While the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community is undeniably diverse and broad-minded, we must also understand that, on an individual level, our culture, belief, and upbringing may be tested. We are but fragments of the human race schema. Celebration of our differences is not an attack against our own beliefs but rather a celebration of the complexities that make us each uniquely human.
This piece celebrates the diversity of our wonderful sport. One of our newest athletes, Luna Wilber, has been training for over six months. Prior to that, she trained Wing Chun, which is a style of Kung Fu. During advancement testing, she found herself on the ground. The realization of needing to improve her ground game quickly set in. Shortly after, Luna found herself at a BJJ academy. While still new to the sport, one of her goals with regard to BJJ is to share the sport with other women.
Luna’s story is a fascinating one and one that I am so eager to share. When someone walks in their truth, it can evoke a mixture of emotions and responses from others. Some are welcoming and others are tragic. I suspect the response to Luna’s story will be no different, though it shall still be told. Luna was born male. She didn’t have a choice in it. You kind of get what you get coming out the gate. Luna dressed in women’s clothes as early as her adolescence. She didn’t understand why she was the way she was and she went to great lengths to deny it to her own self. In her early twenties, she started exploring her feelings and being introspective about her lot in life. About two years ago, Luna found the courage to declare her truth to her mother and friends. While a dangerous prospect to announce one’s self as transgender, I imagine it was so liberating and freeing to bare her truest self to those she trusted most. Today, Luna is pretty open about being transgender. She explained that she spent a lot of time hiding who she was and she no longer wanted to be in that prison. With that being said, there are some people in her life from whom she keeps the truth guarded. Her fear of not being accepted by her father is too overwhelming to contemplate. Her mother has requested that she hold off on sharing her identity with her sister, as she believes that Luna should come out to her father first.
Luna focuses on the great support that she receives from others, which is good because her faith in humanity is consistently tested…my words, not hers. In her quest to find a BJJ gym to call home, she had one of her close friends call a gym explaining that they both wanted to train. Luna thought it appropriate to share her status as transgender. The person on the other end of the phone responded that they didn’t accept “that” here. When pressed about the name of the gym, Luna indicated that she didn’t want to tarnish anyone’s reputation. She phoned another gym, and received no response. Girls in Gis and Josei Heishi have been very supportive of Luna’s interest in the sport, inviting her to various events and programs. Their welcome was reassuring for her.
Luna is still in the very first stages of transition. She hopes to begin hormone treatments soon. She understands that going through treatment later in life is very harsh on the body. Luna has made great strides in transforming her body. When she first came out, she weighed in at over 220 lbs. She is currently walking around at 170 lbs. While there is marked improvement, Luna offers that her stature is not congruent with the gender with which she identifies. She says that the emotional toll of not liking what she sees in the mirror is far from healthy. The external attitudes exacerbate any negativity she currently wrestles with.
In this sport, we all compete and train together regardless of gender, sexuality, race, height, weight, age, or any of the other descriptors used to set us apart. It seems pretty inclusive on the surface. When we get down to our microcosmic individual identities, the waters become a little muddied. We can be afraid of that in which we don’t know. Luna would want everyone to know that transgender people are just like everyone else and deserve the same rights and privileges. It’s a societal norm to be fearful of things that don’t fit inside our own personal little box. Let’s break outside the f’ing box and see the beauty in all things and people.
Jiu Jitsu encompasses so many different walks of life. I’ve come across people that I probably wouldn’t in any other setting or sport. Take the time to be kind to one another.
About the Author:
Girls in Gis staff writer
Sharicka Long-O’Neill, is a blue belt with the Kompound Training Center out of Littleton, CO. She has been a jiu jitsu practitioner since July of 2012. She is a mom and a ten-year veteran of the United States Navy. Her hobbies include fitness, cooking, and traveling with her husband of five years.