By Ty Nolan
2015 has been a remarkable time of positive change within the LGBT community, especially for the “T” or transgender portion of the gay community. Transgender, or trans visibility in the media is at an all-time high. Certainly due in part to Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out story and all that’s transpired for her since her interview with Diane Sawyer. For those too young to remember, Jenner was an elite athlete (then known as Bruce) who won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games.
But another elite athlete, a transgender athlete by the name of Chris Mosier has made history for trans athletes and the quest for sports diversity. Mosier has achieved international attention as the first openly trans man to earn a place on Team USA, a U.S. national team of men, the gender with which Mosier identifies.
In June he competed in the Duathlon National Championship that combines cycling and an additional running portion that replaces the swimming portion of a triathlon. Having finished seventh in the 35-39 age category, at age 34, Mosier will represent the U.S. in the 2016 World Championship Duathlon in Spain.
While fewer than 10 percent of Americans surveyed say they have personally met someone from the trans community, the media is rapidly introducing everyone to a larger reality. Mosier also reminds us that while the spotlight is often on very successful members of the trans community, “…we need to remember that everyday life for trans people is not all Hollywood and glamour.”
Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate. About 90 percent of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
We’ve featured Mosier a number of times in Compete over the last several years for his many personal accomplishments and his continued support of the LGBT community, children in particular. In fact, he was named Compete’s Mark Bingham Athlete of the Year for 2013. I recently caught up with him to find out what he’s been doing since making Team USA.
There have been so many changes in the interaction and awareness between the LGBT community and the rest of the world, particularly in terms of recognizing fundamental rights. I’ve often wondered what it’s like for many young people who are coming out in 2015. You’re in your mid-30s. Do you think you might have done anything differently if you were transitioning now than when you did?
We each find our own identity in our own time. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to transition at a younger age. But I didn’t have the same understanding of myself or my identity at that time. I appreciate the experiences I’ve had; they’ve made me the person I am today.
How did you first get involved with sports?
I loved sports and was active from a very young age. I started playing T-ball at 4, and then played baseball and softball until college. I was a three-sport all-conference athlete in high school playing basketball and volleyball. But I didn’t get into running until college when I did it for fitness reasons.
After college was when I really started to get serious about running and started racing. After completing my first marathon, I started looking for other challenges and was drawn to triathlon (swim/bike/run). I taught myself how to swim and bought a bike and started training. I really fell in love with cycling. I won my division in my first triathlon and really got hooked.
Duathlon is another multisport (run/bike/run) and it is a good way to train for a triathlon when the water is too cold. I found that I really enjoyed duathlon as well, so I started doing them more. “Multisport” races are a lot of fun because there is a variety to keep things interesting. Last year I won an aquabike race, which is a swimming/biking race. I prefer Ironman distance and long endurance events but also like to challenge myself by training for other distances, like I did to make the sprint duathlon National team.
One of my Native friends is Trent Taylor. We’ve also featured him in Compete. Also a triathlon athlete, he is the grandnephew of Lewis Tewanima, an Olympian 10K silver medalist. Tewanima won his medal over a century ago and is still honored with an annual run on the Hopi Reservation. One of the things that struck me is that when Trent got a new bike a few weeks ago, he named it IronArrow. That made me wonder if you name your bikes as well.
I do not name my bikes. I have an entry level road bike and a tri bike and both are over seven years old. I would like to get a new bike before I begin training for the World Championship in 2016. If any bike companies would like to sponsor me, please contact me!
What was it like to win your place on Team USA? Were you sure you had it nailed the moment you put on your kit?
I am a nervous racer. Making Team USA was my number one goal for the last year and a half. In the two months leading up to the race I was really focused. And nervous. I wanted it so badly. My training was good so despite a knee injury that prevented me from running in the last three weeks before the race, I was confident going into the race that I would make it. I knew if my knee could hold out, I would make the team.
But I really knew it was going to happen after the bike part of the race, before the final run. I saw my position and knew I just needed to hold on to secure my spot on the team. After the race, it was a combination of relief and celebration. I put so much focus on achieving this goal, so it was both rewarding and exhausting to make it happen. I’m still thrilled.
Have you had to answer questions about hormone replacement therapy, about how your testosterone levels affect your ability to be a competitive athlete?
That is a question many people have. I have to take tests measuring my testosterone levels to be sure they are in a normal male range before competing. And for the championship next year in Spain, the World Anti-Doping Agency will have to sign off on it.
You’ve also been involved with establishing and running organizations, including transathlete.com and Go! Athletes. Can you tell us more about working with them?
I joined GO! Athletes last year as the director of strategic initiatives and moved this year into the executive director position. GO! Athletes is a national network of current and former high school and college athletes. We have created safer spaces in sports through visibility, education, and advocacy. GO! had a strong presence already in place when I arrived. It’s been an honor to work alongside other passionate people in the sports inclusion movement and to support young people as they navigate identity and athletics.
I created TransAthlete.com to fill the gap in knowledge about trans-inclusive policies. When I was looking at sports policies, I found there was no central location for policies and practices. Some organizations had policies, others did not, and the policies in place varied greatly. I wanted to make it easier for people to access information about trans-inclusion in sports, and then use this site to leverage other organizations to create or improve their policies for inclusion.
I recall you did a fundraiser by running around NYC—as in literally circling the city. What was that like and will you be doing it again?
I like adventures and I like to challenge myself. Running around Manhattan was a great way to do both. And the run was extreme enough to use as a platform to raise money. I am a big supporter of the work done by the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick Martin Institute in New York, and I try to do some type of fundraiser for them every year or so. I try to take advantage of any opportunity to provide visibility and financial support to organizations working with LGBTQ youth. My next fundraising event will be a “burpee 5k” where I’ll do 3.1 miles of burpees.
Any advice you’d like to offer your younger self and others about getting to where you are today?
Participation in sports is a primary character building part of our development as people. I’ve learned about leadership, dedication, motivation, determination and perseverance through participation in sports. Everyone should have the opportunity and access to participate in sports. It is important that sports teams, leagues and organizations look at their policies and practices to see if they are truly inclusive.
When I was considering transition, I did not see any trans men who were competing at a high level in sports. It is important to me to be visible and open with my identity as a trans guy so that young people know they can transition and continue to play sports. You can do both.
Author’s note: Chris will be honored this month with the Jeff Jewell Spirit Award from USA Triathlon. It is one of six awards presented annually at the Multisport Awards.
Photos by Jason Setiawan
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