This is Transgender Day of Visibility, and this sports journalist, lifelong athlete and fan who sees sports as vital as estradiol and equity wants to take a minute to give out some thanks.
Lia Thomas hasn’t received due proper congratulations, so I give the bouquet to her first. Thank you, Lia! Congratulations on that national championship! Thank you for your heart, your tenacity, and that last 200 yards in the 500 freestyle championship final.
Seeing Lia do well hit me the same way another NCAA champ did in 2019. A rose and my thanks to CeCé Telfer. Watching her execute flawlessly in her national final still drives me to tears.
Thanks, Schuyler Bailar. The Harvard Crimson-turned-”Pink Manta Ray” has been out front through this tough time. Willing to teach and to educate, and standing in the heat with a young person who didn’t ask for this heat.
Special props for Bates’ Keelin Godsey, George Washington’s Kye Allums, and Cornell’s Morgan Dickens. If you look in the original NCAA transgender student-athlete inclusion policy handbook, you will find their names, because they shared their experiences, and their insights helped build the first pathway forward.
Thank you, Lucas Draper, A diver at NCAA Division III Oberlin College who decided to step in and speak out.
I stand to applaud the trailblazers.
“Did you ever want to quit?” “Yeah, but I didn't.”
I’m glad you didn’t, Chris Mosier. Right after seeing that Nike ad, I went out and rode 47 miles. Thank you for paving the way as a multieventer, toeing the starting line in an Olympic Trial, and standing up for what was right even as a world was locked down and shuttered in.
Much love to Dr. Veronica Ivy, for her power, her snark, and a moment. When she won her second UCI World Championship, she rode a victory lap with the azure-salmon-cream of our pride and resistance held high.
The same way that Alana McLaughlin did on the night of her MMA debut. A determined symbol that flowed like a wake behind her. Thank you for sending that power to all of us.
At ringside that night was Fallon Fox. Still proud and unbowed, and forever revered.
A fist bump for Verity Carl Smith, who not only spoke out for the rugby he loves, he continued his comeback to play the rugby he loves. Another for Patricio Manuel. Note to fighters looking for a flyweight to scrap with, he’s available. Just saying.
Thank you JayCee Cooper. Your leadership and courage powers a generation lifting up a sport.
I appreciate all the roller derby competitors. You’ve built a template for inclusion and solidarity across all lines.
Thanks Team Trans Hockey for sending that message on the ice.
Thank you and good luck to TRUK United FC. Tonight, they seek to use 90 minutes to change the conversation in a place where the conversation has been ugly.
Thanks Joanna Harper for looking at the data, doing the research, answering questions, raising new ones, and still finding the time to get an interval workout in.
There are some who say, “it’s just sports”. To them I say representation matters.
It mattered seeing Mitch Harrison hanging tough on the Titan Games.
I get hyped seeing Navi Huskey put up a double-double. I admire Tifanny Abreu’s grit and glitter on every dig and spike. I marvel at Chelsea Wolfe executing the synchronicity of biker-to-bike in mid-air.
Seeing Quinn on a sliding tackle from pro play in Seattle to gold medal in Tokyo resonates.
Holding your breath as Laurel Hubbard approached the bar that August day. She made history, and it was sign of sports as a catalyst for change.
Kate Weatherley riding a mountain bike through treacherous trails. Emily Bridges in a velodrome. Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller bolting down a track on leg power. Charlie Martin flying on the ground with horsepower. Each sends a message and I’m grateful to each of them for it!
One brave trans kid on a high school soccer pitch in Iowa sent a message. A hopeful child running a trail in West Virginia caught it and passed it to another tracking down a ball-carrier in South Dakota, and extended it to yet another teeing off in Tennessee.
It makes a statement to those not-so-young. Six years ago, I was a scared, closeted egg at a conference thinking that a move forward meant leaving sports behind. I met a young vibrant high school coach who was trans like me and loved sports like me that weekend.
“You can transition and you can play, too,” he said excitedly. “That door is not closed to you at all.”
Thank you, coach Stephen Alexander, and to every coach like you and Layne Ingram. Thanks to every mama bear and dragon dad affirming their child and every supportive soul affirming the trans person in their lives and on their teams.
And thanks to each of you who are trans like me who perhaps face dysphoria and derision and yet still grab their running shoes, or their football boots, or a bike helmet, or the set of clubs, or the ball and glove and go out and play.
Thank you for showing up.