The latest cultural issue for the news media is transgender athletes competing in the Olympics. This issue has raised many questions about whether or not it would be fair for these athletes to compete. On Saturday night’s episode of American Voices, host Alicia Menendez celebrated non-binary track athlete Nikki Hiltz, who competed against women during the Olympic trials, and she asked her to reflect on the recent competition.
Despite not qualifying for the Olympics, Hiltz felt proud for being able to show up and race as a non-binary athlete. During this segment, Menendez brought up how sports are “a very gendered place.” She asked Hiltz about how this affects the experience of non-binary athletes. Despite competing in the women’s category, Hiltz claimed to have been distracted by hearing the race referred to as the women’s 1500:
Hiltz argued the only way to make sports more inclusive would be for everyone to change the labels used for athletic competitions from “gendered terms” such as “women’s sports” to gender-inclusive terms.
Menendez later asked about the “heartbreaking” legislation that is aimed at kids who just want to play sports. Hiltz responded: “…it’s heartbreaking and I think these are kids that just want to play and be themselves. And I would say to that kid, like, you’re special and you’re magical, and there’s nothing wrong with you. And you know, you want to play sports like everyone else and you deserve to.” However, none of the legislation they alluded to prevents kids from playing sports. It just ensures that kids will train and play with their biological sex to prevent unfair advantages in competitions that result from anatomical and physiological differences between males and females. It seems that now the liberal media is criticizing conservatives for their attempts to maintain fair and traditional competition in the Olympics and kid’s sports.
Menendez and Hiltz also attacked conservatives and this legislation because it creates unsafe conditions. Hiltz elaborated on this idea: “You know, I spent three years in Arkansas and I think, you know, I just don’t feel safe there anymore. Just because of these bills and you know, the way that they’re passing through. I think it’s really going to limit a lot of people, especially trans people.” Menendez ended the segment by applauding Hiltz for starting the pride 5k which she claimed provides a safe space for people to be themselves.
American Voices with Alicia Menendez
7:49 p.m. EST
ALICIA MENENDEZ: This all comes as transgender athletes are making history by competing in the Olympics for the first time. With me now, a trans track star who ran in the Olympic trials– this week, Nikki Hiltz is non-binary and came very close to qualifying for the American team. Nikki, tell me, what would going to the Olympics have meant for you?
NIKKI HILTZ: Oh, it would have been everything. It would have been a childhood dream come true. But you know just being able to show up as myself and race as a non-binary athlete this past weekend has been everything.
MENENDEZ: Yeah, tell me about that. How are you feeling about your races this week?
HILTZ: You know, I got sick right before the 1500 final. I think just the pollen in Eugene is something my lungs aren’t used to. So that was really unfortunate you know. And I had two rest days before the 8 to try to kick it, but it just wasn’t in the cards this year, but I’m really happy the way I competed and put myself in it in two events.
MENENDEZ: Nikki, you ran college track in Arkansas, but you now say that you wouldn’t feel safe visiting Arkansas. How will the bills in that state and dozens of other states limit not just the careers of trans athletes, but their ability to live their day-to-day lives?
HILTZ: Yeah. It’s crazy. You know, I spent three years in Arkansas and I think, you know, I just don’t feel safe there anymore. Just because of these bills and you know, the way that they’re passing through. I think it’s really going to limit a lot of people, especially trans people, and you know, yeah, it’s just heartbreaking. And you know, that’s why I’m so determined to keep showing up as myself and, you know, trying to make space for trans people in sport.
MENENDEZ: Well, to that point, you wrote in your coming out letter, quote, the playing fields can be a very gendered place. How does that show up for you? How does that show up for other athletes? And how can sports be more inclusive and mindful of non-binary athletes?
HILTZ: Yeah. It’s a great question. I mean for me, it all comes back to language. I think, you know, I changed my pronouns and now I am referred to as they/them. And it feels amazing. I think — hope sports can you know change their language too. I heard Megan Rapinoe say –she said, athletes competing in women’s sports. And you know that for me was like that’s it you know. Sometimes when I’m in the call room and I hear the women’s 1500, it kind of shakes me for a minute, in a moment where I’m trying to focus on the biggest race of my life. So I think that we can all change our language and make sport, you know, accepting for everyone.
MENENDEZ: Nikki, you founded the pride 5k during the pandemic. Besides raising money for the Trevor Project, what do you see as the goal of this race?
HILTZ: Yeah, it’s funny, I talk about it as a race, but I think it’s more of a community than anything. And to create a space for people around the world to run together and last year, we had four people actually use the race to come out and to be their true, authentic self. And I think that right there what the pride 5k is all about. It’s creating a space safe you know for people to be their unapologetic self. And I’m gonna keep leaning into that by advocacy work, just as much as I’m going to you know keep fighting to make that Olympic team.
MENENDEZ: You know, Nikki, what is particularly heartbreaking about the legislation that we’re seeing across the country is how many pieces of legislation are just aimed at kids who want to play sports for a kid that is watching, who might feel like they’re under attack by their state government. What is your message to them?
HILTZ: Yeah. I mean, it’s heartbreaking and I think these are kids that just want to play and be themselves. And I would say to that kid, like, you’re special and you’re magical, and there’s nothing wrong with you. And you know, you want to play sports like everyone else and you deserve to. So, there’s so many people that have your back and love you and are going to fight for you. And I think, you know, when change is coming, I think that’s when there’s the hardest pushback sometimes. So like, the wave this is coming, the change is coming, and you know, keep leaning into people and things and more importantly yourself, because at the end of the day, you have to be on your own side.
MENENDEZ: Nikki Hiltz, thank you for showing up as yourself. I know you’re creating space for other people to do the same. I appreciate your time.