By Parker Molloy
Photography by Sebastian Mader
Chris Mosier is what you might call a trailblazer — in more ways than one. There’s the very literal blazing of trails he does as a world-class athlete and competitor, and then there’s the fact that as a transgender man, he’s making a bit of history in the process. In 2016, Mosier, now 37, became the first out transgender athlete to compete in an International Triathlon Union championship, participating in the men’s duathlon and finishing 26th among the 47 men in his age group.
But Chris Mosier the man and Chris Mosier the athlete are inseparable from Chris Mosier the activist. In 2013, Mosier launched transathlete.com, a resource hub for students, athletes, coaches, and administrators looking for guidance on welcoming trans athletes — a topic still hotly debated by lawmakers around the country. More recently, he’s served as executive director of GO! Athletes, an LGBTQ athletic advocacy organization. He’s also the vice president of program development and community relations for You Can Play, which aims to bring safety and inclusion to LGBTQ coaches, athletes, and fans.
Despite his many commitments to these organizations, Mosier says “the biggest piece of my recent advocacy work has just been continuing to compete at a high level as a visible and out transgender athlete.” His hard-fought place in the spotlight is a reality he credits to the International Olympic Committee’s 2016 decision to allow trans athletes to compete in the Olympics without undergoing surgery — a change Mosier had long lobbied for.
“This has been a super wild year in the best way,” he says, referencing his heavy travel schedule and speaking stops at colleges, sports teams, and leagues. “I think by being visible and by being open about my experience as a transgender man in sport, it's allowed me the opportunity and the platform to speak and help create policy change, laying the groundwork for all athletes that come after me to be able to participate in sports as their authentic selves without having to compromise their identities.”
All of this is still relatively new to Mosier, who notes that in coming to terms with his gender identity and transitioning into a body and experience that fits who he is, he’s changed a lot over the past eight years. “The best thing that’s happened to me over that span of time has been gaining the ability to step fully into myself and share that with other people. Because for so long in my life, I didn't want anybody to get too close to me. I didn't want to have close friendships or relationships because I knew that who I was showing up as wasn't fully who I was deep inside.” His new comfort and confidence led him to do something he never thought possible just a few years earlier: he posed nude in ESPN The Magazine’s annual “Body Issue.” “When I told my wife, she was shocked,” he says with a laugh. “It threw off everybody around me, but for me, it was really just this amazing opportunity to connect with the body that I’ve had. It’s served me very well in sport, but it’s been a little at odds with me at some points in my life. This was really just a great opportunity to show up and be very, very visible.”
Being able to “show up” is a theme with Mosier, with fashion playing a crucial role.“ A big part of becoming the man that I am today has been about feeling like I can fully show up as who I've known myself to be for as long as I can remember,” he says. “In sport, my performance and my ability to fully participate were really enhanced when I felt like I could be myself. I think that really translates into a comfort that I feel in being able to really just show up with my style, with my personality, with the way I wildly gesture with my hands when I talk and I'm excited — all of the different pieces of me.” As much as what he wears doesn’t define him, it gives him the confidence he needs to be his best, most authentic self at home, in athletics, and at work. Able to truly “show up,” Mosier is no longer afraid to be seen, no longer afraid to allow himself to be vulnerable and open.
“A lot of my work is about the importance of being confident and visible,” he says. “Whether it's in sport, speaking, or just existing every day on the street, I want other people, especially young people, to see me and to know that they can have a happy, successful life, and that they can find love for what they do and be successful in sports as a transgender person. To me, that’s the most important piece of what I do.”
Mosier’s got a lot of work to do these next few years, and he’ll need to be at his best to get it done. He believes that opposition to trans people in athletics and public life stems from a fear of the unknown, and sees it as his responsibility to put a face and a body to this cause. “I think a big piece of this is just letting people get to know me and members of the trans community. I think that we still have a very long way to go in terms of acceptance.”
“I think it makes a difference for young trans kids to see me as an athlete and know that they can do it, too,” he adds, reflecting on the importance of a younger generation understanding that being a successful and thriving trans person is possible. “Growing up, I didn't see any trans men competing against men at a high level, and I think a lot about what a massive game changer that would have been. I think it would have altered my whole experience as both a young person and as a person who wanted to pursue a career in sport.” The representation he speaks of is what fuels Mosier’s continued efforts across the board, a desire to be the role model he never saw growing up.
Parker Molloy is a writer whose work — centering on media, culture, and politics — has appeared in outlets such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and Upworthy. She lives in Chicago, IL, with her wife, dog, cat, and two rabbits.