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Gabrielle Ludwig: Returns To College Court



Gabrielle Ludwig

Gabrielle Ludwig: FREMONT (California) – 11 ladies sit beneath a misty mirror in a makeshift locker room the size of a storage closet.

Their wide eyes are glued to an overdressed basketball coach giving a pregame speech with equal parts motivation and four-letter obscenities.

On this wet evening inside a dimly lit Bay Area junior college gymnasium, the scene plays out at colleges around the country every night. Yet, it serves as a prelude to a debut unlike any other in the sport’s history.

When the focus of the 12-minute pep talk shifts to this topic, ten 18- to 20-year-old women — deaf and another who is a few inches short of 5-feet – fix their gaze on the one Mission College player who has yet to play this season.

Gabrielle Ludwig, the room’s oldest (50 years old), tallest (6-feet-6, 230 pounds), and the most muscular person, is sitting near the door.

Corey Cafferata, the head coach, encouraged her, “Come out and be Gabrielle Ludwig, the player.” “You put forth a lot of effort to get here. Everyone in this squad is rooting for you!”

Ludwig rubs her hand nervously over the sock as she approaches the tattoo on her leg. She’s been anticipating this moment for a long time, but she’s also nervous.

Gabrielle Ludwig returns to college court

Gabrielle Ludwig

Is she still able to play? What will the grownups in the audience say to her? What will her opponents say about her on the court? And will she be able to control her emotions?

She says she feels calm as she looks up from the filthy rug. She didn’t think this day would ever come: tonight, in front of cheering and cursing onlookers, she presses the reset button on her life.

Cafferata promises that her name will be called for playing time. “Your name will be called,” says the narrator.

Few people outside of this room are aware that it all boils down to one name. They had no idea she was 50 years old and last played college basketball in 1980 – as a male. They had no idea of the ordeal:

  • One failed suicide attempt.
  • Two failed marriages.
  • One 19-year-old daughter insists on calling her father.
  • Two children insist on calling her Momma Gabbi.

And they have no idea what Ludwig has reacted to – the stares, the whispering, and the female referee in Barstow who refused to shake her hand after looking her in the eyes.

The friction between a person’s desire to play organised basketball and a community still attempting to comprehend that person’s half-century life journey triggered all of this.

Ludwig tells her teammates, “The last time I played college ball, I was 20 years old.” “30 years later, I’m walking out here…”

The acclaim of young ladies drowns out her speech, and they know in their hearts that the harshest retaliation, the worst of all, is only minutes away.

The lady teammates referred to as Gabbi, Giant, or Big Sexy, Robert John Ludwig were born in Germany three decades before any of them were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.

Ludwig, who had no idea who his biological father was, travelled to America with his mother, Elfie, and Al, the military man whose mother had fallen in love.

Ludwig recalls a happy childhood, but for the impression that something was severely off-kilter within and that every time Ludwig glanced in the mirror, she saw the bad image staring back at her.

She would try on her mother’s outfits and play with cosmetics whenever she had the chance, only to quickly remove the clothing and wipe away the lipstick before her parents could find her.

Gabrielle Ludwig described Through My Mother’s

Ludwig described the outfit as “aspirin for a terrible headache.” “Through my mother’s closet, I lived vicariously.”

Ludwig’s battle intensified when she relocated to Long Island at nine; her body didn’t match her soul. Ludwig claimed that children bullied her daily and that she suffered from great personal anxiety. Ludwig stated that she was unsure if she was gay.

Ludwig sought a getaway since she couldn’t find an explanation for what was bothering her. Ludwig claims that when she was 15, she popped every pill of every colour she could see around the house. She expressed her dissatisfaction with her situation to her parents.

When puberty arrived, the image in the mirror shifted, and pectorals, size, and benefits appeared. Perhaps Ludwig could stuff his identity dilemma back into the closet with his mother’s gowns and find solace and catharsis in something she excelled at basketball.

Finally, there was something to look forward to for this awkward, big-eared adolescent with a German accent.

