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Trans-nonbinary athlete dedicates latest victory to trans community

Women’s national 1500m champion Nikki Hiltz says of fan who brought Trans Pride flag to race: ‘They’re the reason I won’



Nikki Hiltz is again women’s national 1500m champion, after a fast finish Saturday at the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships at the University of Oregon. (Photo Credit: Hiltz/Instagram)

EUGENE, ORE. — Santa Cruz, Calif. native Nikki Hiltz is for the third time this year the women’s national 1500m champion, after a fast finish Saturday at the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships at the University of Oregon.

Hiltz, 25, who moved from San Diego to Flagstaff, Ariz. to train, broke free from the pack with a final burst of speed to win their first outdoor national title in 4:03.10. The win earned them a spot on Team USATF for the World Athletics Championships in Budapest next month, according to

Hiltz came out as trans nonbinary in March 2021, as the Los Angeles Blade reported.

After the race, Hiltz told a reporter they spotted a fan with a Trans Pride flag in the stands, and took inspiration from that symbol. 

“I saw that trans flag right when I came out before the race even started,” they said. “I don’t know their pronouns or who they are, but they brought that flag and I bet they’re here for me.”

“I think there’s so much hate right now, and specifically the bills being passed for trans youth. I feel like the LGBTQ community needed a win and there’s so many things that go through your mind in the race, and for whatever reason that was kind of in the back of my mind,” said Hiltz. 

One of eight women considered a potential winner in the race against defending champion Sinclaire Johnson, reigning world and Olympic 800m champion Athing Mu, and 2021 Olympians Cory McGee and Heather MacLean, Hiltz said they relied upon a strategy of a patience and timing. 

“It was kind of like, staying calm in the beginning and then making big moves at the end,” Hiltz told reporters.

From the starting gun, Laurie Barton of the Brooks Beasts Track Club jumped to a three-meter lead. But Hiltz did not react, and instead kept her eyes on Mu in second place at 400 meters, and stayed with McGee, Johnson, teenager Addy Wiley, and MacLean. Barton was still leading at 800 meters at the 2:12.29 mark, but by the time the field hit the top of the backstretch, the field had compressed back into a pack. Hiltz said later they knew that was how this race would end.

“Obviously, everyone in there is like a class act and has done incredible things,” Hiltz told reporters.  “But I know that I’m a great runner, too, and I just had to believe in myself.”

At the bell signaling the final stretch, Wiley took the lead with Mu, and McGee, Hiltz and Johnson behind her.  With the other runners out of contention at that point, the group of five women rounded the final bend. At the finish line, Wiley had fallen behind and wound up settling for fifth in 4:04.25. Johnson, Hiltz, Mu and McGee closed-in as they dashed for the tape.

“At that point, it’s just bodies,” Hiltz said.

Just feet from the finish line, Johnson ran out of gas and fell to the track to finish in fourth place at 4:03.49. Hiltz surged to the tape to get the win in 4:03.10.  Mu ran a huge personal best in second at 4:03.44 and McGee finished third at 4:03.48.  

“I don’t have words for it,” said Hiltz, when asked what they felt at the finish line as they shouted and smiled and raised their arms in victory. “I think relief,” they said. “So much relief, joy, every emotion.”

In 2021, Hiltz told the Blade their coming out definitely impacted their performance. 

“I think with any sport, especially running, you bring your whole self to the starting line.  It’s not like I’m bringing just the athlete part of Nikki; I’m bringing my whole identity. The closer I can be to myself and stay true to myself, the faster and the better I run, essentially,” said Hiltz. 

“I am someone that runs with a lot of emotion and grit. And so, when I’m at war with myself or when I wasn’t out of the closet, it really shows on the track. And then when I’m at peace with myself and I’m living my most authentic life, that also really shows on the track,” they said.  

In February, following their win in the indoor 1500m in Albuquerque, N.M., Hiltz posted a public thank you on Instagram to organizers and NBC Sports for getting their pronouns right. 

“Thank you @usatf and @nbcolympics for using my correct pronouns on the broadcast last night. I can’t express how much it means to not only me but the entire queer community.”

Last year, Hiltz’s sponsor lululemon posted a salute on Instagram, quoting the athlete: “I’ve already won as long as I show up as myself.” 

Hiltz and their girlfriend, collegiate runner Emma Gee, who was the first out LGBTQ athlete at Brigham Young University, organized an annual event called the Pride 5K, which takes place in cities across the country this October. 



The Griner’s holiday message: Remember Americans still detained

The Griners wished everyone “a joyous holiday” and urged Americans to “share a story, send a letter or call a representative



President Joe Biden meets Cherelle Griner about the release from a Russian prison of her wife Brittney Griner, Thursday, December 8, 2022. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

PHOENIX, Ariz. Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle released a holiday message on their Instagram marking the first anniversary of the WNBA player’s release from a Russian penal colony.

“One year ago today, because of President Biden, his team and the support of many of you, our family was one of the 58 families made whole by this Administration,” the WNBA star and her wife wrote in the message, which was posted to Instagram.

