On Monday, Nov. 14, Vassar students from all different communities joined together in the Villard Room to hear Chris Mosier speak about his life and experiences. Mosier is the first ever transgender athlete to compete on Team USA.
The lecture began with Mosier addressing a question he was asked in a prior talk about the moment he knew that he identified as transgender. This led to his explanation of the idea that one moment in time can change everything and a million moments lead up to that one piece of time.
That one moment for Mosier came in 2009 on his 29th birthday, when he decided that he never wanted to feel so unhappy, especially on a birthday, ever again.
When asked to describe himself, the first two words that come to Mosier’s head are “athlete” and “competitive.” While he was always uncomfortable in his body throughout his childhood into young adulthood, Mosier was certain of one thing: he identified as an athlete.
In high school, Mosier competed as a tri-sport athlete in volleyball, basketball and softball, earning honors in each. However, as college approached, he decided to end his organized athletics career, citing his desire to focus on academics, get a job to pay for school and join different clubs to explore his interests. In hindsight, Mosier states that the true reason that he didn’t continue his athletic career at a higher level was his fear of being labeled a ‘woman athlete.’
Following college, Mosier picked up recreational running as a hobby with fitness as the main goal. Through running and lifting weights, he was able to feel more connected with his body, altering the way he looked by slimming down in areas and building muscle in others in order to appear more physically masculine.
In 2009, Mosier competed in his first triathlon, where he won first place in the women’s beginner division. This first race served as another moment in which everything changed. He wanted to see just how far he could push himself athletically.
In 2010, Mosier began his transition, taking testosterone and competing in men’s races, which to him finally felt right. In 2011, two years after winning his division as a woman in a New York City triathalon, Mosier competed in the same race; his first triathlon as a male.
Following his transition, The New York Times wrote an article about Mosier and his experiences. The writer stated that even though Mosier was an elite female athlete, when he competed as a man, his skill level would transfer to being “middle of the pack.” This article was yet another moment that ignited a fire within Mosier to be the best that he could possibly be. He continued training endlessly to prove his own athletic talent as a trailbazer for other transgender athletes.
Major change soon followed as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) finally revised its rulebook. With countless pushes from Mosier and other advocates, trans athletes were officially granted permission to compete. Soon after, Mosier made his first USA team in 2016 in the duathlon, a bike-run-bike race.
Mosier has since starred in a Nike commercial, which aired during the 2016 Rio Olympics, and was featured in ESPN’s body issue, among countless other achievements and awards.
Some of his accomplishments include being named Athlete of the Year at the Compete Sports Diversity Awards in 2013 and inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Outside of the world of sports, Mosier claimed a position on the 2014 Trans 100 List, a yearly list of transgender individuals who have strong influence in establishing a more welcoming world for the trans community.
Sophomore men’s tennis player Nick Lee is responsible for bringing Chris Mosier to Vassar’s campus. Nick first met Mosier in his junior year of high school at a workshop in New York tailored for LGBTQ+ high schoolers and their allies.
“After seeing Chris in the Nike commercial during the Rio Olympics over the summer, I thought that he would be a great person to reach out to,” stated Lee. “The experience of being LGBTQ+ in sports is something that I can personally relate to.”
Lee continued, “While our campus is progressive, there is still not much trans and gender non-binary visibility, particularly in sports. I always think that it is important to not be complacent with where we are at, and that a goal should always be to create more inclusive and welcoming spaces.”
With this ideology, Lee was dedicated to hosting Mosier at Vassar and bringing such conversations to campus. “I knew that with the intersection of Chris’s identity as trans and an athlete, who is very successful, would be a good way to bring members of the Vassar community together who may not have interacted or have come together in the past,” Lee added.
The true goal of this lecture was to unite multiple Vassar communities for a common cause. The intersection between LGBTQ+ and athletes is a common occurrence, especially at a school like Vassar. However, it is not always recognized as important or even present. Specifically, the intersection between transgender and non-binary student-athletes is almost always ignored.
“I feel that this lecture was really important in the sense that it brought together two prevalent communities at Vassar: the athletic community and the LGBTQ+ community,” expressed sophomore women’s lacrosse player Emily Hamburger. “Chris emphasized how these two communities are intertwined and therefore how important it is to have LGBTQ+ education, awareness and inclusivity within the athletic community.”
Mosier views athletics as a gateway to making social change. Sports are so widely viewed that it creates a massive platform for those athletes who choose to stand up for what they believe in.
In Mosier’s case, he grew up in an athletic environment, both playing and watching sports. While he was incredibly successful from a young age, he was always uncomfortable in his own body. Growing up and attending a college with almost no public members of the LGBTQ+ community, he didn’t even know that other people in the world felt the same way that he did or that there was a word to describe his identity.
Just seeing one person with a similar experience could have made a huge impact for Mosier and probably many others. Now that he has access to such a large platform through his own athletic and personal achievements, Mosier plans on being a mentor who can help others get through what he did.
In terms of one of his greatest goals, Mosier explained, “I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger.”
Lee hopes that by bringing Mosier to Vassar, people will change the way that they think about both the LGBTQ+ and athletics communities as well as the intersection between the two.
“I hope that people learn from Chris that with privilege comes the power to step up right away and reach out, and to break down these barriers and create more inclusive environments where students of different identities can feel more comfortable and more safe,” remarked Lee.
Lee added, “To actively show that one is accepting and make that known to the world is much different than simply being accepting and can create such positive change. As Chris shows, him being able to be his authentic self has let him come so far.”
Reiterating Lee’s hopes, freshman Sarah Barash stated, “I think this lecture can benefit Vassar as a whole through continuing education. The importance of hearing new and different stories from unique people is imperative to creating a more inclusive and educated campus.”
“Personally, I was very taken by this lecture because Chris is such a brave man. I really admire his courage to speak so proudly about his transition and his accomplishments as an athlete,” Barash continued.
The Villard Room on Monday Nov. 14 was filled with members of every community represented at Vassar. Yet, they all have one thing in common: everyone who attended Mosier’s lecture has the ability to reflect on our community and in turn, potentially make Vassar a more welcoming place for all. While Mosier opened his lecture speaking about one specific moment and the millions of moments leading up to it, he closed by stating that it is his goal to not just make a moment, but rather to make a legacy.