Transgender paddler making waves at national competition

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Transgender paddler making waves at national competition

Kayakers from across the country will be in Ottawa this weekend for the Whitewater National Championships, but one long-time competitor is racing for what feels like the first time. 

Transgender paddler Katalina Murrie has competed in the men's category of paddling competitions for years, but this time she'll be competing with the women. 

Murrie came out publicly in early July by posting a short video on YouTube.

"I was a girl forced in the boys category my whole life," she said Thursday. 

Policy debate rages on

The combination of gender identity and sports has been a hot topic recently, as many clubs and associations scramble to establish official policies on transgender athletes competing in categories other than the sex they were born with.

Canoe Kayak Canada has been working for 18 months to develop a gender inclusion policy, but has yet to release an official stance. 

They've temporarily adopted the stance of The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which states that "individuals should have the right to compete without question in the gender they feel they are."

As policies evolve, more conversations need to happen about including trans athletes in all sports, Murrie said. 

Questions remain surrounding testosterone

"Being trans is the most important part of my life and paddling is the second," she said. 

Paddling became a love-hate relationship when Murrie was eight and forced to navigate rapids in a boat too large for her. Once her teenaged years hit, the tears of frustration turned to passion, she said. 

While she competed with the boys, Murrie said she knew she was transgender. When she chose to come out, she said she thought her paddling career was over. 

"I thought I'd have to shut down that part of my life," she said. 

Now on testosterone blockers, Murrie is facing backlash from people who think her remaining muscle mass could put her at an advantage in the upcoming races. 

As far as Murrie knows, she is the first transgender paddler in the world to compete in a national championship.

"Hopefully it means that I can be some kind of inspiration."