“We must not forget that our work is not done,” they added. “There are Americans still wrongly detained in countries around the world, including Paul [Whelan] and Evan [Gershkovich] in Russia and several Americans in Venezuela.”

The couple were referencing former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018, and Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in March of 2023.

Russian customs officials in February detained Griner at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. A court later convicted her of importation of illegal drugs and sentenced her to a 9-year prison sentence in a penal colony.

President Joe Biden on Dec. 8 announced Russia had released Griner in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. Griner returned to the U.S. the following day.

Brittney Griner & her wife Cherelle, Vice-President Kamala Harris & Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, this past May before Griner’s first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp. (Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The Griners wished everyone “a joyous holiday” and urged Americans to “share a story, send a letter or call a representative about one of the many Americans being held away from their families this holiday season.”

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Anti-Trans activists claim trans women have an advantage at darts

Victoria Monaghan became the first trans woman to ever compete in the WDF World Darts Championship in England



On Sunday, December 3rd, New Zealand's Victoria Monaghan made history as the first transgender woman to compete in the World Darts Federation’s World Darts Championship. (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – In recent years, those lobbying for restrictions on transgender individuals have focused heavily on sports. Some of the most influential anti-trans lobbyists in this arena, such as Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project, have stated that sports are an easy way to sell anti-trans policies to people who might otherwise reject discrimination.

Initially, the attacks on sports focused on contests of extreme endurance, such as elite swimming. Lately, however, these bans have entered new arenas. Now, there is a new sport where transgender participation is causing controversy: darts.

On Sunday, December 3rd, Victoria Monaghan made history as the first transgender woman to compete in the World Darts Federation’s World Darts Championship. Monaghan, who has played darts since she was 12, mentioned that the New Zealand Darts Council has been incredibly supportive of her participation.

However, recently, after qualifying for the international tournament, opponents of transgender rights attacked her participation. They argued that transgender women should be banned from women’s darts, claiming her participation was unfair due to supposed “biological advantages.”

Martina Navratilova, a famed retired tennis player known for making anti-trans comments, decried Monaghan’s participation, asking, “how the fuck is this acceptable?” The UK-based organization Fair Play For Women, which opposes transgender participation in sports, ridiculed Monaghan for participating, referring to her as a man.

One commentator claimed that trans women had physical advantages such as being able to throwing harder. One of the most outlandish claims, however, came from Dr. Linda Duffy, a sports psychology professor at Middlesex University. She stated that trans women have an advantage due to “cognition and brain structure.”

See Dr. Duffy’s comments here:

Quickly, however, people criticized the idea that trans women have an advantage in darts. Mark Grimshaw, a UK comedian, noted that the conversation swiftly shifted towards the notion that “women’s brains are biologically cognitively inferior to men,” ridiculing this idea as blatantly misogynistic.

TakedownMRAs, a Twitter account focused on opposing men’s rights activism, also ridiculed the notion that trans women have an advantage in darts. Even some who generally support bans on trans individuals expressed concerns, with one person stating, “okay, this is giving the trans movement ammo.”

There is no evidence supporting the idea that transgender women have a biological advantage in darts. Physical attributes such as strength or height are not significant in the game. For instance, one of the all-time best players, Phil Taylor, who is 5’8″, played in a World Darts Championship tournament at 59 years old. Similarly, there is no proof that transgender women possess a “cognitive advantage” over cisgender women in darts.

Recently, transgender participation in sports with no conceivable arguments for any “biological advantage” has come under fire. This is particularly evident in sports like pool. The same group that is attacking Monaghan’s participation in darts also targeted a transgender pool player for participating in a pool tournament.

Additionally, transgender participation in chess has recently faced scrutiny from FIDE, the leading international chess organization. FIDE stated that trans women “do not have any right” to compete in women’s chess categories.

As for Monaghan, she lost in the first round of the tournament. The woman she competed with, Suzanne Smith, gendered her correctly and stated that it was a hard won game that she was glad to get under her belt. Despite the hate that she is receiving from those who oppose her participation, Monaghan states that this is not the norm.

“Most of the women darts players have been really supportive,” she wrote in an article released the day of her match. “and the others are starting to come around.”


Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here:


The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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NFL’s Kirk Cousins: Anti-LGBTQ group’s ‘Ambassador for Christ’

The Vikings proudly boast they were the first in the NFL to host a summit and fundraiser focused exclusively on LGBTQ inclusion in sports



Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. (Photo Credit: NFL/Minnesota Vikings)

ORLANDO, FL. — Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has made no secret of his Christian faith; just the opposite. But his recently recorded sit-down interview with the chief operating officer of the rabidly anti-LGBTQ group, Focus on the Family, has caused a massive backlash by fans. 

Even though their chat did not include references to what the group’s website calls the gay and lesbian “lifestyle” or the “threat” of “transgenderism,” Cousins used coded language that reinforced the group’s dogma that “same-sex attractions” are a “choice.”