By her second year of high school, Ludwig had grown to a size 6-8. Ludwig was a high-flying youngster who could throw down all kinds of dunks by the time she enrolled at Nassau Community College in the fall of 1980.

Ludwig also discovered a new allure — women – and realised she was drawn to them. On the other hand, Ludwig claims she was immature and didn’t want to go to college. After one semester, she dropped out of the squad.

She joined the Navy in 1984 and spent eight years travelling the world as an aviation anti-submarine warfare technician, serving in Desert Storm.

Ludwig claims she crumpled in a letter President George H.W. Bush wrote to thank her for her service because she was unhappy with the politics surrounding the war.

The pair inside raged even more as she lingered on the outskirts of world strife. She felt most at ease wearing a wig, lipstick, eyeliner, and stylish clothing while hanging out with heterosexual Navy pals in San Francisco while stationed in Alameda.

Ludwig claims that dressing like a woman was not a sexual yearning but rather a method to connect with her mismatched spirit, the first step toward self-discovery. A female acquaintance in San Francisco taught Ludwig how to talk to doctors to get female hormones more easily.

Ludwig secretly took female hormones and grew breasts behind her wife’s back, hoping it would go unnoticed. “However, how can you keep it from your wife?” Ludwig explains.

It’s like arriving home and opening your shirt to discover boobs. Your wife is bound to ask some inquiries. Marriage is difficult enough without having to deal with a husband’s boobs.”

There were tears, love, and a battle that lasted through an 11-year marriage and the birth of Janelle Ludwig, their daughter. However, the couple eventually divorced. “I feel like I betrayed her confidence.” “That is a burden I will carry for the rest of my life. What would you do in this situation?”

Over time, the gap between what Ludwig felt on the inside and what she saw in the mirror grew wider. Ludwig knew she was a woman on the inside, but she lived in a grey region on the outside, which was the most agonising moment of her life.

You look in the mirror and see breasts and a woman’s body developing, but you have male genitalia,” Ludwig explains. “You have a strange feeling about yourself. It’s as though you’re trapped in the abyss.”

She discovered she wasn’t alone and that she had gender identity dysphoria thanks to the Internet. Ludwig resisted sex reassignment surgery as a transgender person – someone who takes hormones but hasn’t fully transitioned to another gender – for one reason.

she wanted to give Janelle, a free-spirited teenager who dressed in mismatched clothes and socks, a strong figure as she navigated the pressures of high school.

However, Ludwig recalls Janelle, who is now 19 and declined to be interviewed for this story, saying to him one day, “It’s time for you to do what you need to do, Maddy (a mix of mom and dad). If you wish to be a lady, I will always adore you and refer to you as a father.

Janelle explained, “I have one father and one mother. You’ll always be my father, no matter how you dress.

Ludwig walked into Roche Molecular Systems’ human resources department in January 2007, where he worked as a systems engineer, helping to design robots that aid DNA research.

She stated that she would require some time off and that Robert Ludwig would not return. Gabrielle Ludwig will be the employee who will return to the Pleasanton-based firm.

“It’s become evident to me that I cannot progress with my life without finding oneness between my body and my spirit,” Ludwig said in a letter to coworkers that she gave to USA TODAY Sports.

In July 2012,  Gabrielle Ludwig underwent sex reassignment surgery.

Ludwig claims that her employer’s insurance covered the entire $30,000 surgery and $100,000 hospital costs. When she returned to work, her business cards, cubicle nameplate, email, and paycheck all bore the same name – Gabrielle Ludwig – signalling the beginning of a new chapter in her life.

Ludwig then turned her attention to her genuine love: basketball. Ludwig’s two-year-old partner, Theresa Foakes, says she’s seen basketball eat up more and more of her time.

Ludwig is an inspiration to Foakes, whose 11- and 7-year-old children call her Momma Gabbi because of her commitment to a local non-profit youth basketball club and the sixth-grade AAU team Ludwig coaches.

If I can set for transgender high school students, for people who hate transgender people, and for those learning to deal with transgenders, transsexuals, if they see me as a normal person who loves life and raises kids just like you,” Ludwig says.

maybe some of the mysteries of who these people are will be removed, and there will be more blending into society.” People are terrified of what they do not understand.

