NBA referee Che Flores just became the the first nonbinary trans official to come out in any major sport in the United States. The 44-year-old just started out in basketball’s most important league in 2022, after working in NCAA, G League and WNBA championship games, also making her the first to accomplish this feat.
After working hard for years to finally make it as an NBA referee, now they say, “I feel like I have a responsibility to be who exactly I am without hiding anything.”
The California native finally opened up how their struggled for the past months to decide how to address this situation, as becoming an official in the league is a male-dominated profession. They considered it a disservice to themselves to remain hidden.
Che Flores has become the first openly transgender and nonbinary referee in American professional sports.
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) October 23, 2023
Che hopes that their announcement will have a positive impact for future generations.
“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it. And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way. This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways,” Flores expressed.
After 13 years officiating in some of the biggest games in both G League and WNBA, they finally got a chance to make it to the most prestigious competition, which was a dream come true that came out of both patience and resilience.
“One piece I was missing for myself was that no one knew how I identified. Being misgendered as she/her always just felt like a little jab in the gut,” the veteran referee explained about their decision.
Now that the air has been cleared, a weight has been lifted. “I can go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably,” Che recognized.
The NBA also holds the honor of being the first major U.S. sports league to have a woman officiate a match back in the 90s
The National Basketball Association has historically been a platform for taking small steps into a diverse and modern society, as it holds the honor of being the first major sports league in the United Stated to give a woman the opportunity of officiating a game.
Back in 1997, Violet Palmer refereed the season opener between the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. Almost 20 years later, she openly addressed herself as being gay in 2014.
In Flores’ historic interview with GQ Sports, they sexplained the steps they took to finally come out in the open. Back in September, the 44-year-old shared the news to her colleagues and admitted to feeling incredibly liberated.
“When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way. This is the first time I’m comfortable expressing myself through my own fashion and not having to worry about it.” Flores said. “I feel one hundred percent myself now,” Che shared.