“There are consequences to the choices you make in life, good or bad,” Cousins told Focus on the Family COO Ken Windebank in the Nov. 3rd Focus on the Family Broadcast on YouTube. “And if you sow good things you’ll reap good things. But if you sow poor decisions, you’ll reap poor decisions.”

Their conversation was recorded before a packed house at the Sand Lake campus of his father’s mega church in Orlando. Don Cousins is lead pastor at Discovery Church.  The church also has two other campuses in the Central Florida city that ranks fourth highest in the nation for gay and lesbian couples and was ranked the most LGBTQ+ friendly travel destination in the U.S.

In fact, Cousins and Windebank sat in front of a large projection of Lake Eola, site of Come Out with Pride’s annual celebration of the city’s thriving LGBTQ+ population, held Oct. 21, just two weeks before their talk. 

Reports revealing their conversation followed complaints by an anonymous fan of the Minnesota Vikings, who alerted LGBTQ sports journalists about the video.

“It doesn’t matter how innocuous the content in the video is,” said the fan. “Focus on the Family has consistently pushed for abhorrent policies and to enshrine their views into American law. For the Vikings’ franchise quarterback to partner with them is shocking, disappointing, and runs counter to the image the Vikings have tried to project.”  

The Vikings proudly boast on the team’s website that they were the first in the NFL to host a summit and fundraiser focused exclusively on LGBTQ inclusion in sports, back in 2018, and that a front office employee who’s in her 8th season with the team is an out lesbian. 

The fan also noted what they saw as the hypocrisy of the four-time Pro Bowl player, who Focus on the Family calls an “Ambassador for Christ” and whose Instagram bio describes him as “Believer. Husband. Father.”

“It also runs counter to Cousins’ public image, that of ‘all are welcome’. Focus on the Family has built their political arm on trying to drive people they don’t approve of out of American society.”

It’s easy to see what Focus on the Family says about homosexuality, since it’s right on the group’s website

“Focus on the Family is committed to upholding God’s design for the expression of human sexuality: a husband and wife in a marriage relationship. We also hold to the scriptural truth that a relationship with God through Jesus Christ brings transformation and power over sin. We reach out with compassion and respect to individuals, families, and churches affected by homosexuality.”

Focus on the Family has been headquarted in Colorado Springs since 1977. In the 1990s, the group’s anti-LGBTQ leaders led the fundamentalist charge in support of Amendment 2, a Colorado ballot measure that banned municipalities from including LGBTQ people in their anti-discrimination policies. Although the initiative passed in 1992, in 1995 the Supreme Court found that it violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Almost a decade ago, Cousins himself called homosexuality a sin, saying he’d still welcome a gay teammate because “nobody’s perfect” and he would try to teach him to “follow Jesus.”

“Now, there are a lot of teammates in my locker room right now who may not have a homosexual lifestyle, but they have sins, too,” he told MLive in 2014. “They’re not perfect. So, I don’t say they can’t help us win. Nobody’s perfect. To that degree, we’d welcome him into our locker room and say come help us win, and hopefully I can love him like Jesus and hopefully show him what it means to follow Jesus.”

Fans expressed their anger at Cousins in social media posts: 

Neither Cousins nor the Vikings responded to a request for comment.

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Rapinoe exits early as Ali Krieger & team win championship

Gotham FC win National Women’s Soccer League trophy in Krieger and Rapinoe’s final appearance on the pitch



Megan Rapinoe speaks to reporters following the championship match Saturday in San Diego. (Screenshot/YouTube)

SAN DIEGO — One last time, two soccer icons took to the field in San Diego Saturday night as Seattle’s OL Reign faced New York’s Gotham FC at Snapdragon Stadium. 

In what was the absolutely last, concluding and final end to their respective careers in professional soccer, following more than a few “farewell” games, Megan Rapinoe limped off the pitch and Ali Krieger raised the National Women’s Soccer League championship trophy. 

And Krieger’s teammates raised her up in victory as well. 

History will record World Cup winner Esther González as scoring the go-ahead goal for New York on a header in first-half stoppage time, and that Gotham beat the Reign 2-1. 

But what true women’s soccer fans will take away from this clash of the champions is watching the pink-haired legend who won two World Cups, an Olympic gold medal and a bronze inexplicably fall to the ground in the third minute. 

As Maitane Lopez of Gotham was dribbling the ball outside the penalty area, Rapinoe ran toward her and suddenly went down. After laying there for a few minutes, Rapinoe refused the stretcher and accepted help from two trainers for the long walk along one end line and then down the sideline to the Reign’s bench.

Rapinoe said later she realized too late how long that walk would be, and told reporters it felt like someone kicked her and she felt “a huge pop” in her Achilles. 

“You don’t always get to have the perfect ending,” said Rapinoe after the match, appearing in good spirits and wearing a walking boot on her right foot. She joked that she’s now just a normal person facing surgery and rehab.

“I’ve had so many perfect endings, even just thinking back to 2019, that was the most perfect whole script you could ever write personally and as a team, just what it meant. On balance, I don’t think anything that negative about it,” said Rapinoe. 

