Beneath the Surface — Transgender Oberlin College diver speaks out on trans athlete bans

‘I’m the kind of trans that those kinds of laws don’t necessarily care about’

By: - October 2, 2023 5:00 am

Oberlin College diver Lucas Draper. Photo by WEWS.

The anatomy of a dive is equal parts art form and anguish.

“It’s simultaneously terrifying and freeing,” said former Oberlin College diver Lucas Draper. “In the moment, if I mess this up, I might hurt myself. You want to be as pretty as you can, but also, eventually, you’re going to hit the water.”

It’s a leap that leaves you vulnerable.

“I’m actively aware that they’re watching me while I’m diving,” Draper said.

“That’s part of what makes it a tough thing to do,” said Oberlin assistant swimming and diving coach Ben Corley. “Three meters up in the air alone. (It) takes guts.”

Lucas has always found comfort in the pool.

“I’ve been swimming since before I could walk,” Draper said.

But Lucas hasn’t always been Lucas.

Born in a different country, with a different name and a different gender, Lucas felt out of place inside a body that never felt natural.

“There were a lot of times where I was like, ‘I want to be doing what the boys are doing. I want to be one of the boys,’” said Draper, “and not even in society says girls have to do this and boys have to do that. It was more of a, ‘I want to be able to do all the things the boys do and look like the boys do.’”

Lucas grappled with decades of doubt before the realization slowly revealed itself.

“I just kind of felt like everybody must feel like they’re not quite right for the body that they’re in,” Draper said. “I think I’ve always been Lucas. I just wasn’t really aware of it.”

Lucas carried that baggage across the world, from Australia to Oberlin College, before finally opening up to friends and family and transitioning away from being a woman.

“I was afraid my parents were going to tell me that I was confused, that I would change my mind,” Draper said. “You’re afraid people aren’t going to accept you; people are no longer going to want to know you.”

That transition came in a time — and state —o f opposition.

Graphic by WEWS.

Twenty-two U.S. states have passed laws that limit or ban trans athletes from participating in youth sports within the gender they identify. Ohio could be the 23rd.

Ohio lawmakers have introduced a number of bills in the past three years to limit what teams transgender athletes can join.

The latest is House Bill 68, which the Ohio House passed in June. The bill prompted protests at the statehouse and would block gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state and also prevent trans female athletes from competing in women’s sports at every level.

It’s now being reviewed by the Ohio Senate’s government oversight committee.

According to the OHSAA, the state’s high school sports governing body, only 20 transgender girls have participated in girls sports this year. Meanwhile, nearly 340,000 Ohio high school students take part in athletics each year.

“The people who are just trying to be who they are, the trans men and trans women competing in the genders they feel they identify with, there’s such a small percentage of us that it’s not really making any sort of impact in the grand scheme of things,” Draper said. “It’s just letting us be who we are.”

In some ways, Lucas says he’s lucky.

“I’m the kind of trans that those kinds of laws don’t necessarily care about,” Draper said. “A lot of trans women are kind of the punching bag in this situation. They are rightfully afraid to speak out and make noise.”

So Lucas says he’ll make the noise for them.

“I’m in the position where yes, it’s not necessarily me that’s kind of the target of it, but I am a part of that community, and I don’t want other people to have to face that,” Draper said. “I want to be able to stand up for them and call it out as it is. There’s no reason to discriminate.”


This article was originally published on and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.



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