Transgender tennis athlete Brooklyn Ross has dropped out of the Governor’s Cup tennis tournament in Cheyenne this weekend.
Ross, a transgender woman, decided not to compete because of national attention being drawn to the tournament and a desire to prevent “a circus” atmosphere that could detract from the success of the event.
“It just became more and more apparent that the environment may have not been a typical tennis tournament with things getting out of control and people’s safety at risk, including my own,” Ross told Cowboy State Daily on Friday morning.
Jackie Fulkrod resigned from her position as president of the Cheyenne Tennis Association Board of Directors over the decision to let Ross play in the tournament.
“Regardless of the withdraw, I stand firm on my belief that biological men do not belong in biological women’s sports, and in this case specifically a women’s only draw,” Fulkrod said. “That won’t change.”
Ross, 27, had been scheduled to play in the women’s open singles division of the tournament. There are no age restrictions in this division, which Ross said typically ranges from high-level high school players to women in their 30s and 40s.
“It just started becoming more and more apparent that the safety and success of the tournament could be jeopardized, and that could impact everyone’s ability to play tennis this weekend and have a safe, fun environment,” Ross said. “I was just concerned that this could turn into some crazy type of event where people were protesting.”
Not Worth It
Ross didn’t receive any personal threats or negative responses about playing in the tournament, and also said Tournament Director Peg Connor, who is executive director of the Wyoming Tennis Association, was supportive throughout the whole process.
Connor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Ross reported that Connor said if protests and other opposition became too much over the weekend, the tournament, in its 51st year, would have to be canceled for all participants. Ross said this would have been self-defeating and has nothing to prove as a player.
“And then nobody who signed up would be able to play,” Ross said. “That’s just a total waste. I just want people to be able to play and don’t want it to turn into a crazy event.”
Ross’ first match was scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday.
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily he did plan to protest at the tournament if Ross was playing in it.
Bouchard was one of a few state legislators who drew attention to Ross’ participation on social media. On Friday morning, he described Ross’ decision to withdraw from the tournament as a win for women’s free speech.
“What women and everyone should realize for this is that a single voice, that their voice matters,” Bouchard said. “That when they stand up and are bold, their voices can make a difference.”
Ross said that overall, the brief experience with the Wyoming Governor’s Cup has delivered positive exposure for transgender athletes.
“Literally by putting my name in this tournament and nothing more, it can be a really positive experience and raise awareness,” Ross said. “Just because one or two state legislators are upset doesn’t mean your average person is.
By all accounts, the Governor’s Cup is a recreational tennis tournament and offers no cash prizes. Ross, a NCAA Division II college player, was playing to experience something new.
“I only signed up for this tournament so I could go on a little road trip to Wyoming and check it out a little bit, play a little bit of tennis, have some fun,” Ross said.
Ross likely would have won the Governor’s Cup, carrying a significantly better United States Tennis Association ranking than the three other players in the women’s open division.
How Ross’ status as a transgender woman became public knowledge is still unknown and Ross considers revealing it a violation of personal privacy. It wasn’t an issue in the other 123 singles matches around the nation Ross has played over the last few years.
“I’ve never had an issue or anyone (who) goes to the media or any problems like that, or concerns over the safety of myself or others until this,” Ross said. “So, I figure it’s not worth it.”
Ross’ opinion of Wyoming hasn’t changed because of the people met throughout the week.
“I met some good people in Wyoming throughout this process as well,” Ross said. “It’s something people aren’t in agreement (on) and some people may feel strongly about, but that’s just how a couple feel, and that’s kind out of my control.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.