Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 12/5/12

A 50-year-old woman is turning heads in the Bay Area around the womens’ junior college basketball circuit. Her name is Gabrielle Ludwig (No. 42 pictured in the back row), and if she looks familiar, it may be because she used to play basketball at Nassau Community College in 1980 when she was a man. In an excellent feature by USA Today’s Eric Prisbell, the story of Ludwig is told. Ludwig says she always had a difficult time growing up because she had a constant inner struggle. Though she was born as a man named Robert John Ludwig, Gabrielle says she never felt connected with her inner soul. She would put on her mother’s dresses and makeup when her parents weren’t home, and she says that is when she felt most comfortable. She even tried committing suicide as a teenager by ingesting pills because of her difficult life. Ludwig grew into a physical specimen and dominated on the basketball court. At 6’8″, then known as Bob, Ludwig played basketball for Nassau Community College in New York. Ludwig took college for granted and only played on the team for one semester. Ludwig eventually joined the Navy in 1984 and served eight years. Still living as Bob, Ludwig had failed relationships with women and a marriage that produced a child. While married, Ludwig began taking female hormones and began growing breasts, which alarmed his ex-wife. They eventually divorced. After giving it tremendous thought and after receiving support from his daughter and work company, Ludwig decided to undergo a sex change operation. USA Today says the operation occurred in July 2012. Ludwig’s company Roche Molecular Systems paid for the entire operation and helped her transition into her new identity. It hasn’t taken her long to get involved in athletics. Ludwig has had a new female partner for two years and lives with her and her two daughters. She helps coach one of the daughters’ AAU basketball team, and she became serious about considering making a basketball comeback. According to USA Today, she joked with the coach at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif., that she still had eligibility left, and the coach joked that he still had a roster spot left. Mission College’s coach spoke to the school’s athletic director, who asked the commissioner of the California Community College Athletic Association about Ludwig’s status. They determined that she could be eligible to play if she became a student, and if she changed the name on her birth certificate from Robert John Ludwig to her new name, Gabrielle Monika Ludwig. Ludwig made the difficult decision to change her birth certificate, and enrolled in 12 credits of online courses to become a member of the school’s womens’ basketball team. She was recently cleared to begin playing in games and has the support of her teammates, whom she believes are a bunch of misfits as well. Ludwig scored three points and grabbed four rebounds in a 69-62 loss to College of the Siskiyous on Saturday. It was her first junior college basketball game since 1980. Ludwig dealt with opposing fans and players heckling her, but she says it’s all worth it. “If the example I can set for the kids who are transgenders in high school, for the people who hate transgender people and for those learning to deal with transgenders, transsexuals, if they see me as a normal person and we are not the bogeyman and love life and raise kids just like you,” Ludwig says, “maybe some of this mystery of who these people are will be taken away and there can be more blending into society. People are afraid of what they don’t know. I am willing to put myself out there. It was not like that before. It was just about playing basketball. It’s about more because I see an injustice.” You can read USA Today’s entire feature on Gabrielle Ludwig here. Photo via Mission College Athletics

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