I’m willing to take a chance on myself. It wasn’t always like this. It was simply a game of basketball. It’s about more than that because I believe there is an injustice.”

Ludwig expresses her gratitude for the efforts of her athletic director and head coach, who, despite outside criticism, has placed his reputation on the line.

This is being portrayed as a humiliation worse than point-shaving, according to the players. They’ve heard that some people think of them as a mixed team.

Cafferata, who claims to make $2,200 per month as a part-time employee, injects insulin into his belly and swallows seven pills before heading to Applebee’s for a few beers and a meal after a recent game.

Cafferata, a 42-year-old insulin-dependent diabetic, had rebuilt a programme that had a 90-game losing run before he arrived four years ago. He is aware, however, that his health is deteriorating

One kidney is clogged, and he says he’d gladly give a Mercedes Benz for a healthy one. He takes medication to help with his often crippling poor blood circulation in his feet, which is worse than any pain he experienced as a basketball player. He is aware that he may need dialysis at some point this season.

“Perhaps someone will donate a kidney to me,” he says. “Worst-case scenario,” says the author, “I’m on a machine at 4 a.m. and off at noon.”

He has, however, never shied away from battling for Ludwig’s eligibility. On and off the court, he says, he believes in trust, commitment, and dependability, and that is what Ludwig provides (in addition to being an imposing interior presence).

Gabrielle Ludwig teammates applauded her decision

Her teammates applauded her decision, and Ludwig turned around and exclaimed, “Let’s play ball, y’all!” before heading back to IHOP for a pancake feast.

Ludwig has acted as a second coach to players, encouraging them to block shots, keep their heads up after a miss, and put their hand in the face of a shooter.

But she’s been more to her teammates than that. Some claim Ludwig has taught them about life’s difficulties. Ludwig is an inspiration to standout guard Felicia Anderson.

Not just because of her personal experience, which opened Anderson’s eyes to a new group of people, but also because of her age. Ludwig is also not afraid to make fun of herself, and her colleagues are quick to join in.

“We reply, ‘What, in 1920?’ “If she says anything like, ‘Well, I used to do this or that,'” Anderson says. “She simply laughs it off. She is aware that we are not passing judgment on her.”

And teammates claim that they feel even more determined if they notice gawking – or worse – from onlookers. Anderson adds, “Stop talking nonsense and come see her play.

The year is 2012. Life isn’t the same as it was in 1920 – when Gabbi was five, right? – when women were expected to stay at home and raise their children. The world has altered dramatically.”

Ludwig does not share accommodations with colleagues on the road due to age disparities. There are, however, a few exceptions made for her.

Ludwig spoke with the squad a few weeks ago and expressed her desire to play with them but did not want to put them in jeopardy. She says she occasionally worries that someone who despises her playing games may come after her with a gun.

Her comrades readily welcome her, even though they frequently feel like outsiders.

“We’ve faced discrimination for a variety of reasons,” Anderson says. “It’s nothing new to us. So, if you come with us, you’re discriminated against as well. You are also a member of our family. It’s a universal bond.

“We’re all dealing with our forms of oppression. We’re either lesbians, people of other races, or we dress like boys, with piercings, tattoos, and various hairstyles. Where else would she be if we weren’t all so different?”

Ludwig participated in pre-game warm-ups with the team before being cleared to play in games last weekend. Before one of Ludwig’s games, a fan called Lawrence Thibodeaux stood beneath the basket, just a few steps away from the dark-haired player, and started clicking shots of him warming up.

He subsequently remarks, “I felt it was preposterous that she played at 50.” “It’s much more ridiculous because she used to be a man. Damn, nowadays, people do everything.

“I don’t believe a 50-year-old should be playing with children. I hope she finds whatever she’s looking for, and I hope people don’t mock her for it. God is the last judge. He put her in that position, and he must want her to stay there.”

