As we celebrate Pride month in a newly reopened San Diego, and get ready to come together with friends and community once again, it is important to understand what Pride means to different people. It is a liberating time for us to enjoy being ourselves. One thing we should remember during Pride is the fact that we have come a long way from the oppression and struggles of our community without forgetting that we still have work to do, to really have equality for all the letters in the rainbow. 18-year-old Keke Grayson is a perfect example of how great it is to be able to be authentic. As a recent graduate of Bonita High School, Keke was supported in big dreams of achieving her goals when she was offered a 4-year basketball scholarship to Hope International University (HIU) in Fullerton, California. Keke’s fantastic story gives us optimism for a continued step in the right direction. But, who better to tell her story than Keke herself?
Tell us about yourself, who is Keke Grayson?
I am Keke Grayson, the first black Trans woman to get a full ride at a Christian University for basketball. I am also active in my local LGBTQ
community. I am fearless, brave, and confident. I love to have fun and make people laugh. If I’m not on the basketball court I’m out with my friends having a good time.
When did your transition start? Did you find resources and a community to help with the journey?
I started my transition at 13 during middle school. I can say that was probably the lowest time of my life, but when I got in contact with Angelle (Angel) Maua from The Gender Phluid Collective [GFC] thegpcollective.wixsite.com, I got help every step of the way from counseling, getting my top surgery, and medication. They are the only colored LGBTQ group in San Diego. As many people know, colored Trans individuals go through different things than non-colored Trans and GFC realizes that and gets us help immediately.
How was your high school experience?
My high school experience was one of a kind of course it had its bad times but I made it through them, they only made me stronger. I would like to focus on the positive stuff. High school was an experience that I definitely needed, it helped me prepare for the thing’s life has to offer me. My sophomore year I made the varsity basketball team which changed my life completely. I had to actually work to keep my grades up and stay out of trouble. It definitely made me motivated to keep pushing, not to give up. I was going through a lot in school, basketball has always been an outlet for me. I really want to thank my first coach, Brandon Alvarado (head girls basketball coach Hilltop high school), for seeing potential in me and never giving up on me especially when times got hard. When I moved to Bonita Vista high school the head coach Tristan Lamb helped me and motivated me throw out my basketball career and was there for me when I was looking at scholarships and helping me decide the best option for me, he accepted me and supported me with out hesitation.
What does basketball mean to you?
Basketball means the world to me. I thank God every day for giving me this outlet. Without basketball I don’t think I would’ve been able to make it out of high school because of all the trials and tribulations; basketball kept my head up through those hard times.
How has the experience of being a Trans female basketball player been?
Being a Trans basketball player has definitely been a challenge. I’ve been laughed at and people have yelled nasty comments at me from the stands; but again I want to keep this as positive as possible. I was embraced and loved by many people other than my team. I can say I had the best support system throughout my 3 years of playing high school basketball. No matter what team I played for, my team always had my back on and off the court. I also played Travel Ball which was another whole different experience; it was amazing being able to travel out of state to play basketball. Riding with my team to the hotels was an experience I’ll never forget. Being a Trans athlete is like being a rose that’s just about to blossom: Everybody wants to watch it grow and see what it will do next.
What was it like to be offered a 4-year basketball scholarship, especially from a Christian
A lot of people ask me this, and I still don’t have an answer. It’s unbelievable, a true blessing that I’m at a loss of words for. I was offered a scholarship for basketball in Texas and was immediately declined when we told them I was Trans, so I honestly didn’t think I was going to get picked up. A couple days passed and my coach (Lamb) told me that I was offered a full ride to Hope International University! I still have butterflies when I say it. It’s still so unreal. I want to thank HIU for being accepting and embracing me to attend their school.
What are you planning on studying?
I’m planning on studying business management.
What would you tell the younger Trans individuals out there?
I would tell other young Trans athletes that when times get hard and you feel like you can’t go no longer, keep going because there’s something amazing waiting for you. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do what you want. Fight for what’s right, we are no different from any other female, on or off the court; we are all human at the end of the day.
How the Support of Allies Made a Difference in Keke’s Life
Future Trans success stories like Keke’s will be the product of the affirmation and compassion they receive growing up.
After talking with Keke and her Mom, “Cookie”, as everyone lovingly calls her, I was inspired to affirm the importance of having the support and unconditional love from your parents. The love these ladies have for each other is touching and palpable.
Cookie expressed her parental concerns of what’s to come for her daughter. “As excited as I am for her and for the future, I’m worried as a parent about everything she will need when she is away at school. Will she have access to a doctor to keep her injections and treatments she needs to continue her journey? Will she have access to a support system?”, she wondered.
Jokingly, Keke said, “Mom you can’t move to Fullerton with me!” To which Cookie responded, “But who is going to cook for you, clean for you, go with you to appointments?” The mother-daughter dynamic prevails with them.
The power of having support is very obvious in Keke’s story. She explained how her basketball teammates were supportive, embracing, and truly had her back by calling out people in the stands who were yelling hateful things during games, having the referee get involved, and having the hecklers removed. Support from faculty can make such a difference in any student’s life, especially in an individual who is going through the journey of transitioning. Being accepted without any prejudice by a head coach, like Tristan Lamb, motivated and pushed Keke to excel in basketball so much that she is now able to continue her education with a full scholarship to HIU for the sport she is so passionate about.
Cookie mentioned something that resonates with many of the experiences of very traditional families. “When Keke came out, as a traditional black mother, I did not know what to do or where to turn. Angel at GFC helped out a lot to guide us both, and with support groups where I was able to meet other POC parents of Trans kids. Having people understand the struggles and hardships that we face day to day, that understanding makes a difference in the help and support we are able to get,” Cookie explained.
Cookie is definitely a great example of the difference supportive and accepting parents can have in the life of a Trans individual. She finished our conversation by saying, “I am proud of her, I would not want her to be anything else besides who she is, it is important to me for her to be who she is because she will excel at what she wants to do in life.” Cookie’s pride in her daughter highlights what it means to be a true ally.
Keke’s story is not just about her journey. It’s about the story of Keke, her mom Cookie, and the individuals that have made a difference in her life, like Angel and coach Lamb; the story of how love and acceptance can make a difference in the hopes and possibilities of a Trans child. Future Trans success stories like Keke’s will be the product of the affirmation and compassion they receive growing up.
We wish Keke success and an enjoyable college experience. To be ready for her first semester, she still has some monetary expenses that we hopefully can get the community to rally behind and donate toward.
To help Keke out you can donate to her GoFundMe