Upon her early exit, Krieger ran over and hugged her former teammate from the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“It’s devastating to see one of the best players in the world have to step out because of injury in the first five minutes of the game,” said Krieger, who told reporters she was “gutted” for Rapinoe. “To have such a buildup to this moment, to have her of anyone, that was devastating, because it does change the game. You want to play against the best players.”

Krieger said she thought Rapinoe hurt her ankle. “I was really upset for her,” she said, and shared part of their conversation. “I said, ‘Just wrap it up and I’ll see you back out here in a couple minutes.’ Then when I saw the sub come on, obviously it was a different story. Immediately you have to switch back on to your team and my job. You have to kind of shut that out.”

Rapinoe announced that she was stepping away from the game for good before this past summer’s Women’s World Cup. At the 2019 World Cup in France, Rapinoe scored six goals, including a penalty in the final against the Netherlands. When she posed with her arms outstretched in victory pose at that championship game, it was an image that conveyed just how dominant was Team USA.

Krieger was also on that 2019 team as well as the U.S. World Cup team that won the title in 2015.

“I don’t think I could dream of a better ending for myself,” Krieger said. “I just want to ride off into the sunset and enjoy this with my family and friends and kids, most importantly, and my teammates. My back hurts, my calves hurt. I love it so much and it’s so much fun. But it’s time. This is the perfect ending for me.”

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LA Kings partner with Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN)

Hockey Fights Cancer has been an incredibly powerful initiative in terms of raising money for research and raising awareness



Courtesy of the National Hockey League

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have partnered with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) for a special awareness night where they will host pancreatic cancer survivors at the LA Kings vs. Florida Panthers game on World Pancreatic Cancer Day, November 16th, at Arena. 

The Kings and fans will come together to celebrate the lives of pancreatic cancer survivors, promote awareness, and raise critical funds to fight the disease. Food and beverages will be provided, and each survivor attending will be given a gift bag filled with special items. In addition, survivors in the suite will be honored with a special spotlight during intermission. 

Courtesy of the LA Kings NHL Hockey

Friends and family looking to attend this event can purchase tickets at this link with a portion of proceeds going to PanCAN’s Purple Stride fundraiser 2024
WHO:Los Angeles area survivors will be in attendance) 
WHEN:Thursday, November 16, at 7:30 PM PDT Arena, 1111 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Hockey Fights Cancer, a campaign started by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, turns 25 this year. To mark the anniversary, will be telling stories about Hockey Fights Cancer and those impacted by the disease all season long. Today, columnist Dave Stubbs looks at the origins of Hockey Fights Cancer.

It was launched modestly Dec. 3, 1998, with a three-page news release, under the logos of the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.

“The hockey world unites to fight cancer,” the release was headlined, Hockey Fights Cancer (HFC) born as a joint initiative of the NHL, NHLPA, NHL Officials Association, the League’s then-27 teams and a broadcast and corporate partner.

Nearly 25 years later, HFC has grown beyond what anyone in 1998 likely believed it might, more than $32 million raised in its mission to raise awareness of cancer and support the countless number whose lives have been touched by the disease.

Hockey Fights Cancer 2023 Game Schedule

“Hockey Fights Cancer has been an incredibly powerful initiative in terms of raising money for research and raising awareness and making people understand the need for education and prevention,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said with HFC’s 25th anniversary approaching next month. “And as importantly, when somebody is inflicted with cancer, knowing that there is a support system, and that the NHL family is there. So it has been an all-encompassing effort which has raised a lot of money at the same time.”

The Commissioner’s view is shared by Marty Walsh, executive director of the NHLPA, who has seen cancer from up close. The former mayor of Boston was diagnosed at age 7 with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare, aggressive kind of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that primarily affects children.

“As a cancer survivor, I am honored to join the Hockey Fights Cancer team, along with the players, the League and the clubs, as we continue to raise funds for research, increase awareness and provide further support to those who are dealing with this terrible disease,” Walsh said. “The hockey community is one that is committed to fighting cancer together.”

The life-changing work with the American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society, partners of the NHLPA and NHL in patient services, continues this season with the fifth year of the Stanley Cup® Hope Lodge Tour with the Stanley Cup set to visit five Hope Lodge locations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as the return of the ‘HFC Assist‘ program.

Youth hockey teams are encouraged to sign up for ‘HFC Assist’ to lend their efforts to the cause and receive resources, including a toolkit with best practices and thought starters for fundraising. To date, hundreds of youth hockey teams have hosted their own Hockey Fights Cancer events with proceeds continuing to support the American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society.

Continuing the tradition, all 32 NHL Clubs will host a Hockey Fights Cancer in-game awareness night this season with original storytelling, special ceremonies, and fundraising efforts for local charities.

Fans can purchase official Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise online at and and donate to the NHL and NHLPA’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative powered by the V foundation by visiting

For all Hockey Fights Cancer news, follow @NHL and @PR_NHL and join the conversation by using the official hashtag #HockeyFightsCancer.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) leads the way in accelerating critical progress for pancreatic cancer patients. PanCAN takes bold action by funding life-saving research, providing personalized patient services and creating a community of supporters and volunteers who will stop at nothing to create a world in which all pancreatic cancer patients will thrive.

