25 transgender athletes you should know
Across the nation, transgender athletes, such as champion swimmer Lia Thomas (pictured) are facing an onslaught of hostile protests and even more hostile legislation. Several states have banned trans women and girls from participating on teams that match their gender identity in middle and high school, and dozens of similar bills are under consideration.
Despite all that, trans athletes have continued to shine. They're breaking college records and winning Olympic medals, all while publicly advocating for their rights — and the rights of trans athletes everywhere — before school boards and lawmakers.
Whether they're making waves for athleticism or advocacy (or both), here are 25 other transgender athletes you should know.
Here, Pennsylvania's Lia Thomas smiles after winning the 100-yard freestyle final at the Ivy League Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at Harvard University, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in Cambridge, Mass. Thomas, who is transitioning to female, is swimming for the University of Pennsylvania women's team.
In 2015, Olympic champ Caitlyn Jenner made news by coming out as transgender. She logged her biggest wins pre-transition, but before her, there was Renée Richards.
She was a professional tennis player in the 1970s and one of the first high-profile transgender athletes. After her gender reassignment in 1976, the United States Tennis Association required all female competitors to undergo hormone testing.
Richards applied to play in the women's division of the U.S. Open in 1976 but refused to take the test, so officials denied her entry.
A key lawsuit
Richards sued the USTA over its decision, with a judge ruling in her favor.
She went on to reach the doubles final at the 1977 U.S. Open, and continued to play professionally for the several years. She later coached Martina Navratilova to two Wimbledon wins.
Layshia Clarendon, a guard for the Minnesota Lynx, is the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to play in the WNBA.
They also won a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup.
A hero of the year
Clarendon is an advocate for LGBTQ+ people in sports.
They publicly discussed experiencing top surgery in 2021, and won Outsports' "Female Hero of the Year" award in 2015.
Chris Mosier began competing in triathlon as a woman, then publicly self-identified as a transgender man in 2010.
He went on to earn a spot on the Team USA spring duathlon men's team for the 2016 World Championship. Mosier is now known as the first transgender man to represent the United States in international competition and is credited with prompting the International Olympic Committee to change its policy on transgender athletes.
Today, Mosier is a prominent transgender advocate, often speaking publicly about inclusion in sports.
Mosier also works with LGBTQ sports leagues to improve trans representation, and is the founder of transathlete.com, a resource for students and coaches.
Balian Buschbaum is a German athlete who competed in women's pole vault — including a showing at the 2000 Summer Olympics — before taking hormones to transition in 2007 and retiring the following year.
In announcing his retirement, he said, "I feel as if I am a man and have to live my life in the body of a woman.
"I am aware of the fact that transsexuality is a fringe issue, and I do not want to be responsible for it remaining on the fringe."
Laurel Hubbard is a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand.
She set records in several men's weightlifting events in her home country before transitioning in 2012.
A big first
She went to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Hubbard competed in the women's super-heavyweight 87-kilogram weightlifting category in the Tokyo Games but did not advance after failing on her three attempted lifts.
She was the oldest lifter at the Games and made history in another way as well: as the first openly trans woman to compete in the Olympic Games.
Schuyler Bailar is an American swimmer, and one of the first transgender athletes to compete on an NCAA Division 1 men's team.
He swam for Harvard for four seasons before graduating in 2019.
Bailar is also an LGBTQ+ rights advocate who frequently addresses misinformation on social media.
In April, he teamed up with The Human Rights Campaign to release a YouTube video debunking common myths about trans athletes.
Kye Allums played on the women's basketball team for George Washington University for three seasons.
He came out as transgender in 2010, becoming one of the first openly trans NCAA Division I college athletes.
Fighting back against bullying
Allums is now an LGBTQ+ rights advocate, traveling to high schools and colleges to discuss the transgender community and give advice on confronting bullies.
He was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Jaiyah Saelua, who is American Samoan, is the first openly non-binary and trans woman to compete in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
The soccer star identifies as fa'afafine, a third gender in Polynesian society.
A fictionalized Saelua is slated to appear in a film about her Samoan soccer team.
She's already appeared in a documentary about the topic.
Quinn is a non-binary, transgender athlete who plays for the Canadian women's national soccer team.
After coming out in 2020, they were allowed to continue playing women's soccer as per their sex assigned at birth, rather than gender identity.
A big first
Quinn helped the Canadian women's team win the gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
In doing so, they became the first trans, non-binary athlete to become an Olympic champion.
"First openly trans Olympian to compete," they wrote on Instagram. "I don't know how to feel. I feel proud seeing 'Quinn' up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world. I feel optimistic for change. Change in legislature. Changes in rules, structures and mindsets.
"The fight isn't close to over… and I'll celebrate when we're all here," they said.
Andreas Krieger is a German athlete who won the gold medal in the women's shot put event at the 1986 European Championships.
Krieger was systematically and unknowingly doped with steroids beginning at age 18, which made him develop visibly male characteristics. He eventually underwent reassignment surgery at the age of 31.
Shining a light
Although Krieger did experience gender dysphoria before taking the steroids, he has since expressed regret that the doping abuse deprived him of the right to fully make the decision to transition on his own.
His candor helped shed light on the legacy of doping in East Germany and encouraged other former athletes to speak out.
Andraya Yearwood is a track and field athlete who ran for the girls' team at her high school beginning in 2017.
