Californian becomes first college basketball player to start with and without penis

Gabrielle Ludwig is a 6-foot-6-inch, 220-pound center on the women’s basketball team at Mission College, a community college located in Santa Clara, California. She’s 51 years old, which is kind of a heartwarming little story.

Oh, and she was a man until July.

Ludwig, a computer administration major, also played basketball more than three decades ago at another community college on Long Island in New York. Her name then was Robert John Ludwig, then, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Ludwig is believed to be the first American to play college basketball both with and without a penis.

She has also joined a very exclusive club of notable athletes who have changed genders, notes the Vallejo Times-Herald. Renée Richards, born a man, played professional tennis in the 1970s (ranking in the top 20 overall and making the cover of Sports Illustrated). And that’s about it.

“I have always been an avid basketball player and fan and I will try to stay on the team for as long as I am a student,” Ludwig told ABC News.

Ludwig had to clear some bureaucratic obstacles before she could join the team.

“Gabrielle contacted me in July about possibly playing at Mission College, and since late August 2012 we started working on her eligibility to do so,” Lady Saints head coach Corey Cafferata told ABC News.

Ludwig had to provide a new birth certificate in light of her new gender.

“I had to provide evidence of being on female hormones for more than two years,” she added, according to ABC. “I am a woman in every way.”

Ludwig, who was born in Germany, served in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm. While she was a man, Ludwig fathered a daughter, who is now grown.

“I dealt with gender identity at an early age, and I had many responsibilities raising my daughter,” Ludwig told ABC News.  “Once she was well on her way and once I felt she was okay with it, I decided to become who I really am.”

Ludwig’s transgender status has generated some controversy.

Two ESPN radio hosts — since suspended — mocked Ludwig’s looks and called her “it,” ABC News reports. Also, an anonymous threat resulted in police protection for Ludwig along with a better, safer parking spot closer to the gym.