For 18 years in a row, PanCAN has earned a Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator – the highest rating an organization can receive. This rating designates PanCAN as an official “Give with Confidence” charity, indicating strong financial health, ongoing accountability and transparency.

For more information visit

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Travis Shumake wants his share as he makes racing history

Shumake made history as the first openly gay driver to compete in a televised national National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) circuit event 



Travis Shumake (Screenshot/YouTube NHRA)

In 2022 Shumake made history as the first openly gay driver to compete in a televised national event in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) racing circuit 

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – When his car hits top speed, Travis Shumake may just be the fastest homosexual on earth.

A second-generation drag racer, Shumake has been turning heads as America’s first openly gay professional motorsports star, hitting speeds of more than 300 miles per hour on the track.

Since making his debut last year, he’s helped make one of the most macho, heteronormative sports more welcoming to the queer community, bringing new fans to the $6-billion world of motorsports.

He’s also largely financing his race team with small donations and personal loans.

So why isn’t he being chased down by national corporate sponsors, like most racecar drivers?

Shumake blames it on the Bud Light effect – corporations becoming overly cautious of partnering with LGBTQ celebs after Bud Light incurred months of bad press, a boycott campaign, and even a bomb threat, after it partnered with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

“It kind of puts everyone on pause. Some of the bigger companies and chains have told me, ‘We love it, we just need to take a beat. Lets’ talk in 2025,’” Shumake says. “I think that’s my biggest challenge right now in the post Bud-light era. I used to be like this very highly valued property in motorsports, and now I’m like untouchable.”

Travis Shumake (Photo by Chadwick Fowler)

But Shumake says this time is actually an opportunity for corporations to prove their loyalty to queers who have stuck by them.

“Modelo should step up. Or Bud Light could be a hero, like, ‘hey, we messed up but we’re gonna thoughtfully partner with an LGBT person,’” he says.

Motorsports is often thought of as going hand-in-hand with alcohol and tobacco sponsorships, but Shumake is also making the case for sponsors from corporations in the apparel and personal care businesses – and why not? With his rugged good looks, lean physique, and perfect teeth, he could easily model for Old Navy or Crest Whitestrips.

The morning I spoke with him, he tells me he’s reached out to 300 potential sponsors.

“It can’t just be liquors and cigarettes,” he says, noting that the 30 million racing fans in America are a huge market to reach out to.

Shumake positions his quest for sponsorship as a fight for LGBT equity.

“I feel like I’m fighting for our piece of the LGBT in motorsports pie,” he says, explaining he’s turned down sponsorship offers from queer organizations – although he proudly places logos for GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign on his race car for free. 

“I don’t want gay money. I want the Bass Pro Shop money. We are a huge piece of the economy, and we are not getting our fair share,” he says.

Finding sponsorships has become an even bigger concern since Shumake took the step of buying his own racing team this summer. 

Running his team – including paying his crew, insurance, fuel, and travel costs – costs around $3.2 million per year, according to Shumake’s estimates. 

“Every time I turn on the race car, I spend about $20,000,” he says. “That’s why there’s never been a professional gay race car driver, because you need a company that has that money to spend.”

But for Shumake, transitioning from driver to owner-driver was an important part of confronting homophobia that still exists in the sport.

 “It’s been a struggle being a gay guy in the sport and wanting to be my authentic self but also make these old conservative guys happy,” Shumake says. “At the end of last season, guys on my team wouldn’t wear my crew apparel. And there’s nothing gay about it, but they just don’t want to be associated with me. And there was nothing I could do because it wasn’t my car.” 

Even as an owner, he says he still encounters homophobia at the track. He says stories frequently get back to him about other drivers and crew members “talking shit” about him. 

Photo by Sadie Gleen

“That makes it tough to hire people. When you’re spending $100,000 on one person’s payroll, you wanna make sure they’re down to clown. You’re on Team Travis,” he says. “If I’m going to be paying for your lodging, you don’t get to go down to drink in the lobby and talk shit. You have to be fully in, because we need to be educating and changing people and I need that to start in my organization.” 

Despite that, Shumake says he is witnessing a slow change in the culture sport, something he can attest to since the sport has been part of his life since he was born. His father, Tripp Shumake, was a race car driver who won two National Hot Rod Association national events. 

“I grew up around the sport, so I thought everyone’s dad drove race cars,” he says. “To me it’s a piece of my family history, and I want to prove to that my family is open and inviting.”

“As a multi-generational, I get someone from every walk of life to say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve wanted to come to a drag race my whole life.’ Or, ‘me and my husband have been coming for years. And now we finally have someone to authentically root for.’” 

He says his visibility has also helped build a network of queer fans and drivers, which has also given him an opportunity to help out younger fans and drivers entering the sport. 

“I think that’s been the most rewarding part. The youth is the coolest part. I made that girl a drag racing fan. You’re going to be a drag racing fan for the next 40 years,” he says.

