“This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways”
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY NBA
Che Flores has just made history by being the first openly out non-binary trans staff referee for the NBA after a landmark interview with GQ. Within their 14-year career, Che has refereed 1,000 games and is now enjoying their second year with the NBA.
In their interview with GQ, Che revealed the freedom that being openly out as non-binary has on their work. “When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way,” they said. “This is the first time I’m comfortable expressing myself through my own fashion and not having to worry about it. I feel one hundred percent myself now.”
The NBA had announced proudly last year that Che was one of their two new female referees, a statement which felt like a “little jab in the gut” to Che. The referee had been identifying as trans privately for a few years before being signed with the NBA but had never publicly come out.
While Che’s GQ interview acts as their official coming out, they had already come out to a few of their colleagues. The first person was the NBA’s referee training program head, Monty McCutcheon. “He immediately just called me Che, with no problem, which just makes you feel more comfortable and easier to let him know everything that was related to my gender,” Che explained.
After that, commentators and colleagues alike were using they/them pronouns for Che, a moment which made them “a little emotional”.
“There’s a confidence that comes anytime any of us claim ourselves, both privately and publicly,” Monty McCutchen added in the GQ interview. “When you are able to say publicly who and what you stand for, you can’t help but grow in strength and courage.”
At a time when conversations about whether trans athletes should be allowed to compete against cis-gendered athletes are at an all-time high, Che’s story acts as a beacon of hope for inclusion within sports.
“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it,” Che said. “And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way. This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways. For me, that is most important – to just be a face that somebody can be like, Oh, okay, that person exists. I think I can do that.”
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