For years, U.S. runner Nikki Hiltz wanted to live openly and tell the world their truth that they are transgender. However, because running is a sport that divides athletes along a gender binary, they felt that wouldn’t be possible until they hung up their racing shoes for good.
In recounting their coming out experience in a personal essay published on NBCSports.com, things began to change when they oversaw 2020’s Virtual Pride 5K as a space to bring together the running and LGBTQ communities during the pandemic and raise money for The Trevor Project.
During that event, four runners took the opportunity to come out. That inspired Hiltz to decide that they would take that brave step themselves. They chose to use this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility to announce who they are. In their essay, they took the opportunity to explain their gender identity in greater detail:
“The best way I can explain my gender is fluid. Sometimes I wake up feeling like a powerful queen and other days I wake up feeling as if I’m just a guy being a dude, and other times I identify outside of the gender binary entirely.”
Throughout their journey, Hiltz has received considerable support from their partner and fellow runner Emma Gee, who published a coming out story with Outsports in 2019. After Hiltz made their gender identity public, Gee posted a heartwarming tribute on Instagram:
Hiltz’s decision to come out as trans has taken on an even greater importance in the wake of the recent slate of anti-trans bills and laws throughout the country. Having competed collegiately at the University of Arkansas, Hiltz had the sobering realization that “for two years, I represented a state that I now wouldn’t feel safe visiting.”
As a visible out trans athlete, Hiltz realized there is power and responsibility in what they do, motivating themselves with the mantra: “If you win, you will be seen. The camera follows the athlete in the lead, the interview goes to the athlete who wins.
“And if that athlete is me, I know there is power in my being seen. Because representation is so important.”
Hiltz will be representing their community on Saturday at the USATF Grand Prix at the Oregon Relays. And if their recent tweet is any indication, their weekend is off to a great start:
Gender validation from TSA always hits different— Nikki Hiltz (@Nikki_Hiltz) April 23, 2021
Let’s hope that this is just one of many times they will be seen as their authentic self.