• First/ Last Name/ Pronouns: Valina Eckley (She/Her) 
  • Age: Many laps around the sun
  • Hometown: Green River, Wyoming
  • Current Residence: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Current Sport(s) Played: Cheerleading
  • Favorite Athlete and Team: Cheer Salt Lake, of course
  • Interests/Hobbies: Other than managing a team? I do a lot of working out and crafting.

What’s your personal story?  Tell us something about you, what interactions you have had with the sports community, LGBTQ+ community, etc.

Cheerleading is not a sport that was not at all open to transgender girls when I was growing up.  It was even worse growing up in a small town made it feel completely impossible to me   However the bug caught me early, but I was unable to participate.  Even though I was told that I was too old and too tall etc., I never gave up.  Finding Pride Cheerleading Association was life changing, and PCA along with my team, Cheer Salt Lake, has been the best thing I’ve ever been involved in.  It has opened me up and made be a much better person.

How are you currently involved in the LGBTQ+ sports community?

I’m the founder and manager of Cheer Salt Lake, and a founder of the Pride Cheerleading Association.

If given the chance, what would you tell/teach your younger self?  And/or is there anything you hope to teach the younger generation that may be looking up to you.

I would tell my younger self to not be afraid of being yourself and to go for your dreams no matter how hard they seem at the time.

What are your future goals? 

My biggest goal is to make sure the Cheer Salt Lake has a strong enough foundation to last a long time, even without me at the helm.  I want the team to be a strong, recognizable sign of LGBTQ+ support for our community.

What does Sports Diversity mean to you?

Simple, Sports diversity is allowing people to participate in sport regardless of their identity and ability.  Everyone should be given the chance to play and just have fun with it.  Not only are sports great for one’s physical health, but can really help improve mental health, and this chance should not be denied to anyone no matter who they are.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’m a strong advocate of trans participation in sport, especially trans girls who are often the target of bans.  Any trans girl shouldn’t be denied their dreams simply because they are trans.  Trans girls should not have to wait to start sports.  Trans girls who want to cheer should be allowed to cheer as themselves.  Trans girls who want to be in soccer, or basketball, or band, or theater, or speech, should be allowed to do so as themselves.

They should be allowed to learn the important values of physical fitness and living a healthy lifestyle (especially because taking hormones can really take a toll on their bodies). Trans girls need to learn the valuable lessons of teamwork, and how to build themselves back up from defeat.

Check out Cheer Salt Lake and Pride Cheerleading Association at the 2023 Sin City Classic where they will be raising money for Golden Rainbow!

Spectators are welcome and encouraged to come and check out the cheer competition happening on Sunday, January 15th, 2023 – 12pm-2pm in the Sunset Ballroom and the Flamingo. 

Photos courtesy of Valina Eckley.