Trans-Identified Male Set To Compete In National Women’s Water Polo Championship For Second Time

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A trans-identified male is set to compete in a national women’s water polo championship this weekend, shortly after becoming a women’s chess champion in Michigan. Alicia, formerly Johnny, Paans, is a star member of the University of Michigan’s Women’s Water Polo club team.

Paans, 31, is expected to appear at the 2024 National Collegiate Water Polo Championships (CWPA), which will be held from May 3 to 5 at Texas A&M University. The competition includes 16 US-based teams vying for the women’s national title in their sport. Paans’ first game will be against Texas State University on May 3 at 9:00 GMT. 

Paans is expected to compete on the University of Michigan’s Women’s Club Water Polo team. The club’s official Instagram account recently named Paans as “player of the week,” boasting that he is also a state chess champion in the women’s category, having won second place at the Michigan Chess Association women’s open in 2022.

Paans also competed on the University of Michigan team in 2023, during which time they won the national women’s title against the University of California-Santa Barbara. In the same competition, Paans was noted to have scored goals in a 17 to 5 defeat against the University of Virginia, and in a 17 to 6 defeat against the University of Washington.

Outside of the sporting world, Paans has a history of involving himself in women’s issues, including volunteering as a counselor at a “hotline specialized in topics relating to female health and pregnancy.”

While it is unclear when Paans began to identify as a “woman,” a 2013 Facebook post reveals that friends still referred to him by his birth name while congratulating him for beginning his secondary education in his home nation of the Netherlands. Paans appears to have immigrated from Europe to California in 2017 when he began an internship for Volo San Diego — a social sports club — and has remained in the country for education ever since. In 2023, he began a social work degree at the University of Michigan.

According to the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), the parents of Paans’ opponents have confirmed that he uses the female locker rooms and facilities when he competes.

Speaking to Reduxx, Jennifer, the mother of a female NCAA water polo athlete who participated in the 2023 national championship with Paans, explained it had been “obvious” that Paans was male from the moment she had seen him. Jennifer’s full name is being withheld for the protection of her daughter.

“My husband and I saw him first, standing aside the pool before [University of Michigan’s] first game. We looked at each other in surprise, and immediately knew it was a man,” she says, adding: “I observed Alicia quite a bit over the tournament, partly out of concern for the women, and also wondering how his teammates acted around him.”

Jennifer says she had been distressed by the thought that her daughter might have been forced to participate against a male, and was “relieved” when the match-up did not come to fruition.

“None of these women were initially aware a man had been allowed to play,” Jennifer noted. “Many of the player’s on my daughter’s team were almost in shock at the situation, and spoke to one another about discomfort with it. But to my knowledge, no one spoke to the organizers of the tournament. They felt that nothing would be done given that it was allowed based on [CWPA] policy.”

In January of 2024, the CWPA released a transgender athlete policy which explicitly allowed males to compete in women’s categories. The policy reads: “Transgender athletes who identify as female are eligible to compete in both the Co-ed League and the Women’s League.”

Trans identified males are also required to provide a “letter of confirmation” regarding their gender identity, either from the athlete or, if underage, a parent or guardian; proof of testosterone levels below 10 nmol/L within 60 days of competition; and a physician’s note to prove that the athlete is starting “physical gender transitioning/testosterone suppression.” The association purports to ensure “fairness, respect, and equal opportunities for all.”

The policy has been slammed by ICONS as a “pathway for men” to enter women’s water polo.

In an official statement, ICONS condemned the CWPA, highlighting the safety risks associated with allowing males to self-identify into contact sports.

“The Collegiate Water Polo Association has made it clear in their policy that they do not prioritize safe or fair competition for women in water polo,” said ICONS co-founder Marshi Smith. “Their discriminatory policy announcement came after they had crowned the University of Michigan team with a national title, despite utilizing a male player – a secret weapon not accessible to other women’s teams in the tournament.”

Smith continues that despite water polo being a high-contact sport, female athletes were thrown into the water with no disclosure of the added risks of competing against a male.

“This year’s national championships are shaping up to be a tragic deja vu of domination for the female opponents who simply seek a fair chance to succeed.

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The post Trans-Identified Male Set To Compete In National Women’s Water Polo Championship For Second Time appeared first on Reduxx.


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