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Celebrating the historic achievements of trans athletes on a crucial day at the Supreme Court

Transgender athletes Chris Mosier and CeCé Telfer made LGBTQ sports history and the U.S. Supreme Court will make a historic decision impacting trans rights.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Gender Identity Workplace Discrimination
 Protesters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as arguments are heard in a set of cases concerning the rights of LGBT people in the workforce, on October 8, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

All month long, Outsports is revisiting key moments in gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer sports history as part of LGBTQ history month. Today, on the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether it should be legal to fire someone gay or transgender, we’re celebrating the achievements of trans athletes Chris Moser and CeCé Tefler.

Chris Mosier is a hall of fame triathlete, All-American duathlete, and a 6-time member of Team USA.

“If someone was to ask me, how do I identify myself,” Mosier said in an ad for Nike that aired on NBC during the Rio Olympics, “I’d say I was an athlete.” He’s since appeared in more advertisements for Nike.

Chris Mosier
Nike

He’s still hard at work at inclusion; this week he and his own organization partnered with TeamSheIs, to “create greater awareness & education around transgender inclusion in women’s sports,” he tweeted.

Mosier, 39, grew up in Chicago, and told Portland students that growing up, he didn’t know a single LGBTQ person in high school. “The message [about transgender people] I received came from Jerry Springer and Maury Povich,” he said. He came out a decade ago, at 29, before Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner made headlines; it was the same year Chaz Bono came out.

At the university gathering, a student at the assembly asked him, “What do you do for self care?” The student paper, PSU Vanguard, reported that Mosier replied: “I spend time with my bunnies,” and “I spend time with my wife, and I catch pokemon.”

CeCé Telfer
Franklin Pierce University

On Saturday, May 25, 2019 in Kingsville, Tex., Franklin Pierce University track coach Zach Emerson watched senior CeCé Telfer run in two events: the women’s 100 and 400 meter hurdles.

Telfer beat her closest competitor by a second and a half, and then heft a trophy high above her head, to begin her reign as 2019 Division II national champion in the 400m. As far as we know, she is the first publicly out trans woman to win an NCAA track & field title.

But her coach expected her to lose.

“Best case scenario, she was the third best,” Emerson told Outsports. As it turns out, third would have been an improvement in the 100.

“I placed fifth,” adds Telfer, in her first interview since coming out publicly as a transgender woman athlete in 2018. “Which means four other ‘biological females’ — I mean, cisgender women — crossed the finish line before me.”

“You know, she’s not the fastest person alive, obviously,” said Emerson, who nevertheless believes in Telfer’s abilities and has worked hard to help her hone her natural gifts. “She’s always been very technical over the hurdles, going all the way back to high school. She has a gymnast background, which is built for for jumping, not just running.”

Emerson notes he’s seen the difference testosterone suppression has had on Telfer’s performance as an athlete, in the nearly two years since she’s been on hormones.

“She has lost muscle, she lost some weight,” he said. “She is not as explosive or as fast. A lot of her lifting numbers have gone down, so strength-wise, that has gone down quite a bit. Last year, her time slowed down considerably over the previous year’s, as her muscle mass decreased.” Telfer’s old records can be viewed here and compared to her current record.

“I wish people would understand what testosterone is, and what it can do for your body, and how when you’re suppressing that, how hard it is to to go through certain challenges,” like trying to compete on that hot Texas night after losing the 100m.

The haters who use news of her achievements as a catapult to launch attacks upon other transgender athletes and trans youth are of special concern to Telfer, especially those whose families have abandoned them. Three hours after graduation, Telfer came out to her mother.

“I’m basically shunned,” she revealed. “I don’t really have family members or anybody to be there for me.”

Her mother and those other relatives were not there for Telfer on May 25, when she won her national championship title. She led the pack across the finish line by more than a second, in a personal collegiate-best time of 57.53 seconds, according to the university website. Her finish was two seconds shy of the NCAA Division II record. And even without family there to cheer her on, she said her track family made it special, and winning that trophy was still a thrill. “So that was pretty, pretty awesome,” she said.

“Don’t you kinda wish you could do this again?” Emerson recalled asking her. He said she told him, “‘I don’t really feel much different.’ But she was happy. She just was not disappointed for the first time in quite a while.” Which is what Telfer has become accustomed to, given her family’s rejection.

“I’ve prepared for this my whole life, basically because I knew that my my family was never accepting and I knew that I had to do what I had to do.”

And what she does now, she said, is reach out to trans youth through social media, to offer them the support she wished she had when she was younger.

“I am by myself, and there other kids and people out there like me that’s by themselves. But I just want to let them know that they’re not alone. ‘No, you’re not by yourself. I’m here with you and I’m doing it with you. And you know I’ll be your voice. I’ll leave it on the track for you. I’ll run for you.”

Emerson concedes that he set his expectations too low for his national champion. “I didn’t give her the respect her strength deserved,” he said. “She was so much stronger through this entire last year than I was ever possible of giving her credit for. She deserves all the freaking credit in the world.”

Tomorrow — and every day in October — we’ll look back at another moment in LGBTQ sports history.