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.
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.