Gabrielle Ludwig claims that when getting Gatorade

Ludwig claims that when getting Gatorade at the snack bar, she ran into a Contra Costa College player named Jeannay Washington, who told her, “Do you have enough anabolic steroids on hand?

If you don’t have any, I have some for you “before giving a teammate a high-five Later, Washington denied ever speaking with Ludwig, but stated that she did not believe Ludwig should be allowed to play.

Ludwig responded, “They have no idea.” “They have only been alive for 18 years. This 18-year-old has absolutely no idea what life is all about. It’s when they reach adulthood. That criticism would sting if it came from someone like you, and I’d have to find a place for it.”

Ludwig is most afraid of adult comments. And while she was spending the afternoon before her first game at the hotel, she had a good idea of what she was in for.
Ludwig responded, “It’s coming.” “It’ll be a shambles.” (Teammates) haven’t been around long enough to understand how unattractive it can be.

Mission College fans and parents gave Ludwig a rousing standing ovation as she entered the game midway through the first half. Some on the College of Siskiyous side of the gym had a different reaction.

“What the (crap) is that thing?” Kevin Casey, the father of a Siskiyous player who lives in Citrus Heights, just north of Sacramento, asks.

Ray Galli, a Folsom friend of Casey’s, says, “This just ain’t fair.” “If you and I both got breast implants, we’d be considered women.” They’re having a good time while playing girls’ ball. In whatever sport, a man or a woman will always try to cheat. This appears to me to be a bit of a ruse.”

Ludwig slogs up and down the court during Mission College’s run-and-gun attacks at times. She easily snatches two rebounds and towers over her opponents. The Mission College side of the stadium erupts in applause. Casey gestures at her as she sprints up the court.

Casey said, “I don’t want her in the same locker room as my daughter.” “That’s a guy who has a lot of girlfriends.” We’ll take Shaq, cut off his (penis) and put him out there with the ladies.

What’s the difference between the two? You have girls. Mine is a Tomboy, but she is a complete girl. They allowed far too much (crap) to pass them by. Was it Adam and Eve or Adam and Steve who started it all?

“She’s got all the pieces?” She is not one just because she possesses the necessary components. It was a man-made disaster. Obviously, she was not created by God because she did not look like that. Man-made. Fake.”

Ludwig hit three of four free throws but missed all four field-goal attempts. She racked up a tonne of rebounds. Mission College was defeated. Siskiyou’s players shake hands, and their coach, Tom Powers, compliments her on her performance despite her age, making no mention of her gender transition.

“Men’s leagues won’t accept her, will they?” Siskiyous forward Anna Cameron, a New Zealand native who guarded Ludwig at times, wonders. So, where does she have to go? It’s a difficult situation with many distinct aspects. She should go somewhere and play. She is a basketball fanatic.

Ludwig gets into her car, wraps her knee in a blanket, and drives back to Fremont to spend time with her partner and take an online assessment for her music course. Even in defeat, she claims she has never been happier, despite the two Siskiyous spectators’ comments.

She laughs as she explains, “I found a house with a bunch of dysfunctional lesbians, one deaf kid, and a transgender woman.” “This is where I call home.” This is the group to which I belong. I am the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s appropriate.”

Ludwig sees a father, a maternal figure, a veteran, a scientist, a life partner, and something she hasn’t said in over three decades: a colleague when she looks in the mirror.

Through friendship, we’re figuring out where the hell we’re at in life…,” Ludwig explains. “All we want as human beings is to be loved.”

A reporter inquires, “Where is Gabrielle Ludwig?

“Can you tell me where Robert Ludwig is?” Gabrielle Ludwig explains. “Gone.”

Her eyes remain glassy as she pauses for a few seconds, takes a deep breath, then softens and calms her voice.

“Robert Ludwig is no longer among us,” she declares. “And the person you have is Gabrielle Ludwig, who embodies and was everything Robert was… That person [Robert] deserves to be recognised.

He was a fantastic individual. Robert is no longer with us. He was a wonderful father. His spirit hasn’t left. It’s only that the spirit and the body are in sync, as they should be.”

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