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

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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

via Pixabay

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