We are very proud to introduce Chris Mosier as Compete Magazine’s 2013 Mark Bingham Athlete of the Year. He is an educator and nationally-recognized transgender Ironman triathlete and coach who has done a great deal to raise awareness of transgender athletes and the transphobia they face within the general population.
Chris is a multi-faceted individual but at his core, he is an athlete – it has always been a large part of his identity. And as a transgender athlete with a master’s degree in higher education, he has used both his education and athletic ability as a tri- athlete to help educate others. In the words of one of his fellow-members in the New York City-based Empire Tri Club where he is a tri coach, Chris is “a successful male athlete and outspoken advocate and activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgen- der rights and inclusion in sports.”
Being the first transgender person on his col- lege campus as well as his sports team – in fact, being the first transgender person many people have met, Chris has certainly faced discrimination and harassment along the way. But his approach to that is always educational. Once someone meets you and has learned something about you, it’s much harder for them to discriminate against you.
One of his most recent accomplishments is an impressive new website he has created, Trans* Ath- lete – www.transathlete.com (check out his website to find out what the asterisk means). It’s a wonder- ful educational resource not only for trans athletes but also for both straight and gay athletes as well as others wondering how to address transgender issues. Not only does it have a section on correct terminology, it also offers transgender policy from K-12 through higher education, recreational leagues and even by organizations.
The reason the former Chicago-area native has put so much time and effort into his advocacy work is to help other athletes wanting to transition. Chris has said in a recent interview with Ross Forman of the Windy City Times that “I did not know any transgender people when I was growing up.
“Trans wasn’t even in my vocabulary; it wasn’t part of my understanding of gender….”
His fears of how others would perceive him, and his questions – would he still be able to compete in sports, would others respect his identity, would his family and friends understand his process and would they walk with him through his transition journey, would he be safe in his workplace – these are universal fears and questions for all transgender athletes.
While his own fears never materialized, individuals who are transitioning or those just considering it need to understand that those fears are part of the process and that they aren’t alone. Understanding that the feeling of isola- tion can have terrible consequences, Chris is a volunteer for an LGBT and HIV violence hotline with the Anti-Violence Project. For someone who wrestled with his gender from age four until he began testosterone injections in 2010, his web- site and all his other advocacy work is a great example of paying it forward.
Chris and his wife Zhen Heinemann have been together for 11 years and were married just a year ago. They now live in New York City where he works full-time at one of the city’s colleges as an assis- tant director of residence life. He also serves as vice chair of Trans* Inclusion in NASPA (Student Affairs Administra- tors in Higher Education), working to create policies, advocate for inclusion and provide resources for colleges and universities regarding best practices for trans inclusion.
But he’s committed to using his voice as an athlete to start authentic conversations about trans athletes, helping pave the way for them to live openly and honestly. In addition to his work in higher education, Chris serves as a consultant for New York City’s LGBT recreational leagues to review policies and procedures and help make them trans-inclusive. Part of his work with them included creating a bias response protocol for reporting biasrelated incidents within the league.
On the national level Chris is a consultant and supporter for GO! Athletes, helping them restructure their board of directors and executive board. He mentors young trans* athletes through an online mentorship program and also writes about his trans* athlete experience for “originalplumbing.com.” For all his many accomplishments, Chris was honored in September 2012 as on of the young Emerging LGBT Leaders by the White House and enjoyed an end-of-summer BBQ at the home of vice president Biden. This past June he attended the Nike LGBT Sports Summit where he worked with the recre- ational sports group and was recently named a member of the LGBT Sports Coalition.
Part of his commitment to use his voice about being transgender is to be open about his marriage. Although Chris says they can pass as a straight couple, both he and his wife identify as queer because the ordinary labels that people attach to a relationship never felt right for either of them. Their personal rela- tionship always felt right but the labels just didn’t fit them. Queer, according to Chris, is a label for those for whom the other labels don’t apply.
But let’s go back to the fact that Chris Mosier is an athlete. Never one to back away from a challenge, when Hurricane Sandy damaged New York’s Ali Forney Center’s drop- in center in 2012, Chris raised over $2,600 for the repairs by doing a solo, unsupported run of 36 miles around Manhattan. And this year he’ll again host a donation drive raising funds for homeless LGBT youth. Calling it Sufferfest, he’ll be doing a solo cycling event on Christ- mas Day that will last over 11 hours. Chris explains that “I will suffer so homeless LGBT youth suffer less.”
Now recovered from a May biking accident that broke his clavicle and sank his 2013 racing season, he is currently training for an Ironman triathlon in January; he’ll also be competing at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland in August. Yes, indeed, we are proud to honor Chris Mosier as our 2013 Mark Bingham Athlete of the Year!
Photo by Lexus for Compete Magazine