Athlete and seasoned sailor Sabreena Lachlainn is aiming to be the first transgender woman to sail solo, completely non-stop, around the globe.
Lachlainn has dreamt since childhood of completing this record feat, which fewer than 100 people have achieved. She would also to be the first transgender woman to do so.
“It would be a very humbling experience and honour to join such sailing legends and my heroes Kay Cottee, Jessica Watson, Ellen MacArthur, Isabelle Autissier, Naomi James and Dee Caffari in the record books as having achieved such a difficult challenge as this,” she said.
Since she came out in the early 2000s, Sabreena Lachlainn has been paving a way for transgender athletes, about whom there has been regular controversy, most recently a pre-Olympics ruling on testosterone levels. In the mid-2000s, Lachlainn was the first openly trans woman to play in a nationally sanctioned US Women’s Pro Football League. However, she received a lot of abuse from opposing teams and coaches. Lachlainn stated that the abuse caused her to stop playing the game entirely, bringing a sour end to a successful nine-season career.
That setback didn’t stop her determination to be a forerunner in terms of trans women’s sports, though. For the past three years, she has been training for her newest challenge and sailing around Michigan’s Great Lakes. Lachlainn recognised how difficult this task is likely to be:
“Sailing solo non-stop around the world is probably the single most difficult task to achieve.”
Her crowdfunding page explains in further detail the difficulties which she is likely to encounter: “Solo Sailing is a dangerous endeavour that requires total focus and an unwavering commitment from the moment Sabreena unties from the pier until she is safely moored once more upon her return.”
One of her main motivations is to convey a message of support and motivation to the transgender community and to inspire others like her to realise their dreams.
“If I can do it, I want it to be a message to my community. Anything is possible if you have a dream and are willing to work hard to achieve it.”
Unfortunately, Lachlainn’s coming out experience was not an entirely happy one. Having realised her true gender identity at a very young age, she struggled with recognising the implications of her identity for more than 30 years. Growing up in a rural town of just 400 people, she felt she couldn’t turn to anyone to alleviate her confusion.
“I had no idea what I was dealing with, no understanding why I felt the way I did,” she said.
“But I remember arguing with my mom that I was a girl and her insisting I was a boy.”
She began to transition in 2001, after an understanding divorce from her wife Gloria.
“After 13 years of marriage [Gloria] sat me down, held my hands and looked me in the eyes and told me she loved me, that she knew I had to transition to save my life but that she could not continue on as my wife because she could not be married to a woman, so [in] 2001 we went our separate ways.”
However, Lachlainn’s family was not as supportive, refusing to speak to her for 13 years after she came out to them on New Year’s Eve 2002. “It was a nightmare I would not wish upon another living soul,” she stated.
Lachlainn’s sponsors are an important part of what is set to be an epic journey, as solo non-stop sailing is an expensive endeavour.
“In order to achieve my dream sponsors are absolutely critical to my success or failure,” she says, listing public support as a means of keeping her hopes high. Each sponsor will have their name carved into the boat in which Lachlainn will eventually circumnavigate the globe.
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