Two things I’ll talk about with anybody: Sports and journalism.

Last Saturday I was part of a presentation at the 2023 NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists National Convention in Philadelphia, where I discussed the intersection of both topics with my peers in craft and community.

Community. That word has been in my head since I was first approached about joining Cyd Zeigler in leading a discussion on the role of journalism in elevating LGBTQ people in sports.

I’ve been a working journalist for 30 years, but I’ve been out only since 2017. I was in sort of a purgatory six years ago. I was trying to find a new place to be in the craft, and at same adjusting to being me and how different that definition will be.

Outsports became a piece of that new definition since becoming a contributor in 2019. It was a new space for me in the profession I love and at a time when acceptance within the sports I cherish are at new highs — alongside the current crisis of legalized anti-trans discrimination.

Even with the coverage I’ve been a part of, and doing some of the best work in my career, at times I would wonder if it mattered.

Even with the increasing acceptance despite backlash, are we seen?

I wonder at times if I mattered? If my reportage is seen? If I’m seen as a journalist, as a person, as a trans woman, as a part of this community?

This past weekend at my first NLGJA convention, I got a lot answers, and all were positive.

I came into the hotel slightly groggy from the drive, but just soon enough to meet a person I interviewed for The Outsports Power 100. I called out to Christina Kahrl. The San Francisco Chronicle sports editor had spoken at a panel that morning and now was racing out to catch a flight back to her job out west, but not before finally meeting in person.

It was a quick word, a hug and some sage advice.

“Enjoy this weekend, Karleigh,” she said. “Enjoy all of it.”

I did enjoy all of it, especially a lot of seminars centered on what has been called in some corners as a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ people, and transgender people in particular. A lot of programming was built around this theme, and it was good be in this sessions with colleagues listening, learning and discussing.

Also props to the organization on the new branding, and hopes for a greater commitment to our wider community along with it. Organized in 1990 as the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, it has taken criticism due to perceptions that concern beyond those of cis people are ignored. Trans members such as Bethany Grace Howe, an NGLJA board member, was among those pushing for a wider focus.

“We went through hundreds of redesign proposals,” Howe said as we noted the new branding on a sign at the career fair. “Ultimately the board understood the need.”

It was the first time we saw each other face-to-face and not in a Zoom meeting.

I had a lot of those moments over the weekend.

It was empowering to meet a lot of fellow Trans Journalists Association members and put faces to names. Many of those faces had stories alongside of telling stories.

One of the sessions during the convention focused on self-care for trans and non-binary journalists, with fellow sports writer Katie Barnes as part of the panel. It was one of the best sessions I attended on the weekend.

Given how difficult this past year (and more) has been, just seeing each other and getting to fellowship together was uplifting.

For me, having this time was a needed detox cleanse.

There I was with a television news reporter from Tulsa, Okla., named Catherine James. She’s slugging it out in local tv news, a one-person army the same way I did 30 years ago. She is a trans woman like me, right now in the game in a difficult place to be in the game.

At that moment, we both felt a little less alone.

There was a young television anchor from Virginia and a sports writer from Seattle; the photojournalist who works in the caverns of the Beltway and has been in the martial arts forever; the producer of a public radio show that I once appeared on. All of us together — each identifies a little different — looked at how we mesh our professional and personal together.

Raquel Willis said I cover “all the sports”. Yes, I’m honored.

It was hearing a titan among us, noted trans author Raquel Willis, calling out my work to her friends at a TJA gathering. I told her how much I look up to her.

“Everybody, this is Karleigh Webb,” she said. “This girl covers all the sports, and has been doing a lot of valuable media critique.”

That boost carried over to two days later, at the microphone and on the stage with an NLGJA Hall of Famer. Yes, Cyd Zeigler is Class of 2020. You can look it up.

There were two noted fellow trans scribes — Ina Fried and Erin Reed — in the audience. Howe was perched near the front of room, always a journalist even as an academian.

Outsports alum and St. Louis Post Dispatch Digital Sports Editor Erik Hall was in the middle of the room, and shared his thoughts during the discussion. Outsports alum Alex Reimer was there too.

Cyd and I delved into our process on a number of stories, including a deep dive in how we covered Lia Thomas. Our discussion also looked at how we achieve the balance in covering our community’s firsts but also covering the events, how we make those elements mesh, and why sports matter not just as journalists, but as LGBTQ people.

Throughout that hour, and the entire convention, I felt seen as a person and as a journalist. Too often, sports are seen as an afterthought, but here we were given a spotlight to show why this is also a place to be who we are and should be covered as such.

The entire weekend told me that the efforts matter and recharged the love and pride I have for my craft.

It’s been a few days since making the drive back from Philadelphia with that feeling of wishing a good time didn’t end. Having been to many such meetings among fellow journalists, I return to the grind with new ideas to try, and more names on my contact list.

I return to the fray feeling seen, heard and embraced, and not just as a journalist.