The Special Olympics website may feature heartwarming videos claiming they are “sparking a revolution for unity,” but one athlete is telling a completely different story. Tennis player Zach Brookes says he was rejected by the group’s British delegation because he is transgender.
While Great Britain‘s Special Olympics Board originally sent Brookes a politely worded rejection letter that only said they “received some excellent Tennis Athlete applications,” after he called them they told him the actual reason.
The 2019 Special Olympics will be held in Dubai. The board told him they feared for his safety since LGBT people are regularly jailed or deported in the Muslim country. They also told him they feared his testosterone prescription would disqualify him from competition.
In a YouTube video, Brookes talks about the rejection and how much it upset him.
“All my life I have been isolated for being transgender,” he said. “Since I came out, I nearly quit the sport I was doing in case they didn’t accept my real gender identity.”
“Since I found out I’ve been rejected it hurt me from the inside and outside. I don’t understand why you put my transition as a negative barrier.”
Brookes, who is on the Autism spectrum, was nominated for a Positive Role Model award at the 2017 National Diversity Awards.