Chris Mosier is a man of many firsts.
In 2015 he became the first openly transgender man to make a Men’s U.S. National Team, when he qualified for the Sprint Duathlon team.
In 2016 he became the first trans man to compete against men in a World Championship race. He is now a three-time member of Team USA in the sprint and long course duathlon (run/bike/run) and sprint triathlon (swim/bike/run).
He is the first transgender man to be featured in ESPN Magazine’s “Body Issue” and the first transgender athlete to appear in a Nike ad – the Nike commercial debuted in primetime during the 2016 Rio Olympics. And, he was named “Person of the Year” by Outsports and to the OUT 100 list.
We spoke to Chris Mosier on his 36th birthday.
What was the moment you realized?
I always knew who I was deep down inside, but at a certain point it didn’t match up with what the people around me expected of me as a “little girl.” All throughout my childhood, I’m hearing that little girls don’t like to skateboard, but I like to skateboard, so, what is the disconnect? I didn’t understand my identity to be a transgender guy until after college.
My now wife, who I was dating at the time, was like, ‘you should put some thought into your gender and how you feel about existing in your body.’ That lead me to some books and I was doing a lot of research on YouTube because that was the only place I felt safe to access that information without identifying myself. There was one video in particular called ‘Transgender Basics.’ It’s put out by the LGBT Center in New York City. It has Laverne Cox, before she was famous as Laverne Cox, and I remember watching that and hearing the storytelling from Laverne as a trans woman, a guy named Nicco [Beretta], a trans man, and a gender queer person, and just remember watching it over and over again, and thinking, wow, this sounds a lot like my experience.
What are you most proud of?
I’m at a point today where I really feel confident in being my authentic self. Athletically, I’m most proud of sharing that with the world, to open up the door for other younger transgender athletes or non-binary athletes to pursue what they love without compromising their identity. I’m most proud of making Team USA and having a part in the IOC [International Olympic Committee] policy change to open the doors for athletes to come after me – maybe a transgender Olympian or a trans-kid in high school, who can play the sports he loves without having to hide who he is.
What are you most embarrassed about?
Publically, when I’m telling my story, I didn’t have the language or terminology to identify who I was until about 27 or 28-years-old. It’s interesting for me to stand up as an educator and advocate and be humble in that moment, and say, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’ This is who I’ve always been since I was 4-years-old and I can remember my first experiences with gender activities, but I didn’t have the language to describe who I was. Looking back, there are moments when that’s embarrassing for me.
What’s more challenging — getting older as an athlete, or fighting for trans rights for athletes?
Fighting for trans rights for athletes. Getting older has been awesome. I’m so excited every year since I have transitioned; I’ve loved my birthday. Before, I didn’t want to tell anyone it was my birthday. I didn’t want parties or gifts, but today I feel really good telling people. I didn’t feel I was worthy of having a celebration of my life. So, it’s really cool now to get older and every year’s been better than the last.
What scares you the most?
The idea of getting my teeth knocked in – like being in a bike or car accident.
Do you think reactions from other athletes would have been different if you were transitioning from man to woman?
Absolutely. I have had the privilege of experiencing male privilege in my transition in a way that ties into how deeply sexist sports can be. People assume that people assigned male at birth are better at all sports and all aspects of sports than people assigned female at birth. So, when I transitioned, people in many ways gave me a slap on the butt and said, ‘good luck,’ ‘go out an get ‘em.’ No one thought I would be competitive and when I have won races, people kind of shrugged and said, ‘good job.’ I know that trans women and trans girls who’re fighting just to participate, encounter so much more resistance to both their existence and their ability to participate in sports.
What do you want people who don’t understand transgender people to know about transgender people.
Trans boys are boys, and trans girls are girls. If you have a women’s locker-room and you have a trans woman in it, there are still zero men in that locker room. Our identities are authentic. It’s who we are and we deserve to have access to places to exist and live full lives like everybody else.
Competing in a state with has gender discriminating bathroom laws?
I made my second and forth U.S. National teams in North Carolina right after HB2 was passed. For me it was important for me to go. I appreciate when allies said, ‘I’m not going to go because I’m going to protest this event being in this state.’ For me, as a transgender athlete it was important to show up and say, ‘I will not be stopped,’ and to use the moment to show the absurdity of this situation. I’m able to represent my country in international competition at the highest level of my sport, but I’m not safe in spaces in my own country because of discriminatory laws.
What’s the greatest challenge as a transgender athlete?
As an athlete they’re the same as every other athlete – putting in the work. Being dedicated to your sport at a high level takes a lot of work, time and that’s a challenge. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to take every opportunity I have to advance trans rights in athletics. I’m not only competing for myself, but for my community and also for every trans person who comes after me. That helps me perform to have that motivation and also it can be a challenge.
What would you like to see as the future for trans athletes?
A moment in time where all people have access to sport and can be their authentic selves. It’s the next step I’d like to see in my lifetime for us to have universally accessible opportunities for young trans kids at the K-12 level. It’s so important for young people to move their bodies and have all the opportunities to have all the great things that people learn through sport. When I think about my own experience, I think the good qualities that appreciate about myself and other people have been learned through participation in sports – leadership qualities, goal setting, perseverance, time management, communication, the list goes on…. We know that for building self-esteem and confidence it’s so helpful to have those opportunities and trans kids need those as much as any other kid. I really want to see high school state policies allow for participation of transgender students in a way that is in line with their gender identity.
Mosier is vice president of program development and community relations for You Can Play, an organization that works to ensure the safety and inclusion of all in sports – including LGBTQ athletes, coaches, and fans. He is also founder of TransAthlete.com, a resource for trans-inclusive policies in athletics.