Pride Month as many of us know it, is a celebratory staple of remembering the way in which the LGBTQIA community has fought for their rights, acceptance, and visibility within the states. The month of June was specifically chosen in order to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 1969 where police enticed a riot trying to raid Stonewall Inn, a bar known to serve the most marginalized groups who identified within the LGBTQIA community. During the 60s, it was rare for bars/restaurants to serve to those within the LGBTQIA community who were open about their identity.
Although we have seen many triumphs for the LGBTQIA community and have many reasons to celebrate, we must also bring attention to how far we still have to go. So it is sort of a relief when companies step away from the commercialized parties and branding of their products for profit, and turn to actually shedding light on the stories of these communities. Especially sharing the stories of those within the community who are invisible and yet persecuted the most, i.e. the trans community, specifically trans people of color. When speaking of the trans community, often times we only know of the violence perpetuated against them, but we aren’t offered a dynamic view of their lives (again, especially trans of color). For instance, how many stories do you know of regarding trans athletes?
In celebration of Pride, Vice teamed up with the Olympic Channel to host the world premiere screening of their new show called Identity, which was produced by VICE Media. The series goes behind the scenes of the lives of transgender athletes and how their queer identity is tied to their love of sport. In a quaint little warehouse in Williamsburg, a group of 50 people or so sat and watched one episode of Identity, starring Pat Manuel – a boxer from Southern California who is also a trans black man. Whether purposeful or by chance listening to the story of Pat from his own voice, while he wore a Very Black tee and discussed his obstacles and successes at becoming the first visible transgender boxer to compete in both gender divisions, was very touching.
After the viewing of Pat’s story, a Q+A was held to shed more light on the stories of each individual who stars in the series. Moderated by the co-host of VICELAND’s Gaycation Ian Daniel – triathlete Chris Mosier, Harvard University swimmer Schuyler Bailar, former NWHL hockey player Harrison Browne, and Pat all spoke candidly about their life as a trans athlete.
Although every story is very different from each other, all athletes spoke about how important support was in opening up about their identity not only in their personal lives, but in their sport as well. Whether it was from family and close friends, or their coaches and teammates, support was necessary in order to make their marks. Ian Daniel commented on the importance of each athlete to share their story because he personally felt there was a lack of concentration and quite frankly erasure of trans stories in the media. He felt as though highlighting the successes and the struggles of people within the trans community was important and went on to ask why it was important for each person to share their story.
Schuyler answers first saying that when he was younger he never saw the story of a transathlete in media and felt he had to hide his identity in order to be an athlete, which he did. Schuyler was first recruited for Harvard’s women team. However, he wanted to share his story and show other kids that you could be who you are and be happy and be an athlete. Pat shared a similar sentiment as well. For him, it was not only about being a trans athlete but the many different communities he is a part of, specifically being a trans person of color.
As Pride month comes to a close, remember whether you identity as queer or not, get involved, listen to others’ stories, and allow everyone to be exactly who they are! If you are interested in watching the series Identify, it is now streaming on the Olympic Channel and on their app.