While getting ready to go to prom last spring, Parker Reed, now a Sedona Red Rock High School senior, was excited to wear the tuxedo he just got.
It was a highlight for him — but it could have drawn questions.
Because Parker is a transgender boy, but at the time had still not yet come out to his peers.
The night of, he received nothing but compliments, and only support ever since.
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“Everyone was kind of really chill about it, no one really seemed surprised,” said Reed, who is in the process of changing his name on his driver’s license. “So it was an easy transition .... It has been very anticlimactic to this point.”
Reed, a swimmer, said that he first began to realize it in fifth grade, but did not understand it. It was not until after his freshman year at Red Rock that he really put it together, but did not tell his mother, Deb, until months later.
Now that everyone knows, a weight has been lifted.
“My anxiety has gone down and I’m not holding like a secret anymore, so that tension has kind of been released,” said Reed, who resisted more than a year before coming out to his peers.
A competitive swimmer since age 11, Reed had a goal in mind to break Red Rock school records. He came out to Deb after the 2015 season, but continued to be Sarah until after the 2016 season.
During that season, as Sarah, he coincidentally accomplished that goal twice over, as part of record-breaking 200- and 400-yard freestyle relay teams. He also qualified for the state meet “B” final in the 100 freestyle.
Deb talked about sensing something was wrong with Parker, unsure why. When he came out, it all made sense.
“The first thing I said was, it is Parker’s life to live. As a parent I want my child to be happy,” Deb Reed said. “I knew something was wrong, he was unhappy. I didn’t know why, and that explained why.”
The name Parker came from its meaning, “keeper of the park,” since his family camped a lot, and because he’s a big fan of Spiderman, aka Peter Parker.
Reed’s transition was then brought to the attention of school administration and Scorpions head swim coach A. Jay Bronson in May. They sat down with Deb Reed to discuss the future. Parker is the school’s first case for an athlete.
“We embraced it, it’s something that’s fairly common in the states and it was new to us,” principal Darrin Karuzas said. “We’re very supportive on our end and understanding.”
Hesitant about swimming this year, at first Reed was only going to be a team manager.
Watching from the pool deck the first day of practice convinced him to jump back in.
“Everybody knows about him and accepts him for how he is. We’ve all just supported him through it and being a team altogether,” said Brittany Medel, a senior swimmer who has known Reed since they were freshmen. “When he was with the girls team he just didn’t seem as happy or comfortable as someone should feel when they’re swimming. Right now he seems very comfortable and happy and enjoys swimming.”
The 18-year-old has raced in one meet so far, the season opener against Chandler Preparatory Academy on Aug. 31. He was in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard individual medley, the 100-yard butterfly and the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Watching a boys race where one person is obviously wearing a full-bodied suit could also have raised an eyebrow. But, Reed said, no one batted an eye, not even him.
“It was really nice. Competing with the girls kind of just seems out of place for me,” Reed said. “But then competing with the guys just felt real natural even though it was the first time I did it.”
The Reed family recently traveled to visit family in Canada, where relatives were only accepting, too. The one-sided reactions stem from, in Deb Reed’s opinion, the younger generation’s attitude.
“Parker’s generation up to people in their 30s are very accepting of everything,” she said. “The fear that Parker had in coming out and the possible rejection never happened.”
Whether or not the Arizona Interscholastic Association rejects his appeal to switch genders remains to be seen.
According to transathlete.com, Arizona’s policy on transgender student-athletes is right in the middle. The AIA, which first approved a student-athlete gender change in 2014, takes it on a case-by-case basis.
Reed is currently undergoing that process, which includes the need for a letter from him, a doctor and school administration. Support from the school and potential impact on other students is also weighed. According to Karuzas, there’s no problem there.
“Parker is now recognized as a male at school and fortunately we have a really good student body here,” Karuzas said. “One of our strengths here is we embrace diversity.”
The AIA also considers how long the student-athlete identified with his or her birth gender, but does not require hormones to be taken. A date has yet to be set for his appeal.
“So far the AIA has been really good with the process,” Bronson said. “We hope to be ready for state qualifiers at Saturday Night Fever [on Sept. 30].”
In the meantime Bronson spoke with coaches ahead of the Aug. 31 meet, who had no qualms allowing Reed to race as a boy.
Unlike recent cases around the country dealing with transgender athletes, such as the case of a transgender boy wrestler — who was taking testosterone to help transition — won a Texas state title against girls, swimming is not so controversial.
That is because really nothing changes. The pool and racing distances remain the same, and there is obviously no contact between competing swimmers. If anything — as Reed admitted he is short, even by a girl’s standards — it will be harder to return to the state meet in his senior season, as he has yet to take any hormones either.
Away from the pool it has been nothing but smooth sailing since making his transition public. The only question left is what decision the AIA will make.