Trans water polo player to compete in women’s national championships after bringing team to victory in 2023

Apr 30, 2024 | Political News

 A trans-identified male University of Michigan water polo athlete is set to compete in the national women’s water polo championship over the weekend for the second year in a row after bringing the team to victory in 2023.

Alicia Paans, 31, is expected to compete with the team at the 2024 National Collegiate Water Polo Championships (CWPA). The event will be held from May 3 to May 5 at Texas A&M University and includes 16 US teams competing for the women’s title, according to Reduxx.

The club team in March named Panns the “player of the week” on Instagram, noting that Paans is also a state chess champion. In the 2022 Michigan women’s championships, Paan placed second in the women’s open.

Paans, formerly known as Johnny, competed on the women’s water polo team in 2023, with the team winning the national women’s title against the University of California-Santa Barbara.

In the 2023 competition, Paans scored multiple goals in a 17-5 win against the University of Virginia, and in a 17 to 6 win against the University of Washington.

The CWPA released a policy in January of 2024 that states that “transgender athletes who identify as female are eligible to compete in both the Co-ed League and the Women’s League.”

To compete in the women’s division, trans-identified males must provide to the CWPA a letter confirming the athlete’s gender identity, and provide either a test result showing testosterone levels below 10 nmol/L within 60 days prior to their first competition or written confirmation from their physician of the start of testosterone suppression.

Paans was still referred to has Johnny in a 2013 Facebook post, and it is unclear when Paans began identifying as transgender. Paans immigrated from the Netherlands to California in 2017, and began a social work degree at the University of Michigan in 2023.

Jennifer, the mother of a female NCAA water polo athlete who competed in the 2023 championships with Paans told Reduxx that it was “obvious” that Paans was transgender when she first saw the athlete.

“My husband and I saw him first, standing aside the pool before [University of Michigan’s] first game. We looked at each other in surprise, and immediately knew it was a man,” she said.

She added: “I observed Alicia quite a bit over the tournament, partly out of concern for the women, and also wondering how his teammates acted around him.”

Jennifer, whose last name was withheld for the safety of her daughter, said she was distressed over the possibility of her daughter being forced to compete against a male, but was “relieved” when the match did not take place.

“None of these women were initially aware a man had been allowed to play,” Jennifer noted. “Many of the player’s on my daughter’s team were almost in shock at the situation, and spoke to one another about discomfort with it. But to my knowledge, no one spoke to the organizers of the tournament. They felt that nothing would be done given that it was allowed based on [CWPA] policy.”