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Nikki Hiltz on Coming Out As Transgender, Non-Binary & Making A Safe Space in Sport For Everyone

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“I was talking to my mom the other day and she said, ‘It’s important to be who you are so that the right people love you.’ I was like, ‘Yeah. That’s what it is.’ I just felt like it is really important to continue to show up as myself in all areas of my life so the right people are on my side, the right people are following me and I can lean into that more than anything.”

Nikki Hiltz is now a two-time guest on this show. Our first episode together April 17th, 2019 during the Boston Marathon weekend. For this one, I’m joined by David Melly, the host of the Run Your Mouth Podcast, for another crossover episode. April 2019 was just the start of Nikki’s hot streak that year. They finished third at the U.S. Championships and qualified for the world championships. They went on to make the final in Doha and ran a personal best of 4:01.52. Expect Nikki to be in the mix for that Olympic team in the 1,500 meters, which is shaping up to be one of the must-watch events at Hayward Field during the Trials.

We touched on Nikki’s recent announcement that they identify as trans non-binary on Transgender Day of Visibility, which was March 31. Now if you caught us using multiple pronouns for Nikki during this episode, it’s because Nikki explains that they now use she/they as personal pronouns.

We also touch on plans for the 2021 Pride 5K, Olympic Trials training and much more.

You can catch the latest episode of the podcast on iTunes so subscribe and leave a five-star review. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!

Podcast episode artwork photography by Kevin Morris


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SHOW NOTES AND QUOTES

– “I feel like I’m kind of excited and viewing it as an opportunity to educate people on what it means to be trans. But I definitely like more than anything, it feels like a weight lifted that I didn’t even know was there.”

– “We just have to get away from [the belief that] being trans automatically means you’re changing your sex or people just think about hormones or like gender-affirming surgery. That’s not what makes someone trans. What makes someone trans is simply that they don’t identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. I’m not changing. I’m simply just sharing who I am and how I always identified.”

– “It definitely had been sitting in the drafts and people knew. My family knew. My girlfriend knew. Mac [Fleet] and Sam [Murphy] knew. A few close friends knew. I just kind of came out because I was ready to. There’s definitely more to this story. There were a lot of reasons…Basically, I’m planning this virtual race year for the second year in a row. Last year people took my race as an opportunity to come out about their sexuality. I just thought that was so cool and such a surprise. I wasn’t expecting it. And so for this year, when planning this year’s race, I was like, OK, I want to have conversations with these people and find a way to incorporate it for this year’s race. In early March, I started recording these podcasts with the four people. I think on the 30th I had my first recording. I’m not a seasoned podcast episode host like you all are – honestly I have so much respect for you after doing my first one. But it ended up being a great conversation. Literally after that conversation, I was like, “OK, I think I want to come out. I was just inspired by Maria. (If you’re listening to this. It was that conversation with her and just her whole story about coming out, race day and how she felt afterward.) I was like, ‘Wow, I want that again and I think I’m ready. So I called my girlfriend and said, ‘I think I’m going to come out. I think I’m ready to do it.’ She said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Just like so supportive. I think more than anything, I just came out. I was ready to and I had felt so affirmed and supported by the people in my life so that I knew that no matter what, I can lean on them. Those are the people that mattered. I think I also finally had the context and language to accurately articulate what I had been navigating my whole life, like when it came to my gender identity.”

– “It’s like such a hot topic because of everything that’s happening with all these bills across the country. And for me, I really just go back to the fact that we’re talking about kids. Literally talking about the kids wanting to compete in sports… I just go back to making sports a place for everyone. I just remember growing up I did this program called Junior Guards. It’s basically just like where I fell in love with running. It’s this program on the beach where little kids are in red bathing suits. The boys are in red board shorts. The girls are in two-piece bathing suits. I did Guards my entire life. It’s where I found that I was a really good runner, really loved running and pushing my body in that way. And I didn’t do it the first summer when I was six because I didn’t want to wear a girl’s bathing suit. I was like, ‘That’s not me. That doesn’t match what I’m feeling inside and I’m not going to do it.’ And so I didn’t it. I sat on the sidelines and watched this sport that was running and swimming on the beach with all my friends. I was like, ‘OK, I can’t do that.’ I basically picked my gender identity over sports. I think trans kids will do that every time. Eventually, the next summer when I was seven, I told myself, ‘I want to do this so badly. Screw it. I’m just going to wear red board shorts and a rash guard.’ I looked like a little boy out there because I didn’t want to wear a bathing suit. That was just like something I wasn’t going to do. I kind of found a way for me to do sport and express my gender identity. If I was forced to wear a girl’s bathing suit, I never would have done it. Eventually, I grew up and progressed and felt comfortable in a girls bathing suit or two pieces or whatever. With these bills, it’s so dangerous because if you say like to a trans kid, ‘OK, you can play sports but I’m sorry,  you just have to do it in the sex that you were assigned at birth.’ They’re not going to do it. Then they’re going to miss out on a lot of opportunities that sport can grant them. Because of Junior Guards, I fell in love with running. Because I fell in love with running, I got to go to a university and get a scholarship and run for U of O and then also Arkansas. I’ve also been able to turn it into a career and represent my country on the world stage. We need to make sports a place for all. I’m just so passionate about creating safe spaces in sport because I’ve been so affected by it personally.”


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