A Woodstock woman has qualified for the Boston Marathon and is among a handful of the first transgender competitors.
Stevie Romer, 53, of Woodstock, qualified for the marathon last fall after running the Marquette Marathon in 3 hours and 41 minutes. The qualifying time for women in her age group is four hours.
Romer said running the marathon has been one of her goals since she started running distance because its one of the most prestigious competitions.
“Everyone wants to run Boston,” she said. “It became my goal about four or five years ago.”
Since registering she has faced scrutiny because she is transgender, which means she was assigned male at birth and raised as a man. She came out and began her transition about a year and a half ago.
“I had a number of people … mention since I am trans they don’t know if it was fair for me to qualify on female standards,” she said. “I hate that conflict. I have pretty much stopped racing locally [because] that has created problems before.”
Critics say it's unfair for transgender athletes to compete against cisgender athletes because of a perceived biological advantage. Cisgender refers to people who identify with and live as the biological sex they were born into.
T.K Skenderian, director of communications with the Boston Athletic Association, said several transgender people have run before but the association doesn’t require participants to outline their identity history.
“We ask that runners register for and compete in the Boston Marathon with the same gender identity under which they qualified,” he said. “We don’t require medical documentation to prove gender identity, but we do require a government-issued ID to distribute each bib number.”
When it comes to prize money, the association follows guidance set forth by the USA Track and Field, which adopted the International Olympic Committee’s policy regarding trans athletes, he said.
The policy states that its goal is to ensure trans athletes aren’t excluded from opportunity to participate while making sure it doesn't undermine requirements by anti-doping standards.
Guidelines include requirements that transgender women demonstrate low levels of testosterone, typically achieved through hormone therapy and/or gender confirmation surgery.
Two other transwomen are registered to run in the marathon this year, including Amelia Gapin of Jersey City, New Jersey, and Grace Fisher of Hancock, Maryland, according to local media reports.
Romer said she hopes her experience inspires other girls and women like her.
"I am looking forward to running as female. It's historic," she said. "I want to change the world for the better for people that don’t fit. It makes life worthwhile. It makes the suffering worthwhile."