This Sunday August 6th Chris Mosier will be one of over 3,000 athletes competing in the Nautica NYC Triathalon. It is an Olympic distance race consisting of a 1500m swim, 40k bike ride and a 10k run.
Chris is Odwalla sponsored and he races on their Active Ambassasdors team. This past March he entered a contest to win one of ten sponsorships by a world class fitness company known as TRX. There were over one hundred entries and Chris finished 6th.
What makes this triathlete unique is that Chris was once an MVP in womens sports. Chris a transman made the transition from female sports to male sports just a little over a year ago. Competing as a male in this years Nautica NYC Triathon is the same Triathon he competed in two years ago in the female catagory.
A native of Chicago now residing in New York, Chris takes some time from his busy training schedule to talk to us about sports, being a trans athlete and tackling social justice for trans athletes.
KP: Where you an athlete as a youth?
CM: I've always been athletic. I played baseball and basketball as a kid, and really got into sports in high school. I was known more as an athlete than anything else.
KP: Why a tri-athlete, what made you pursue that particular sport?
CM: I started off as a runner, doing my first marathon three years ago. After I did a marathon and an ultra-marathon (a 60k running race), I wanted a new challenge. Triathlon was a great challenge for me because I do not have a cycling background and was a horrible swimmer. There was a lot of room for goal setting and improvement.
KP: What doses your daily routine consist of when you are in training?
CM: It depends what part of my season I'm in, but I usually do around 10 workouts a week between the swimming, biking, and running. It ranges from about 10 to 15 hours of training each week, depending on the week. When I was training for Ironman, it was about 15 to 18 hours a week - almost a part-time job. I do a lot of workouts in the morning before work, and long workouts on the weekends. Ironman (a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run - Ironman Florida, Nov. 2010) was a big commitment so I was very structured in my training. This year, I've been a bit more flexible with my schedule and a little more forgiving of myself when I have other commitments. It's difficult to train that much and still have a relationship and a social life. I have a little better balance this season.
KP: Was the transition from female sports to male sports easier or harder than you anticipated?
CM: I thought about the transition in sports a lot before doing it. It's about what I expected in terms of competing. I feel more comfortable at the start and finish lines when we begin in gendered waves, which I expected. The part that I knew would be a challenge - and still is - is where I finish. I'm a very competitive person. Whereas I would be finishing in the top 10 or top 5 or in some cases, winning a female age group, I'm coming in a much lower place competing against males. My times are still good and I'm happy with where I'm at, but winning races doesn't seem like a feasible thing anymore. Other than the finishing placements, I didn't expect or think about some of the other things about races, like changing areas. I was caught off guard during my Ironman race when I went into the changing area and it was an open room. It took a little extra thinking to navigate that experience. Now I know that being in that situation is a possibility, but I wasn't ready for that then.
KP: Why did you choose to compete openly as a trans athlete?
CM: First, it is important for me to be true to how I identify, which is as a trans guy. It took me a long time to accept myself, and now it is important to me to be authentic in my identity - even in places where it isn't easy to do, such as sports. It is difficult as a trans person to navigate all areas of athletics - locker rooms, team choices, permission to play in certain leagues or teams because of gender, and so on. In being an openly trans athlete, I am pushing the organizations, teams, and people I compete with and against to think critically about gender issues in athletics.
KP: Do you feel because you are trans that it pushes you harder to do better and to prove yourself in sports?
CM: I would push myself regardless. It's avery personal thing for me, and I want to do the best that I can do every time. It is more gratifying to finish closer to the top, but I can't control the people I'm competing against; I just try to do my best and keep getting better.
KP:What thoughts go through your mind during competing in a competition?
CM: I try to focus on the task at hand during competitions. So much ofcompeting comes down to mental strength. During Ironman, which was 11 hours of racing, in the difficult parts I thought, "this isn't difficult - living my life everyday is difficult." At that time, there were so many frustrations in my transition - people being intentionally rude about pronouns, challenges in competing in an "LGBT" sports league that wasn't supportive of my transition, navigating locker rooms and figuring out how to be comfortable in the pool, worrying about my safety in bathrooms or public spaces, and other daily life experiences that were not validating of my identity. In the tough moments I think about how competing is voluntary and any pain I'm feeling, I'm doing to myself, and I can stop if it gets to be too much. In life, as a trans person, I don't have that option.
