Behind The Scenes

ESPN.com’s Christina Kahrl leads panel discussion on trans athletes at SXSW

Christina Kahrl (pictured far right), an ESPN.com MLB writer and editor, is among the presenters on the panel "Trans Athletes: The New Frontier of Sports" at the 2016 SXSW Saturday in Austin, Texas. Joining Kahrl are (L-R) Dr. Robert Garofalo; US National Duathalon Team member and triathlete Chris Mosier; and Debi Jackson, founder of Transparenting.com. (Crystal Yang Edwards/ESPN)
Christina Kahrl (pictured far right), an ESPN.com MLB writer and editor, is among the presenters on the panel “Trans Athletes: The New Frontier of Sports” at the 2016 SXSW Saturday in Austin, Texas. Joining Kahrl are (L-R) Dr. Robert Garofalo; US National Duathalon Team and Triathlete Chris Mosier; and Debi Jackson, founder of Transparenting.com. (Crystal Yang Edwards/ESPN)

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AUSTIN, Texas – On Saturday at SXSports 2016 in Austin, ESPN.com MLB writer and editor Christina Kahrl led a discussion on “Trans Athletes: The New Frontier of Sports.”

Joining Kahrl was a panel of experts including Dr. Robert Garofalo, board-certified in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago; Chris Mosier, an award-winning triathlete and the first out transgender member of Team USA; and Debi Jackson, founder of Transparenting.com and mother of an eight-year-old transgender child.

The panel shared personal experiences and openly addressed topics and questions about transgender athletes.

“Enjoying sports is a right we all have,” said Kahrl. “ESPN hired me long after my transition and they knew what they were getting…someone who really loves baseball.”

Dr. Garofalo added, “There are cultural biases and misunderstanding around transgender issues. However, like everyone else, transgender men and women are people who want to feel a sense of not just LGBT support but a sense of community at large. Sports provides that sense of community and self.”

Mosier is an award-winning transgender triathlete and the first out trans man to make a Men’s U.S. National Team in the duathlon. The duathlon is a run-bike-run competition but is not an Olympic sport; Mosier competes at the most elite level in his sport. His goal is to make history at the World Championships in Spain this June as the first out trans athlete to compete at that level.

“It’s a tough position to be in. Everything is at stake. Everything is different after you come out,” said Mosier. “I have had positive support competing with the men. But after they find out that I’m a transgender man, people will call me ‘she,’ even looking and sounding as I do.”

Jackson shared how dance and gymnastics classes empowered her daughter and had a direct psychological impact on her sense of belonging.

“She felt pure inclusion. Sports is an equalizer and before puberty, there is no gender ‘upper hand’ or difference. Everyone is on the same level (when playing sports).”

In Jackson’s experience, kids have been accepting of her daughter and adults have been the ones in need of education on the transgender topic.

“Public policy starts with not the people on the panel but all of you calling and voicing what is and isn’t right,” she said. “It starts with a conversation at a school basketball game or a conversation by the water cooler at work. These kids just want to play sports.”

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