Travis Shumake makes first runs in his own Top Fuel Dragster:


Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Gay Games 11 begin in Hong Kong & Mexico- where is everyone?

Competitions and concerts are underway on two continents over nine days but Reuters reports registrations fell far below expectations



Photo courtesy of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 organizing committee.

HONG KONG — Organizers call it the world’s largest inclusive sports, arts and culture event: The 11th Gay Games, delayed by a year and cohosted by the cities of Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico. They got underway Nov. 3rd, and for the first time in the 40-year history of the games, they are being held in a city in Latin America and another city in Asia. 

More than 2,300 athletes from 45 countries, including the United States, Britain, South Korea and China are expected to take part in the Hong Kong games, according to organizers. Soccer is the main event this weekend. 

Dodgeball, soccer, swimming, powerlifting and track-and-field are among the events this weekend in Guadalajara, according to that event’s website.

But according to reports, the number of athletes and spectators at both venues is far below the standards set in previous Gay Games.  

These games were originally planned for just one city, Hong Kong, this time last year. The intent was for Gay Games 11 to serve as what organizers called “a beacon of hope” for the LGBTQ+ community in a Chinese-ruled region that challenges restrictions on gay rights. 

While it is legal to be gay in China and many of its major cities have thriving LGBTQ+ social scenes, same-sex marriage and adoption by gay people are illegal and there are no legal protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination.

To many Chinese government officials, being gay is “a malign foreign influence that is stopping youth from getting married and having children,” Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, recently told NBC News

That and the summer shutdown of the Beijing LGBT center by the government in May, affirmed the decision to divide Gay Games 11 across two continents, which was at first driven by Hong Kong’s strict Covid protocols, as Reuters reported. Organizers postponed the games for 12 months due to the city’s strict Covid protocols, and it was decided to divide the competitions with runner-up bidder Guadalajara in western Mexico.

Despite the locales being more than eight thousand miles apart, organizers have coordinated a series of sporting events under the slogan, “unity in diversity.” 

“Everyone aged 18/+ is welcome to participate,” according to the Hong Kong venue’s website, “regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or even training level.” 

Inclusion isn’t as much of a problem at this Gay Games as is the lack of participants and spectators.

Original estimates for the 2022 event in Hong Kong was for 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators and 3,000 volunteers from 100 countries. The 36 events were to include Dragon Boat Racing, Dodgeball and eSports.

But for 2023, Reuters reports registrations fell far below expectations, due in part to ongoing worries about Covid and LGBTQ+ rights in China and concerns over safety in Guadalajara, where crime and kidnappings are common. 

One week ago, organizers in Guadalajara had registered only 2,458 participants, and Hong Kong had under 2,400, for a combined 4,839 athletes. It’s unheard of for a Gay Games to have fewer than 8,000 participants.

The Games were first held in San Francisco in 1982. Organizers boast this is “one of the largest global events of their kind,” according to the Gay Games 11 website, bringing people together” to experience unforgettable moments of joy through a unique combination of sport, community and culture.” 

But according to Reuters, what is bringing people together in Guadalajara are the criminals who prey upon visitors. The city is located in the state of Jalisco, where drug cartels operate freely. 

Wayne Morgan, a senior Australian athlete who has competed in six prior Gay Games, told Reuters he was drugged and robbed last year when he visited Guadalajara for a planning conference related to this year’s games. He said he made his way to the police station and found himself in a long queue of other crime victims, where he was told: “This happens a lot.” 

A spokesperson for the Federation of Gay Games told Reuters the decision to split the event had a “significant impact on registration numbers” but added that the organizers believed the choice of two locations “allows even more people from around the world to celebrate LGBTQ+ sports with us”.

But to Morgan, splitting the host cities was “a mistake” and that low numbers could deter corporate sponsorship in the future.

“In my heart of hearts, I wish the whole thing was canceled and we could skip to Valencia in 2026,” he said. The next Games are planned for Valencia, Spain.

Taiwan’s competitors withdrew their registration from the Hong Kong event in August, citing fears their participants could be arrested if they display the island’s flag or use its name. Human rights activists called for the games in Hong Kong to be canceled, accusing organizers of aligning themselves with “pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution against the people of Hong Kong.”

In response to the low registration numbers, Hong Kong organizers canceled several events, including field hockey and Rugby 7s as well as some in the category of track-and-field. 

Gay Games 11 runs through Nov. 11.

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GOP governors demand ‘guaranteed’ fairness on trans athletes

Gov. Kristi Noem’s joint letter opposing NCAA trans policy filled with lies, inaccuracies and transphobic claims



Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, anti-trans pundit Riley Gaines & South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem meeting at the July, 2023 Republican Governors Association gathering in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo Credit: Republican Governors Association/Facebook)

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. — Nine Republican governors, several of whom have signed laws banning transgender student-athletes from competing as their authentic selves, sent a joint letter Monday to the National Collegiate Athletics Association and its Board of Governors, about its transgender student-athlete policy.

The first signatory is Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. She and her fellow GOP governors make it clear they are telling the NCAA to abandon its current policy, which changed in 2022 from allowing trans competitors to compete, to putting the onus on individual sports organizations to decide participation rules. 

