A 50-year-old is turning heads in the Bay Area around the women’s junior college basketball circuit. Her name is Gabrielle Ludwig (No. 42 pictured in the back row), and her story is pretty unusual. Not just because she’s back in the game after more than 30 years, but because the last time she played, she was a man.
In an excellent feature by USA Today’s Eric Prisbell, Ludwig explains that she was born as Robert John Ludwig, but never felt connected with her gender. She says she even tried committing suicide as a teenager by ingesting pills.
Ludwig grew into a physical specimen and dominated on the basketball court. At 6-foot-8, Bob Ludwig played basketball for Nassau Community College in New York for one semester in 1980. He joined the Navy, married twice and had a daughter, and settled in Northern California.
With support from his daughter, Ludwig underwent a sex change operation in July 2012 and began a new life with a female partner and her two daughters. It was while coaching one of the daughters in AAU basketball that Ludwig began considering making a basketball comeback.
Ludwig says she joked with the women’s coach at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif., that she still had eligibility left, and the coach joked that he still had a roster spot left. So Ludwig enrolled in 12 credits of online courses to become a member of the basketball team. She recently was cleared to begin playing and scored three points and grabbed four rebounds in her debut, a 69-62 loss to College of the Siskiyous on Saturday — her first college basketball game since 1980.
Ludwig has the support of her teammates, whom she says are a bunch of misfits as well. She dealt with opposing fans and players heckling her Saturday, but says it’s all worth it.
“If the example I can set for the kids who are transgenders in high school, for the people who hate transgender people and for those learning to deal with transgenders, transsexuals, if they see me as a normal person and we are not the bogeyman and love life and raise kids just like you,” Ludwig says, “maybe some of this mystery of who these people are will be taken away and there can be more blending into society. People are afraid of what they don’t know. I am willing to put myself out there.
“It was not like that before. It was just about playing basketball. It’s about more (now) because I see an injustice.”
You can read USA Today’s entire feature on Gabrielle Ludwig here.
Photo via Mission College Athletics