Brittney Griner May Push Gender Boundaries, But Not On Purpose

Brittney Griner is sick. And I’m not talking about the, “I’ve got a cold” kind of sick. I’m talking about the, “I’m a woman, I’m 6′8″ and I can throw down” kind of sick.

As a freshman at Baylor University, Griner has surpassed every woman who has ever come before her in the dunking sphere. Sure, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker can dunk. But Griner can slam it home, hang on the rim and swing around with authority.

The world of women’s basketball has never seen a player like this before. Griner has the athletic skills and build of any budding male college basketball star, which has brought her “gender” into question.

She has an 88-inch wingspan, almost unheard of for a woman athlete. Simply type in her name in on Google, and you’ll find such interesting search phrases as: “Brittney Griner man,” “Brittney Griner transgendered,” and “Brittney Griner lesbian.”

Why is it that whenever a female athlete breaks the mold in either athletic ability or physical build, her gender and sexuality are immediately scrutinized?

Back in August, South African track star Caster Semenya faced the same kind of scrutiny because of her uncanny speed. Semenya was forced to “prove” her female identity after tests showed that her testosterone levels were “unusually high.”

As a society, we should know by now that gender isn’t as black and white as everyone thinks. There are varying degrees of masculinity and femininity. Perhaps both Semenya and Griner have more masculine traits, but that doesn’t automatically make them lesbians or transgendered. The professional sports world needs to stop trying to keep athletes in a box, or expect them to fit a certain mold.

The bottom line is that Griner is an exceptional talent. Instead of questioning her gift, let’s use it to further the visibility of women’s basketball instead.  For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to see her play yet, you’re missing out. Not only can Griner dunk, she can also hit a short-range jumper and dominate the inside defensively. She’s a basketball force to be reckoned with, yet she is as humble as can be.

At 18 years old, Griner is focused on playing basketball and having fun. She’s not interested in pushing gender boundaries or discussing her sexuality. When she looks in the mirror, she sees the person she has always seen — manly build and all.

And all she can do is smile.