Kamden Romano has quite the sporting resume: football, soccer, marathons, triathlons and more, yet Romano's future sporting ventures are, perhaps, most exciting for him.
Romano, 32, who lives in suburban Huntley and works as a paraprofessional, played for the DC Divas in 2006 and the Chicago Force in 2010. Romano has run three marathons, about 20 half-marathons, 7 Tough Mudder events, 1 Spartan race, 2 sprint triathlons, and 1 duathlon.
Romano played four years of high school soccer, four more years in college, and then on the U.S. Deaf Women's National Soccer Team for the Deaflympics in 2005 (Australia) and 2009 (Taiwan), and the World Cup in 2012 (Turkey).
Romano also since 2011 has been hooked on CrossFit.
Yes, Romano is deaf and transgender.
"I'm really excited to be able to compete as a male for running races and CrossFit competitions," Romano said. "Most importantly, being a role model for young deaf children, especially when there (is) not enough access to our language. I'm proud to be a deaf athletic transman. I want to continue to inspire others that they can be anything they want to be and not stopping themselves from accomplishing goals."
Romano took to Facebook earlier this summer to flash a shirtless photo, post-surgery.
"Growing up, I've always loved showing off my scars and bruises from sports. My tattoos and scars are stories of my life, so I'm not ashamed to show my chest," said Romano, now focusing on recovery and slowly getting back to training. "Before I sign up for anything, I want my name change because I would feel wrong to race as Katie or female."
Romano goes to court Aug. 20 to change his name and then his gender marker.
Romano participated in the Princess Challenge at Walt Disney World this past February, four months after transitioning. "I hadn't run (for) five months prior to the race, but I have been training in CrossFit. I ran my fastest since 2012, so I'm looking forward to see how I do with running and CrossFit."
Romano played for the DC Divas in 2006, which won the Women's Football Alliance (WFA) Championship. Romano was a cornerback and kicker for the Chicago Force women's pro tackle football team.
Romano ran his first 5K race at age 13 and was crying the whole time. "I told my mom that I don't want to do it again and I'm staying with (youth) soccer. Finally, in 2011, my mom convinced me to try running again and I was ready to retire from soccer (at the time), so I thought, 'OKI need a hobby.' My mom ran over 35 marathons and many other events, so she inspired me to run. I would have never done a marathon if it wasn't for her. She is my running buddy. My mom was able to interpret some important information at races and she always signs the national anthem to me."
The only Ironman that Romano has done was a team relay half ironman in Muncie, Ind., with his mom in July, 2016. Romano's bucket-list for endurance-events includes a full Ironmanjust like his step-dad has done.
"I love the feeling of completing the races that I never thought I would finish, like my first full marathon in Chicago, the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon on four consecutive days), my third marathon at Biltmore Estate with Medial tibial stress syndrome, and the team relay half ironman. Overcoming the mental and physical battles, and the adrenaline of sprinting to the finish line, are the best feelings and I'm addicted. Running and CrossFit are my therapy. I love to compete against myself. My family and I love to sign up races all over the America because that's a good excuse to travel! The more I run, the more life I see."
Romano also wants to complete a Tough Mudder event in every state, and another goal is Tough Mudder Xa combination of Tough Mudder and CrossFit.
"CrossFit is very good training for anything, even running. It helps with my endurance and strength," Romano said. "Currently, I'm working out at CrossFit Three Oaks in Crystal Lake and the community there is wonderful, especially with my transition. They made me feel welcomed and my coach learned some sign language for me. I did my first local competition as a team in August 2017 and we got second-place. Now that I have competed as a woman, I'll be training to participate as a man after two years of full transition."
Romano, who came out as gay in 2005, said that Blake Culley's vlogs on Instagram about their transitioning journey helped spotlight the transgender community. "Blake is one of the first deaf transgender to share their story, and I felt similar with their experiences, so they inspired me to be who I truly am," Romano said.
"I came out in Australia at my first Deaflympic in 2005 because I met Stephanie Grover, our team goalie. She was the first person I came out to because, with access of communication in sign language, I was able to express my feeling about being gay to her. Also, she is currently a triathlon athlete as well, and she just completed a half Ironman in Boulder, Colorado recently to train for her first full Ironman in Arizona this November.
"Without the access to my language, I wouldn't be who I am today."
Romano met his first transgender person in 2006, and then went to an International Drag King show in Washington, D.C., "but I didn't understand what it meant because I was still young and careless in college," he said.
About two years ago, Romano saw Culley's vlog and started thinking about himself. "I finally made the realization that I've always felt like a boy my whole life. I've always dressed like a boy. I've always hated going in the women's restroom because I get stared at. I've always covered my groin while all (other) girls covered their chests during the free kicks (in) soccer games. I've always had that desire of being muscular and toned growing up.
"When I first met (deaf friends) Roni and Elizabeth, I started talking to them about transgender after I watched Blake's vlogs, because I was curious about myself, so they helped me through and figured out why I was questioning myself. I was able to communicate with them about my feelings and everything. They have been supporting me through my discovery.
"I came out to my mom, my family and then my close friends, and I started taking testosterone (last) October. I came out on Facebook in February and I was overwhelmed with all the love and support. I got my top surgery done on June 5 in Plano, Texas. Overall, the transition has been going very well."
Romano added, "My family has always been supporting me, no matter what, especially my mom. My mom and I picked my new name together because I wanted her to be part of this decision and I'm her first-born child. She liked Kaden and I liked Kam so we put it togetherKamden. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for my mom. My cousin, Kelsey, identifies as non-binary, so it's really nice to have family support. I'm grateful for all of my friends, near and far, and deaf community for their support."
Fields of Play … Kamden Romano
Favorite Sport: Football
Favorite Pro Team: Chicago Bears
Favorite Pro Athletes: Charles Tillman, Devin Hester and Brian Urlacher
Favorite Chicago Sports Team: Chicago Cubs
Favorite Chicago Restaurant: Antique Tacos
Favorite Chicago Bar: Sidetrack
Favorite Movie: Coco
Celebrity You'd Like to Meet: "Elliot Fletcher and all of the Scandal cast."
Pizza Toppings: Pepperoni, pineapple and jalapeno
Favorite TV Show: Scandal, Shameless and This Is Us
Little-known Facts: "I love going to Disney and I love cookies and ice cream."
Even my close friends will be surprised to know … "I enjoy music and going to the concerts because now I can request for interpreters."