Cal Calamia almost didn’t make it to the New York City Marathon.
A few months ago, the lifelong runner received a message from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency informing them they were at risk of being ruled ineligible due to testosterone usage.
Calamia identifies as nonbinary transmasculine, and uses testosterone for gender-affirming medical care.
They fought for their right to compete, earning a therapeutic use exemption through 2032. Last weekend, they finished first in the nonbinary category, becoming the third winner in the division’s history.
“In June, I did a panel with the NYRR and FRNY about non-binary inclusion in running. Someone saw it and reported me to USADA. I kicked into full overdrive to protect the future of trans athletes,” Calamia posted on Instagram.
“I was heartbroken at the thought of losing running– of being unable to step up to the start and these major races. Today, I not only got to do what I love, but I closed this chapter where it opened in the best possible way.”
Fittingly, Calamia wrapped themselves in the Transgender Pride Flag at the finish line.
Calamia recently shared their story with Outsports. They spoke about being an NCAA Division I track and field athlete at St. Louis University, while simultaneously struggling with their identity.
“I was struggling. I didn’t have words for what I was feeling but I didn’t like it,” they said. “It affected my relationship with running. It affected everything, not being right with my identity and not being right with my gender.”
The San Francisco resident came out as nonbinary transmasculine in 2018, and their place in the world started to make more sense. The following year, Calamia underwent “top” surgery, which removes breast tissue.
Finally, they felt free.
“It was super euphoric because I could run around with just shorts and I felt so like myself,” Calamia told The Washington Post.
Through it all, Calamia kept running, though they suffered plenty of indignities along the way. Before races had nonbinary divisions, they would be forced to register themself as either a man or woman.
“I’m not a cisgender man,” they said. “I identify with masculinity, but I’m nonbinary.”
Zachary Harris, the first nonbinary winner in NYC Marathon history, once compared being forced to identify themself as “male” or “female” to being “pricked with a needle.”
Leading up to NYC, Calamia won the nonbinary division in the San Francisco Marathon, and competed in their fourth Chicago Marathon.
“Each time I pin on a bib, I realize how much has changed since the last time. I feel a little more brave, a little more true, and a little more equipped to stand up for a future in which we don’t need anyone’s permission to be who we are,” they posted last month on Instagram.
A seminal moment for Calamia came in April, when they raced in the Boston Marathon’s nonbinary division. Five of the six largest marathons now include nonbinary categories.
“This experience was everything I’ve always dreamed of and more. I’ve spent the past few days surrounded by love and support in person and from afar,” they wrote.
“I am running for new narratives about trans people in sports. We are writing history right now.”
Despite his triumphs, Calamia knows there is a long way to go. To apply for a therapeutic use exemption (TPE), they needed to check off one of two options on the gender form: male or female.
Calamia left both of them blank.
The USADA also asked for a full accounting of his medical history, including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Calamia found the process to be invasive.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s discrimination,” they told Outsports. “Why are testosterone levels only weaponized against trans people when the human variance of testosterone levels in the human population is so vast? It’s an easy way to be transphobic.”
An activist, Calamia recognizes there’s strength in numbers. They founded a nonbinary running club in San Francisco with regular meetups.
The goal is to bring trans and nonbinary runners together. They’ve already successfully pushed for nonbinary divisions, changing the landscape of competitive running in the process.
“The trans experience is beautiful and I’m here for the trans magic,” said Calamia. “I’m here for everyone embracing every part of themselves and not being afraid to take up that space.”
Every time Calamia crosses the finish line, they show they belong. With over 100,000 followers on social media (Instagram and TikTok), Calamia is blessed with a huge platform.
And the best part is, there are plenty of more races to run.