Five years ago, the WNBA’s Layshia Clarendon proclaimed to the world in an article in The Players’ Tribune: “I identify as black, gay, female, non-cisgender and Christian.” And they added something that seems especially relevant as we countdown to Christmas Day: “Jesus didn’t just die for the straight people.”
Since then, Clarendon has been one of only a handful of pro athletes identifying as gender non-conforming, using these pronouns interchangeably: She/Her/They/Them/He/Him. In this story, I will do the same in referring to them.
On Wednesday night, The New York Liberty guard posted a photo of herself on Instagram, standing next to the Christmas tree in the home they share with her wife, Jessica Dolan, who, at last report, was due to deliver their first child any day now. They decided against learning the baby’s sex in advance.
This Instagram post served as an update on how she identifies, starting with the words written right on her T-shirt.
“There is indeed no one way to be Trans,” they wrote in the caption. Clarendon explained that when she wrote the August 2015 article, what she wasn’t was more evident that what they were.
“I just knew what I was not...cis lol,” he wrote. “And I knew I wasn’t a trans guy. The images of Trans folx I saw and the mainstream narrative we still largely see (but is changing!) exists in the binary of male or female.”
Clarendon gave a shout-out to a friend, Myranda Warden, calling her “the first person to show me that transness can exist outside of the binary. @mywarden showed me that you can be trans and non binary, genderqueer and so much more. That the more you embrace all of your gender the more free you become.“
This is an evolution that non-trans people, within and outside the wider LGBTQ community, may find confusing. In that article from five years ago, Clarendon wrote for the first time about their struggle with the binary:
“I identify as a black woman but gender is another social identity I’ve had to reconcile. Gender is largely a spectrum. I understand that my presentation is more masculine than not. Most people see me and attach any number of their own identities: gay, male, black. The front line of gender identity for me was — and remains — the bathroom.”
And that is true for almost every trans person. Before I lived full-time as the woman I am — and let me clear: I’m queer but very binary — I developed a system to make sure I always visited the public bathroom that matched my gender presentation: I’d look down at what shoes I wore before stepping through the door.
But in that article, Clarendon shared that because of how she looked, she was called out for being in the wrong restroom on at least one occasion, by a boy in a women’s room with his mother, and that another woman walked out of a ladies room after seeing her in there.
Now, five years later, the Liberty guard has found a new sense of personal liberty, by embracing being both trans and non-binary.
“Existing outside of the binary for me is freedom,” she wrote in Wednesday’s caption. “I’ve learned that my gender just doesn’t fit into these molds that keep trying to hold it down and box it in. I know that my gender will keep evolving because we change and grow and shape shift and expand. I know that as Andrea Gibson says, my pronouns haven’t even been invented yet. I know that we all have masculinity and femininity inside of us and mine show up equally and wholly and fully.
“Cheers to being whole because we were not created to be anything less than that! To the Trans Community, I see you, I love you, I love us. We are whole, we are enough, we are fucking badass. #BeTheRepresentationYouNeedToSee
You can follow Layshia Clarendon on Instagram (@layshiac) by clicking here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The original post misspelled Myranda Warden’s name. I regret the error.