KP: In competition does your gender ever overshadow that fact that you are an amazing athlete?
CM: Competing as a woman, I thought about gender all the time, to a point where it interfered with my ability to be successful because I didn't feel comfortable at races. Now, I feel more able to focus and gender doesn't come up as much. When I got third place male overall in the Mother's Day Duathlon (6.2 mile run, 27 mile bike, 3.1 mile run), no one else said anything about gender or the fact that I'm trans. Walking away with my trophy, I had a moment where it became clear that gender doesn't need to be a limiter in my ability to compete. It was a great moment.
KP: How are you treated by the men competing against you?
CM: Most guys at races, I suspect, don't know I'm trans or don't pay attention to people around them; they're just out to compete for themselves. I don't get any breaks or special favors when the clock is running - I'm treated like competition, like one of the guys. The men in the Empire Tri Club (the group I train with) know I'm trans but treat me like one of the men. One of them responded to a trans-related article I posted recently, saying that they forget sometimes that I'm trans. They're a great supportive group and have pushed me to be a stronger athlete overall.
KP: I have spoken before with M2F athletes who when making the switch to female sports had people actively trying to stop them from doings so, what where the roadblocks you had to face and overcome?
CM: I don't think people challenge F2M athletes as much because we are supposed to be biologically at a disadvantage, having grown up without testosterone. Most people assume that men are naturally better athletes and have no fears of a trans guy switching over because he isn't seen as competition. I want to challenge people's assumptions about gender and trans guy athletes being able to compete. Roadblocks I have faced are more related to technical aspects - I'm challenging sports leagues and clubs to offer more than a male or female option on their registration forms and to use inclusive language. I am challenging them to have gender-neutral changing facilities or to work out how they should handle a trans person in the leagues. Also, finding safe changing facilities and comfort in the locker room have been a challenge
KP: Congrats on becoming one of the ten athletes sponsored by TRX, what does this mean for your career as an athlete?
CM: The sponsorship with TRX is great because it provided some visibility to the fact that trans people are in sports. I'm also sponsored by Odwalla, and I think it's an amazing thing for companies to show up as active allies and supporters of me as an openly trans athlete. It says a lot about a company's values. Sponsorships allow me to increase my visibility as a trans athlete, which helps challenge gender in sports, and also provide me with support to achieve my training and racing goals. Hopefully these sponsorships will open doors to other sponsorships and support as my career continues.
KP: What goals do you have for yourself both as an athlete an a trans activist?
CM: As an athlete, my goal is to continue to get better and see where I end up. This is only my third season in triathlon and cycling, and I'm really getting into cycling. I think I have a lot of potential and I'm excited to see how I develop over time. My current goal is to qualify for Race Across America, a cross-country cycling race that goes from California to Maryland in 11 days (or as fast as I can go). I also completed my USAT (USA Triathlon) coaching certification, so I'd like to coach and mentor other athletes, and hopefully other queer athletes. More than being a trans activist, I consider myself a social justice advocate - being a trans activist is a small part of that. Social justice is both a process and a goal. My hope is to continue to work towards full and equal participation of all groups in society.
KP: What changes would you like to see in sports regarding transgender people?
CM: I think organizations like the NCAA and the Olympic committee need to consider processes and procedures that could allow trans people to participate more fully. I'd also like to see more trans people in sports - a lot of athletes give up sports because it becomes difficult to do after transition. I'd like to see a better system in place to allow for participation. I don't know what that looks like now, but I'd like to work toward it.
KP: Anything you would like to say to your fans and supporters?
CM: Thank you! Thank you most to my partner, who has been fully supportive of my transition and my training and fully believes in me. Also, thanks to my family as they continue to educate themselves so they can be supportive. And, I have fans?! Amazing!
The GoPride Network would like to wish Chris the Best of Luck this up and coming weekend! We're rooting for you!