She’s Going the Distance
Loosen up. Move your hips back and forth, and back and forth in place. Be ready to run like hell, run like your life depended on it. Once the gun goes off, eleven seconds of pure will,
pure adrenaline to the end. If this was a fair world, it would be less. Less is good.
The race announcer rattles off the names, numbers, ages and schools in the hundred-meter competition, not necessarily in that order.
“…And at the far end, from Ken Kesey High School, number eight, seventeen-year-old,
Gabbie Soto.” If life was truly fair, he would stop there like he did with the rest of the girls. He
goes on, “…Per regulations, she’s allowed to compete providing her testosterone levels are
Testosterone levels. Assholes.
None of the other young women have to worry about that, nor do they have to be outed at
every competition. If only they shared your indignity,
“Number one is a trust fund baby who seeks constant approval for her absent father.
“Number three was involved in a hit and run last year after receiving her license.
“And number seven is a good Christian girl by day, but topless dancer by night. You can
see her at the Leopard Lounge on…”
Yes, if only
Smile and wave to the crowd of people who see you as less. Try not to grit your teeth too
hard. Eventually, it all led to these one-hundred meters.
“Runners, take your mark.”
Identifying as a girl early on was a challenge for mom and dad, financially and emotionally. There wasn’t much of the former, but they did their damndest to supply the latter. Tough as it was, they made the sacrifices. Both worked the extra hours at their jobs for your therapy. They even went so far to move you to a different school, so you would have a fresh start
in a more affluent and open environment. (Later on, that notion of openness would be
“We love you, no matter what and will always support you however we can.” What child
could ask for more?
In time, that love and understanding would branch out, fostered from close friends. Even
further in time, meeting your imzadi, Quinn. Always supportive Quinn. The bad non-conformist
with a heart of gold. They couldn’t be any other way.
“There’s the sign-ups for the track team.”
Seeing the twinkle in your eyes, “You thinking of doing it, babe?”
“I do like to run. Not having done sports before, challenge accepted, “I think I am.”
They chortle, “Can’t say I’m surprised.”
“I’m not into the baton or tossing balls.”
“Then do it!” Your imzadi handed you one of their pens. A signature later…
“Runners… get set!”
Hunched over, adrenaline pumping, fate growing, no limits to your spirit. Once the
trigger is pulled, eleven seconds, the world is a hundred meters, No more, no less. No ridicule.
“And this physical is for,” asked the medical practitioner.
“For track and field. I am training for the one hundred meter and four hundred meters.”
“That’s exciting.” She seemed upbeat and interested, until probing your medical record
raises an eyebrow. “This is for high school track?”
“For the girl’s team?”
“I see,” she becomes standoffish. A furious series of clicks occur in the electronic
medical record system
“Is there a problem?”
“Uh no… well maybe.”
“Maybe? Maybe what?”
“Excuse me for a moment.” She left the room.
That departure leads to a discussion with the principal and a wildfire of scrutiny under a
very narrow-minded microscope.
A pair of no-bullshit parents to the rescue.
“…It is not a matter of what your child identifies as, Mister and Mrs. Soto, her
participation could take away an opportunity from another girl her age.”
“You mean a cisgender girl. A girl born without a penis,” your mother puts it bluntly.
“Or do you mean the girls who identify as white,” your father drove the nail in the coffin.
Your parents were nobody’s fools and were not afraid of fallout from so-called authority
figures, particularly those abusing the powers of their office.
Principal Tabitha Chen, a woman of Asian American descent, did not appreciate being
pigeon holed as a racist. She liked even less being taken to task by a couple who reeked working
class. How they managed to get their gender defying daughter into her school was beyond
reproach. Did they really think a short year in a sport would catapult their daughter away from
the nine to five drudgery that controlled their lives?
Discrimination seemed to be the go-to siren song of all parents and students—be it racial,
sexual, religious, or in your case, gender identity. Even in these volatile times where a hashtag
and a poorly constructed sentence could start a movement, Tabitha Chen would steer clear of
debates over equity and equality, maneuvering away from a potential lawsuit.
“How about we meet somewhere in the middle? We allow Gabbie to compete on the
boy’s team this season, then next year she can start on the girl’s team.”
“The girl’s team next year?”
“When she’s in college?” Your mother wasted no time pointing out the flaws in that.
“Nice to know passing the buck is still a tradition in these public schools,” your father
“Would you give our daughter this much trouble if she was trying out for an academic
Trying to regain control of the room, Principal Chen interjects, “No Mrs. Soto, but we’re
not talking about a debate team or a choir, we are talking about athletics. Which, as you well
know, require close quarters for changing—”
Your father cuts her off, “—Then you should use the same consideration for all of your
programs regardless of them being academics or sports.”
Delivering the knockout punch, your mother says, “If you’re not going to give the same
pageantry for academia, then you shouldn’t have them for athletics.”
Principal Chen was accustomed to this rhetoric from the NPR listening, almond milk
swilling, hot yoga enthusiast, Tesla SUV driving hipster helicopter parents of Ken Kesey High.
She had not expected it from a couple that looked like they could barely afford an iPhone, let
alone raise a child with special needs. Their best clothes appeared to be the uniforms from their
occupations at Amazon and UPS. Yet, they were committed, they embodied an American dream
that often seemed lethargic in the modern age.
A hand raises a gun to the heavens. An instrument of death modified for friendly
competition. The polished silver pistol glistens in the sun. A prism flares in your eyes.
A crack of thunder…
FUCK THEM ALL!!!
Feet pound. The highs and lows roll behind every tick of the clock. ONE second has gone
All the morning trainings before school and work with mom…
All the evening runs after school and work with dad…
Chat with lawyers…
Shit talk from your classmates…
A lost part-time job for being too political…
The rallying encouragement from close friends…
Constant scorn from teammates…
The locket: “You’re as beautiful as God made you.”
Quinn’s fight and suspension on your behalf…
An early morning run in the wake of a Monet sky…
A good luck kiss from–
A photo finish.
First, second or third. It doesn’t matter. Cooling down, but never giving up. In the next
school year, those like you will be social outlaws. No matter what, the fight will go on
— This story is dedicated to Alani Bojar, June Eastwood, Nikki Hiltz,
Terry Millar, Alysa Schench, CeCe Telfer, and all the other
transgender and non-binary athletes fighting the good fight.
— And a special dedication to potential California Gubernatorial Candidate
Caitlyn Jenner for revealing your politically motivated hypocrisy
About the Author
In 2004, after graduating with a BA in English, Keira took the world by storm. At least in her dreams. The universe had other plans–bad jobs, bad relationships, and gender dysphoria to add to the mix. She came out as trans in 2007, leaving behind the shackles of confusion, only to trade them in for the indignity of bathroom politics and care taking of her father. In 2018 returned to writing and had eight short stories published on various independent literary websites, and for some damn foolish reason decided to write a book. And here we are.