The LGBTQ sports world was blessed in 2019 with an abundance of choices for Female Athlete of the Year. Readers nominated several women, among them:

  • USWNT icon Megan Rapinoe, who made an indelible mark during the Women’s World Cup.
  • Amanda Nunes, the world champion in two UFC divisions who defended her titles twice this year, once with a unanimous decision and once with a TKO. She was a runner-up once before, in 2017.
  • The indefatigable Elena Delle Donne, who played in the WNBA finals with three herniated discs and led the Washington Mystics to its first-ever title. She rightly earned the MVP award in 2019.

But in terms of making an indelible mark on sports history, CeCé Telfer of Franklin Pierce University sprinted to the top of the list with her groundbreaking victory at the May 2019 NCAA Division II National Championships. Telfer beat her closest competitor by a second and a half, winning the 400m hurdles at Javelina Stadium on the campus of Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas.

As far as we know, she is the first track and field NCAA champion who is an out transgender woman. That achievement brought her fame as well as made her a target of detractors and opponents of transgender inclusion in sports, including Donald Trump, Jr.

CeCé Telfer, center, leads the Outsports Pride contingent at the L.A. Pride March, June 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.

Those critics focus on her victory and ignore the fact that she competed within NCAA rules and placed fifth in the 100m that same day. Like most every trans athlete, Telfer doesn’t win every contest she enters. She said when people boo, she tunes them out, and when she joined us at Outsports Pride in Los Angeles in June, she embraced her newfound role of advocate as well as athlete.

“I try to lead by example,” Telfer told Outsports. “The one quote that has been with me my whole life is; ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ And I want to be that change, a step forward in making the world a more inclusive and safe place. It’s all starts with me.”

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Next for Telfer now that she has graduated is to pursue another degree, in nursing, and she is working hard to compete in next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Absolutely, my dream of pursuing the Olympics is key,” she said. “It’s going to amplify my voice. Make my mark on the world. Get the world’s attention so that they can start listening.”

The only obstacle in her plan is that Telfer, who lives in the U.S. but is a citizen of both Jamaica and Canada, has not found a nation to run for. That’s not stopping her, she said, or even slowing her down, telling us she sees it as an “open door, pretty much.”

Previous Outsports Female Hero Of The Year winners:

2018: Sue Bird

2017: Seimone Augustus

2016: Nicola Adams

2015: Abby Wamback and Megan Rapinoe

2014: Brittney Griner

Outsports has divided year-end Athlete and Hero awards to highlight accomplishments of people across genders. We understand that not everyone fits into the binary gender world currently established in sports, and we will honor that with additional awards when appropriate.

You can read an extensive interview with CeCé Telfer by clicking here, or listen to her discuss her plans for Tokyo in the Outsports podcast, The Trans Sporter Room.