A matter of justice for all
Mount Holyoke to host trans athlete and advocate Chris Mosier as a keynote speaker for the annual BOOM! Community Day.
Chris Mosier is the keynote speaker for 2022’s BOOM! Community Day. He will deliver a virtual talk entitled “Let Trans Kids Play: Protecting Trans Lives On and Off the Field” Tuesday, March 29, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. This talk is free and open to the public.
Mosier is accustomed to being first: He is the first transgender athlete to represent the United States in international competition, the first transgender athlete in the ESPN Body Issue and the first transgender athlete to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the gender with which they identify.
As an outspoken advocate of trans-inclusive spaces in sports and life, Mosier is aware of both the privileges that have brought him to his position and the responsibilities that come with it: to listen, to hear and to make space for those who don’t have the same privileges and platforms.
He sat down to discuss trans rights and the importance of recognizing the recent efforts to ban trans athletes from competing in their identified gender for what they are: “bathroom bills 2.0,” a bald effort to leverage political power and ban transgender people from existing.
Along with his motto of “be who you needed when you were younger,” he offered some thoughts on how to support the rights of all.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Why is trans inclusion in sports an issue that is relevant to everyone?
We’ve seen lawmakers try to exclude transgender people from sports while framing it as a way to “protect women” and “save women’s sports,” but doing so ignores the many very real issues that currently exist within women's sports.
There's a lack of opportunities for women athletes and for coaches, and there's clear inequity in terms of pay. There are very real issues with Title IX compliance, high rates of sexual assault and harassment, lack of media coverage, lack of taking women athletes seriously … on and on and on.
But having a transgender teammate is not one of the issues in women's sports.
These anti-trans sports bills impact all women and girls because they reinforce ideas about how a woman should look, how a woman should act and who really is a woman.
Trans people have been able to participate in sports in a variety of ways for decades, and it has not caused harm to women and girls in sports. In fact, in states that have trans-inclusive policies, we see more young girls participating in sports than in states that don't have those policies. When more girls and women are involved in athletics, they can access the well-known physical, mental, social and psychological benefits that come from playing sports.
The things that I learned from sports when I was a kid, like leadership and teamwork and communication skills and resilience, have been extremely helpful skills to have as an adult. Every young person should have the opportunity to develop these.
How do you view the latest round of bills aimed at excluding transgender athletes from competing in sports in their identified gender?
It's clear that these anti-trans sports bills are the gateway to other pieces of legislation specifically intended to get trans people to not be trans anymore or to make their life so incredibly difficult that they can't stand to live anymore.
The primary issue is that these lawmakers are not recognizing and acknowledging that trans women are women. They have weaponized biology and are using language and concepts to pit inclusion against fairness in sports, but we know that sports can be inclusive and fair at the same time.
In many ways, these bills are about control. Ironically, many of the lawmakers who focus on trans exclusion in sports are the same ones who pursue other policies aimed at policing women’s bodies.
They are the ones who are limiting access to abortion and healthcare. These bills are being put forward by people who have no interest in actually saving or protecting or helping women in sports or in any general way.
How can individuals support trans inclusion in sports?
A very good first step for anybody is to become more familiar with trans identity, what it means to be trans and the language and terminology around it. It's difficult for us to have these conversations if we're not using the same language or the right language.
It has been devastating to see the lack of discussion, the lack of attention to these bills targeting kids — targeting them in really disgusting ways, too, with attacks on their bodies. Raising awareness as to what is happening, having conversations with your family and friends, disrupting anti-trans comments, jokes and narratives and making sure that we're calling out that sort of discrimination and transphobia when we see it [are all important steps to take].
There's a real need for cisgender people, and specifically cisgender women, to speak up about this drastic government overreach that’s trying to legislate against our right to bodily autonomy, to personal decision-making about what's best for ourselves, our health and our families.
How can institutions better support the trans community?
It's important that when we're having these conversations and looking to support gender-inclusive spaces, that we start from the position of people first.
We have to begin with the foundational understanding that trans women are women, full stop, and come from a place of recognizing the humanity of the people that we are actually talking about. What we've seen in the past is that, even with the best intentions, when policies are created without trans people at the table to “solve” a problem, we see bad policies be created, or we see policies created that are great on paper but impossible to actually implement and uphold.
When we view the issue through a lens of inclusion as opposed to exclusion or discrimination against the trans community, we come to different results, and we come to them in different ways. That's the primary piece that really needs to be paid attention to.
That said, it's also difficult as a trans person to constantly advocate for yourself.
I was the first trans person to come out on the college campus where I worked, even though I was not the first trans person there. It was just that they didn't feel comfortable enough or well-supported enough to fight that fight.
That “fight” for me was trying to advocate for myself on things like getting my name changed and my email in the system right, figuring out what restrooms I could safely go into without being harassed by security staff or by my peers and making policies for gender-inclusive housing so that when we did have transgender students, they felt comfortable enough to be themselves and to safely live on campus.
All of those battles had to be fought, but what we found is once those things were in place, trans students started to show up.
That piece of visibility is really important. That piece of having guidance from the trans community when developing trans-inclusive practices and policies is extra important to let folks know how it should be done.
At the same time, we can't always rely on trans people to advocate and fight for themselves. Trans students shouldn't have to fight for their place on campus or fight to feel safe. Those things should be part of our policies and systems already because of our commitment to ensure that all students feel safe and welcome on our campus.