the needs of athletes, we immediately set about researching and drafting a position statement that would protect the rights of all competitors in the interim, but also one that recognised that there is currently no consistent approach within sports governing bodies across the world on this topic.
“The position statement was ratified at the INAS Governing Board in September this year and is now in operation, with a mandate to respond to any future developments should that be required.
“In the case of Mr. Brookes, a formal request to change his gender and name on our database was received in March 2018. At the same time we received confirmation of his legal name change.
“Under the newly introduced position statement there is now a clear process for athletes and our members to follow.
“INAS is proud to be an organisation that celebrates diversity and is responsive to the needs of its athletes.
“We will continue to listen to all of our stakeholders on this topic and will ensure an approach that is consistent with other sports governing bodies.”