Why it matters Nike is putting trans athlete Chris Mosier front and center in this ad.

It's been a banner year for the first trans member of Team USA.

In 2015, Chris Mosier became the first transgender man to earn a spot on the men's U.S. national team in the sprint duathlon.

While you won't see him competing in the Rio Olympics (duathlon — which consists of running and cycling — isn't an Olympic sport), you still might catch a glimpse of the trailblazer during the games if you know where and when to look.

Chris Mosier. All GIFs from Nike/YouTube.


On Aug. 8, Nike aired a groundbreaking new ad during prime-time Olympic coverage. The ad gives a glimpse into Mosier's life, the questions he faces, and what motivates him to keep pushing forward. It's part of Nike's "Unlimited" campaign, which also features the likes of soccer star Alex Morgan, tennis champion Serena Williams, gymnastics phenom Simone Biles, and others.

In the video, Mosier confronts some of the unique uncertainties he faces as a trans athlete. Despite the unknown, he pushes forward.

It's a powerful series of questions with a simple reply for each: I didn't.

"I want people, particularly young people, to know it is possible to be their authentic self and continue to play sports."
— Chris Mosier

While those first few questions are specific to Mosier's story, the video ends with a powerful message about not letting the unknown get in the way of your dreams. It's something that goes far beyond the specific challenges faced by this one trans athlete, and instead becomes something many (if not all) of us can relate to: the power of perseverance.  

Mosier hopes the video will provide some much-needed visibility when it comes to trans athletes.

"The reaction [to the video] has been overwhelmingly positive," he said in an email. "I believe visibility is a powerful tool to create social change, and I am honored that Nike has provided this level of visibility for trans athletes. I want people, particularly young people, to know it is possible to be their authentic self and continue to play sports."

"I hope that other athletes can look to me and see a reflection of themselves, whether that's through identity, determination, or their own courage in facing and overcoming challenges."

He's got a point: Many would-be trans athletes are given the option of either transitioning or competing in sports — but not both. He wants to change that.

There's (medically inaccurate) talk of trans athletes having advantages over cisgender (non-trans) athletes. And while medical professionals have debunked this assertion time and again, it's one of those anti-trans talking points that simply will not die.

Being an out trans athlete, Mosier competes with a target on his back. A quick glance at the comments on the Nike video and you'll see that while some find the ad to be empowering, others responded by posting slurs, calling him names, and sending one simple message: You're not welcome here. For years, those messages dominated discussion of trans athletes.

Mosier wants to change the conversation.

"If someone was to ask me how I would identify myself, I would say that I was an athlete," Mosier says in a behind-the-scenes video from the shoot.

You can watch Mosier's inspirational Nike spot below.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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