Not good enough, say the governors. 

“The NCAA has the chance to guarantee an environment where female college athletes can thrive without the concern of inequities,” the wrote. “ We trust that you also want to guarantee just such an environment. But this policy allows the NCAA to avoid responsibility for ensuring the fairness of collegiate sports – therefore it must be changed.”

In addition to Noem, the letter was signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana, Gov. Joe Lomardo of Nevada, Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming. 

Among the many bogus claims and transphobic statements, including labeling out trans NCAA All-American Lia Thomas a “biological male,” the letter misrepresents what happened after Thomas tied with a cisgender competitor, Riley Gaines, at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta, Ga. In March 2022. The two women tied for fifth place in the 200 freestyle. But the governors’ letter claims Gaines was denied posing with “the first-place trophy that she rightfully earned.” 

Unlike the governors the Los Angeles Blade was at that event and witnessed the heat, as well as the podium ceremony that followed. Not expecting a tie finish for fifth place, officials handed Gaines a trophy for another event for the photo op following their contest, and chose to give Thomas the fifth place trophy. The NCAA mailed Gaines her trophy at a later date. Gaines never finished first at that event, and has turned her alleged slight at the championships into a national anti-trans media campaign.

The letter goes on to repeat false misogynist claims about Allyson Felix being unable to compete against high school boys, accusations that trans athletes are “average male athletes stealing” the honors due women athletes and falsely claims that the issue of fairness has been determined by science. 

The letter was condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming in a statement Tuesday. 

“Whatever Gov. Gordon and this letter’s cosigners might say, this isn’t about leveling the playing field for student athletes or protecting fairness in women’s sports. If it were, these governors would be tackling the actual threats to women’s sports, such as severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, and pay equity for coaches and players,” said Libby Skarin, deputy executive director for the ACLU of Wyoming, in a press release.

“This letter to the NCAA is just another attempt to erase transgender people from society while stirring up support from their base of anti-trans activists with fear-mongering tactics and discriminatory rhetoric that harm some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” Skarin said.

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NBA referee is first out trans nonbinary in U.S. pro sports

Flores is eager to be a role model for queer youth, who are under attack by right wing politicians & extremist religious factions



“I feel one hundred percent myself now,” says Che Flores. (Photo Credit: National Basketball League)

LOS ANGELES — Che Flores, who pronounces their first name “Shay,” is no stranger to basketball. But basketball has never ever seen someone like Flores on the floor. 

After refereeing at least 1,000 games over 14-years in three countries, working in three professional leagues as well as college athletics and deciding the fate of 10 championship games, Flores started their second season in the National Basketball League this week. 

What’s different is that Flores did so as their authentic self: On Oct. 24, they came out as transgender nonbinary. 

“I can go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably,” Flores told GQ Sports in their first interview about coming out. “One piece I was missing for myself was that no one knew how I identified,” they said. “Being misgendered as ‘she/her’ always just felt like a little jab in the gut.”

Maybe because it’s GQ, or maybe it’s because the reporter is cisgender but also happens to be the brilliant former editor of Jezebel, Emma Carmichael, her otherwise insightful profile of Flores starts with, you guessed it, a focus on clothing choices. Cue the trans trope. 

Flores is quoted denouncing polo shirts and khakis as clothes that they say they will “never freaking going to wear again.” And for their September trip to Brooklyn, ostensibly for the NBA referees’ annual preseason meetings, but more importantly, to announce their coming out, Carmichael relates that, “Packing felt different, less constrained. They felt they could finally dress in clothes that made them feel at ease in their body and true to their gender identity—clothes in line with who they really are.”

“When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way,” Flores told GQ. “This is the first time I’m comfortable expressing myself through my own fashion and not having to worry about it. I feel one hundred percent myself now.”

Moving on from the clothing trope, Carmichael revealed what happened behind-the-scenes at the NBA, when Flores came out to Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s head of referee training and development during the middle of last season. 

“He immediately just called me ‘Che,’ with no problem, which just makes you feel more comfortable, and easier to let him know everything that was related to my gender,” Flores told GQ.

As a child, Flores said they were seen as a “tomboy,” the oldest child of a Mexican American father and Costa Rican mother in Highland Park in northeast L.A. 

“When I grew up, it was either you chose this feminine role or this masculine role and you identified as a lesbian and that was it,” they said. “That word never felt right with me. But I didn’t have any idea what else was out there to identify as.” Now 44, Flores said they came out as gay at 19, and despite “a bumpy start,” their parents are now strong LGBTQ+ advocates. 

And so is Flores, who is eager to be a role model for queer youth, who are under attack from coast to coast by right wing politicians, extremist religious leaders and conservative school boards and sports organizers. 

“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it,” Flores said. 

“And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way. This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways. For me, that is most important — to just be a face that somebody can be like, ‘Oh, okay, that person exists. I think I can do that.’”