She won state titles for the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.
A win in court
In 2020, three families of Yearwood's cisgender female competitors filed a federal lawsuit, attempting to ban transgender athletes from competing in women's teams in Connecticut.
The lawsuit was dismissed by the district court in 2021.
Lia Thomas is a swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania.
She won the 500-yard freestyle event at the NCAA championships in March 2022, making her the first out trans woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.
Thomas has been at the center of much scrutiny from lawmakers and media over the past year, mainly after parents of her fellow swim team members wrote a letter to the NCAA asking that Thomas be banned from competing.
However, the University of Pennsylvania and hundreds of current and former collegiate swimmers have spoken out in support of Thomas's right to swim on the women's team.
Mianne Bagger is a golfer from Denmark.
When she competed in the Women's Australian Open in 2004, she became the first openly trans woman to play in a professional golf tournament.
Updating the rules
Her lobbying efforts were instrumental in getting the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour, known as the ALPG Tour, to remove its "female at birth" entry condition in 2010.
Fallon Fox is the first openly transgender woman to compete in mixed martial arts.
After coming out in 2013, Fox received widespread criticism as to whether she was properly licensed to compete against other women.
Fox ended up winning five out of her six professional MMA matches between 2012 and 2014.
She was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Mack Beggs is a former high-school and college wrestler who won the Texas state wrestling championships in 2017 and 2018.
He had to compete in the girls' division, as necessitated by a Texas rule that requires athletes to compete in the league for the sex they were assigned at birth.
"I don't want to cheat"
At the time, the 17-year-old Beggs said he was "holding back" on testosterone treatments, saying: "I don't want to cheat. That's not something I do. I don't cheat."
He is now an outspoken activist, calling on state legislators to alter the regulations that prevented him from competing in the boys' division back in high school.
Alexia Cerenys is a French rugby player who transitioned at age 25.
World Rugby has discouraged member countries from allowing trans women to play, calling it a safety issue. But in 2021, the French Rugby Federation ignored that guideline and said trans women should to compete.
A triumphant return
She quit rugby during her transition, but resumed playing on a French women's team in 2016 after four years of hormone therapy.
"From a personal point of view, I feel really proud to have this support and to see things change," she told Reuters. "In this sense, I hope to see doors open for other federations to open up competition to trans people in all other sports."
Chelsea Wolfe is one of the highest-ranked BMX freestylers in the United States.
She competed with male athletes for many years before coming out in 2014.
After placing fifth at the World Championships in 2021, she earned a spot as an alternate for the women's competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
She did not compete in Tokyo.
Tifanny Abreu was the first trans woman to play in the Brazil Superliga, the highest-level volleyball competition in Brazil.
In 2017, she received clearance to play as a woman.
Opening new paths for athletes
"My greatest legacy is not to reach an Olympics, but to open paths for new trans athletes in the near future," Abreu told Universa in 2021.
"My wish is that, more and more, confederations start to see us not as trans people, but as athletes."
Chloe Anderson is a transgender athlete who began playing for the Santa Ana College women's volleyball team in 2015.
Anderson then headed to University of California-Santa Cruz to play in the NCAA Division III.
"Happier with myself every day"
"Being a man was something I never identified with, something that always eluded me despite my life forced in its shoes," Anderson told Outsports, referencing her transition at age 19.
"Though I've come to realize I'm all right being born the way I was, I'm growing happier with myself every day."
Ness Murby is a Canadian Paralympian who competes in discus throw and javelin throw.
In late 2020, he came out publicly on an episode of the "Five Rings to Rule Them All" podcast.
Silver and bronze
Murby finished sixth in the discus throw at the 2016 Paralympics.
He won a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships in javelin and a bronze in 2017.
Hannah Mouncey is an Australian handball player who played 22 games with the Australian men's team before beginning hormone therapy in late 2015.
She first publicly identified as a woman the following year.
Mouncey hoped to play in the women's competition for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
But her request was denied because she was a few weeks shy of the International Olympic Committee's requirement of 12 months of hormone therapy.
She also has played Australian-rules football.
Keelin Godsey is a hammer-throw competitor from Massachusetts.
He won two national collegiate championships in the women's hammer throw before openly identifying as male in 2005.
Out of reach
Godsey placed fifth in the women's hammer-throw competition at the U.S. trials for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Godsey just barely missed a spot on the three-member team.
Natalie van Gogh
Natalie van Gogh is a former cyclist from the Netherlands. She rode professionally between 2012 and 2021.
She originally picked up cycling as a form of exercise while undergoing hormone therapy during her transition at age 31.
Until her retirement, van Gogh was always more interested in her athletic performance rather than potential platform as an activist.
"I never felt the need to represent the transgender community or pave the way for transgender persons in sports," she told CyclingTips in 2021. "I am just Natalie, and I race because I love racing."
Nikki Hiltz is a mid-distance runner and six-time NCAA Division I All-American.
They came out as transgender and non-binary on March 31, 2021, the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Raising money for a cause
In 2020, Hiltz organized a charity 5k race and donated proceeds to the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth.
Hiltz often posts inspirational photos and videos on Instagram.
Savannah Burton joined the Canadian National Dodgeball team in 2015, becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete for Canada internationally in team sports.
A different kind of spotlight
She represented Canada in several international championships between 2015 and 2017.
She now works as an actress.