Palatine softball star now a transgender advocate
Had Palatine High School softball star Lauren Logan been born a boy, he'd be 20-year-old Ryan Logan today, playing college ball somewhere.
Instead, Ryan Logan had to put a little more effort into reaching that goal of playing first base for the softball team at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
"To most, the gender between your ears is the same as the one on your birth certificate, and that's that. For transgender people, things are not so simple," Ryan Logan wrote in the letter he sent to loved ones and friends to explain his recent transition from Lauren to Ryan.
"Transgender was not a term I had even heard of growing up," he says. But even as a child, he knew he wasn't supposed to be a little girl named Lauren.
"When I was 7 or 8, I had those thoughts. I was supposed to be born a boy," Logan says.
"I was tucking you into bed, and you said, 'I'm a boy,'" remembers his mom, Denise. "I said, 'You can do anything a boy could do.'"
Lauren Logan did.
"Growing up, I had a lot of guy friends because they wanted to play sports," Logan says. "I was a tomboy."
A standout athlete, Logan soon began playing on elite girls' softball teams that traveled the country. Logan has wonderful memories of all those road trips to Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Jersey and elsewhere with his dad, Bob, behind the wheel. But it takes a little creativity for this college man to explain childhood joys that happened before Logan became Ryan.
"For pronouns, the past is kind of tricky," he says, smiling. "What I think you should say is, 'In fifth grade, when Ryan was going by Lauren, he did this.'"
The pronouns are far more awkward than the loving relationship between Logan, his parents, older brother Steven and little sister Mandy, who have been supportive of the transition from Lauren to Ryan. The change in gender doesn't change everything.
"That doesn't take away all those years traveling and playing softball," says Bob Logan, who notes that the love, support and memories of good times remained constant even as the pronouns went from she and her to he and his.
Scrapbooks still capture the childhood of Lauren Logan, who became the all-time leading hitter and three-time softball team MVP at Palatine High School, a three-time Mid-Suburban League All-Conference player and a Daily Herald All-Area selection. Logan's Christmas stocking was re-embroidered to read "Ryan," and some of the handmade Christmas ornaments Lauren made as a child now read Ryan, too.
Ryan Logan says he understands people's ignorance about transgender issues, and he accepts the slip-ups well-meaning people make out of habit.
"We messed up a lot. It wasn't the easiest thing for my husband and me," Denise Logan says of adjusting after a lifetime of talking about one son and two daughters.
"Sometimes you pick and choose who you explain everything to. You feel like you're coming out for your son every day," Bob Logan says.
Close friends have been wonderful and understanding, he says.
Deciding which locker room or bathroom to use wasn't an issue in high school for Ryan Logan, who says he did not realize he was transgender until near the end of his senior year.
But Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 has struggled with the issue this year after the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of a transgender student who sought full access to the girls locker room. A recent agreement between the school district and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to add privacy curtains and a private changing room still leaves many unsatisfied and confused about transgender issues.
Logan, who recently led a roundtable discussion at USML's second annual Transgender Spectrum Conference, says many people don't understand the issues transgender people face in their efforts to feel at peace with their bodies. While he says he never endured the isolation or depression reported by some transgender people, Logan admits that it takes some work to be a man playing a women's sport. Logan had a double mastectomy earlier this year, and he has other surgeries available to him in the future. But he is delaying the hormone treatments that will further his transition from female to male because he wants to finish his commitment to play softball at UMSL.
"I can play a women's sport as long as I'm not taking hormones," explains Logan, who legally changed his name to Ryan in February.
"I recruited Lauren junior year (of high school)," says UMSL head softball coach Brian Levin, who has built the Division II school into a national softball power. While Logan played his freshman year as Lauren, friends on the team knew about the transition to Ryan.
"They were using male pronouns when it was just us," Logan says.
"Ryan came in and told me," remembers Levin. "He did a really good job of explaining it. I take people for who they are. Ryan's a tremendous player."
Logan says he didn't like using the "women's locker room" but came to realize, "it's not the women's locker room, it's the team locker." He's learned not to fixate on issues he can overcome and strives to make his transition not just all about him.
"In street clothes, I use the men's room," Logan says, noting that sometimes he stays in the stall until the crowd thins out because he still passes for a woman. When the team bus makes a rest stop on a road trip, "everybody's waiting for the women's room and I'm like, 'Ha ha,'" Logan says. But when he's wearing his women's team uniform, he shuns the men's room to make it easier for others.
"I stumble all the time, and Ryan understands that. I apologize when I do that," Levin says of times when he uses a wrong pronoun. "I look at him as a guy now. The team's been very accepting. If it's not a big deal to me, it's not a big deal to them. He's a very outgoing kid, fun to be with."
Having played on softball teams with Logan for more than a decade, UMSL teammate Sara Kern of Prospect Heights says, "Ryan's probably the most-loved player on the team." A standout player for Wheeling High School, Kern roomed with Logan for the first two years of college and now shares a house with him and four other players.
"That was a big surprise to me because I didn't know what all that was," Kern, 20, says of her friend's announcement that he was transgender. "But nothing's changed in the way I interact with him. He's the same person."
Even during his teen years, Logan always had friends and a smile. Never thrilled about wearing dresses or going to a middle school dance, Logan knew he wasn't the girl people thought he was.
"I kind of had these thoughts, but I was just being a kid. Then I went into puberty and I thought, 'Well, this is just awkward.' But it was awkward for everybody," he says.
As a 15-year-old sophomore, Logan came out as gay. "It didn't really feel traumatic because my brother is gay," Logan says.
"When he came out as a lesbian, it didn't feel like it," says Denise Logan, who knew that wasn't the answer for her middle child. Logan wore a tux and took a girl to the prom. Now, Logan always dresses as a man, and he has a steady girlfriend who knows his entire life story. Younger sister Mandy, 13, who plays softball and dances, couldn't use any of the hand-me-down clothes.
"I'm really girlie," Mandy says.
Not comfortable as a lesbian, Logan talked with his mother about gender identity. He went online and watched countless videos of transgender people talking about their experiences.
"I didn't really come to the realization until I was a senior in high school," Logan says.
People have told Ryan that he's "pretty" or "cute" in those old photographs from when he went by Lauren. "Sorry," he says with a laugh. "I don't know what to tell you."
He notes that his transition story has plenty of positives. Even with all the changes, Logan earned all-conference academic honors and remains focused on school and softball.
"He's an amazing kid," says Logan's father. "I couldn't be more proud of him."
The parents say there was a period of mourning the loss of Lauren, but they moved past that.
"I know it may be strange at first, but know that I am still the same person," Ryan Logan wrote in his letter to loved ones. "I continue to cherish the memories that I have made with all of you as a child and a young adult, and I look forward to making new ones now and in the future."
That is exactly what is happening, his parents say.
"We now know that he has been our son Ryan all along," the parents wrote in their letter to family and friends. "We have uncovered multiple blessings as we get to know him as our son."