FLAG Flag Football is delighted to present their 2019 Marc E. Lewis Youth Scholarship in the amount of $5,000 to Ty “T” Warren from Dalton, Massachusetts. T, a senior at Wahconah Regional High School, embodies who the scholarship was founded six years ago to recognize — a graduating senior who has made high school and/or community sports safer for and more inclusive of LGBTQ+ student athletes.
As T explains, when he decided to publicly identify as transgender at the beginning of high school, he saw it as an opportunity “to allow everyone to feel safe and confident in fearlessly being themselves.” He explained that,“Rather than letting the world change me because of it, I decided to change the world.” Through his leadership, advocacy, and the example he has set as a student, athlete, and change-maker, T has done just that.
T is an outstanding four-year member of his school’s volleyball team. At his school and in the league in which they compete, volleyball is offered as a “girls” sport. Because there is not a “boys” team as well, any student is eligible to play on the single team. While T has always been very proud to play, he would cringe before each game when they were introduced as the “Lady Warriors.”All of the volleyball gear and apparel contained that designation as well. T was keenly aware that a team known as the “Lady Warriors” prevented his male peers from playing and could also create unease for transgender and non-binary student-athletes. T went to work, engaging both his principal and athletic director in conversation. Asking why the football team wasn’t referred to as the “Gentlemen Warriors,” T convinced his administrators that gendered names of athletic teams are both unnecessary and unwelcoming. Now, thanks to T’s initiative, all student-athletes at Wahconah Regional are simply Warriors.
T’s winning efforts to de-gender his school’s team’s names was not his first foray into activism. When T first began playing competitive volleyball, he became immediately aware that uniforms consisted of “tight-fitting shirts as well as the smallest spandex shorts,” making him feel both nervous and insecure each time he stepped on the court. As a sophomore, his transitioning now furthering, he became so uncomfortable that he contemplated giving up the sport he loved. Realizing that future students would surely be placed in a similar position, T knew that something needed to be done. “Someone needed to help make a change,” T said, “and I decided that someone would be me.” T did his research and then, with his coach and athletic director, was successful in getting alternative uniforms approved by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA). Many players on T’s teamnow wear uniforms in which they feel more comfortable and more themselves.
Last year, Wahconah began a Unified Track Team, an all-inclusive program which pairs individuals with and without intellectual disabilities. Knowing the value of being part of a team and wanting other students to have that opportunity, T decided to join and encouraged other LGBTQ+ students to participate as well. Not surprisingly, T was named captain and the team went on to win the Western Massachusetts title and finish second in the state.
Meagan Shannon, T’s current Spanish teacher, wrote,“T is one of my heroes. He is the embodiment of strength, perseverance, and joy.” She explained,“He serves as a role model and inspiration to his classmates and his teachers with how he conducts himself with dignity and respect.”
T will be attending the University of North Florida in the fall and plans to study Construction Management. FLAG Flag Football could not be more proud of this extraordinary young man and knows that he will continue to make a meaningful difference in college and throughout his life.