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The North Wind

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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Spoken Like A True Athlete

Photo courtesy of Chris Mosier

Four-time transgender member of team USA and NMU alumnus Chris Mosier spoke at NMU as part of the UNITED Conference Monday evening on Sept. 25, where he discussed social change, the power of language and his experience as a transgender athlete and changing the Olympic policy.

Mosier spoke to a crowd of almost 120 students and community members in the University Center Great Lakes Rooms, where the first half of his speech was inspired by a terminology error from the university press release that was published by the Mining Journal calling Mosier “transsexual” rather than “transgender.”

Mosier said we should respect the preferred terminology of every individual and those speaking about the LGBTQ+ community should be trained so they know how to address people when talking to them.

“It’s so incredibly important that we get it right… I mess up. We all mess up… My hope would be that I could share this with you so everyone is thinking about the power of language.”

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Speaking at Northern again was different for Mosier than when he spoke at Northern in 2015, which was the turning point for him as an activist for the LBGTQ+ community. Mosier was terrified coming back to Northern in 2015 for the first time since he graduated.

“There was that weirdness of coming back to a place where I had so many memories, some of them good, some of them not so great and being a totally different person in a lot of ways than I was when I was here in those years,” he said.

Mosier knew he would see people who played a huge role in his college experience and was afraid of running into them because he had transitioned since they last saw them. As a trans person, he had a fear of interacting with people he knew before transition, because he didn’t want to have to explain how they should address him.

While speaking in 2015, Mosier also had an ESPN reporter with him, who followed him for a month, for the story “Definition of An Athlete.” What Mosier was most worried about with this article was what language the reporter would use and how she would describe his actions with others. Although he was pleased with the article, Mosier said that “language is what really pushed me into becoming the person that I am.”

This all started on his 29th birthday when he and friends went out to a Mexican restaurant, where the waiter addressed the table and said “ladies.” That one word put him over the edge after an accumulation of years of feeling like he wasn’t seen.

“I never thought my life would be like this, that after all that time, I wasn’t showing up as the person I needed to be,” Mosier said. “It was all because of language. It was all because of that one word, of that person saying ‘ladies.’”

The ESPN article also talked about his journey as an athlete and was a catalyst for the International Olympic Committee change. During that time, Mosier was the first trans man to make a men’s U.S. national team, competing in duathlon and triathlon. Mosier qualified for world championships, but couldn’t participate due to restrictions within the trans athlete policy. He knew this was a great opportunity to appeal the policy and change sports for the trans community.

“I think what they needed was a name and a face of a person to say there is an actual human on the other side of this policy, maybe we could reconsider, and that’s what I have the privilege of being,” Mosier said.

His activism was rewarded. In 2016, the policies were changed and Mosier was able to compete at the international level. The platform that challenging policy gave him allowed him to make more change.

He has since been featured in ESPN’s The Body Issue as the first trans athlete to pose without clothes on, a Nike advertisement and is the first trans athlete to get a sponsorship from a major company.

“It was a really amazing experience for me. I did not have a narrative of a trans person trapped in the wrong body… For me to be at a point now, where I feel so comfortable and confident in myself to be in a magazine with no clothes, thats a far cry from the student who attended this university,” Mosier said.

It’s important for to him to say he is transgender because of his visibility as a transgender athlete and there aren’t many out there. The most amazing thing he has done is open doors for young athletes so they can compete at the highest level, he said.

“You can be your authentic self and continue to play the sports that you love,” Mosier said. “No one should have to compromise any part of their identity to be an athlete or anything else.”

When Mosier first came out as transgender in an advocate magazine, he wrote a narrative and said that he will always be the transgender athlete, he will never be simply a male athlete.

“Sport is a vehicle for social change, whether we are competitors or on the same team. Sport is an environment for family,” Mosier said, adding that he found great acceptance in the sporting community.

With this, Mosier went and competed in the long course duathlon in North Carolina the last couple years, despite people saying he shouldn’t. While others boycotted and didn’t go, he went to make a statement about the bathroom policies at the time, also saying that he had never been more fearful of being hurt, but nothing happened.

“By creating this culture of fear, of being fearful of people around you, we’re not creating good community,” Mosier said.

Even though he is unsure of his purpose in life thus far, he has two principles of how he lives his life by: be nice, be a good person and be of service to others and fight for what’s right, but also to live by the words “Be who you needed when you were younger.”

Mosier said that community doesn’t just change from the top down, but from the bottom up. Also, that faculty and students can make social change and it can be large or small, like picking one word to change.

Mosier has seven ways to make social change. Among them are to check your ego and not have one, show up when you can, and stand up for what you believe in. Mosier noted the athletes in the NFL who took a knee, linked arms or stayed in locker rooms this weekend, during the national anthem. Considering the impact of your words, finding out what you stand for and help the community around you and to remember there’s an abundance were other ways that were mentioned.

“I encourage you not to think about social change as such a big thing, that maybe you don’t have the opportunity to create,” Mosier said. “We’re all creating social change in our small areas of influence even if you don’t think it. Thinking of the big picture is what creates social change.”

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