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National Hockey League reverses ban on Pride tape

Earlier this year, the NHL also adopted a policy banning players from wearing the rainbow-colored Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions



A Washington Capitals player uses Pride tape during warmups at Hockey is for Everyone night in D.C. (Screen capture via Washington Capitals YouTube)

NEW YORK – The National Hockey League confirmed in a short statement on its website on Oct. 24 that it has reversed a decision earlier this month to prohibit its players from placing tape on their hockey sticks representing social causes, including rainbow-colored Pride tape in support of the LGBTQ community.

The reversal by the NHL came after a groundswell of opposition surfaced opposing the ban from a wide range of LGBTQ and LGBTQ supportive sports organizations as well as from some NHL team hockey players. The national LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD was among the organizations speaking out against the Pride tape ban.

“After consultation with the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, Players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season,” the NHL said in its statement.

The LGBTQ sports publication Outsports, which was the first to break the story about the NHL ban on the Pride tape and other cause-oriented tape displays used by NHL players, has pointed out that the use of the tape has always been a voluntary decision by the players.

At the time it adopted the ban on Pride tape and tape denoting other social causes, the NHL said it was responding to concerns raised by some players who objected to what they believed was the appearance that they were supporting causes they did not support. Some said they objected to the Pride tape on religious grounds.

Several sports publications, including Hooked On Hockey Magazine and Daily Hockey Dose, reported that Washington Capitals star player Alex Ovechkin was among a small number of Russian players who raised objections to the display of Pride tape. Ovechkin was also reportedly among the players who objected to players wearing Pride-colored jerseys during practice sessions.

Hooked On Hockey reports that some of the Russian players, who have family members living in Russia, were fearful that their family members could be persecuted, and the players might be detained if they visit their families in Russia under the anti-gay laws adopted under the authoritarian rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier this year, the NHL also adopted a policy banning players from wearing the rainbow-colored Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions on the ice. The Pride jerseys were never worn during games.

The NHL did not object to teams continuing to have the Pride jerseys made and sold, with players autographing the jerseys. Some teams have sold the jerseys in auctions to raise money for LGBTQ charities.

Outsports editor and publisher Cyd Zeigler said the NHL’s decision to ban the Pride tape was completely unjustified, calling it “the most stifling, anti-LGBTQ policy any pro sports league in North America has ever issued.”

Zeigler told the Blade the policy was unjustified, among other things, because the players were the ones who decided whether to place the Pride tape on their hockey sticks.

“No one ever complained that someone didn’t do it,” Zeigler said. “So, this is the league just overreacting to a handful of Russian players who didn’t like it,” he said prior to the NHL decision to reverse the policy. “I think that’s what happened. They kowtowed to Vladimir Putin and to the Russians.”

The NHL said from the start that the ban on Pride jerseys and Pride tape would not change its policy of supporting NHL teams that have been holding annual Pride Night Out games in support of the LGBTQ community. All 32 NHL teams, including the Washington Capitals, have hosted Pride Nights or “Hockey is for Everyone” nights in recent years.

Other media reports had surfaced that several players on different teams had indicated plans to defy the now-rescinded NHL policy by displaying Pride tape on their sticks in upcoming games, a development that would place the NHL in the difficult position of deciding whether to penalize those players with a fine or possible suspension from playing.

CBS News reports that Travis Dermott, a player on the Arizona Coyotes hockey team, became the first player to defy the NHL policy banning Pride tape on Oct. 21 when he placed the tape on the shaft of his stick in his team’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade submitted prior to the NHL’s decision to reverse its ban on Pride tape, a spokesperson for the Washington Capitals did not say whether the Capitals would comply with the Pride tape ban or penalize their players for defying the ban. But the spokesperson, Sergey Kocharov, said the Capitals remain strongly supportive of the LGBTQ community.

“The Capitals stand proudly with and support the LGBTQ+ community,” he said in his statement. “We strive to create and cultivate an inclusive atmosphere for all our players, staff, and fans and are committed to fostering an environment that welcomes all,” he said.

“Although all players are free to decide on their level of involvement and engagement on Pride Night, and their efforts may vary from season to season, our commitment in this space won’t waiver,” his statement continues. “Everyone is treated with respect and dignity regardless of their sexual orientation or identity, and we will continue to advocate for full LGBTQ+ equality.”

In recent years, the Capitals have entered a small Capitals float in the D.C. Capital Pride Parade. Miguel Ayala, president of Team DC, the local LGBTQ sports organization that helps organize Pride Night Out events with D.C. professional sports teams, said the Capitals have scheduled the next Pride Night Out at the Capitals for March 20.

Ayala told the Blade that while Team DC was disappointed over the NHL decision to ban Pride tape and Pride jerseys, the organization planned to continue to work with the Nationals on the Pride Night Out event.

“The NHL has listened to its loyal fans, hardworking team players, and trusted community members and made the decision to reverse the unnecessary and hurtful policy that banned support of Pride and LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD in an Oct. 24 statement.

“The NHL has been a longtime supporter of a number of community causes and inclusion, and this decision is reflective of its values which align with the majority of those who follow hockey,” Ellis said.

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