Today I was sent this advert to review, the new Nike advert. It features athlete Chris Mosier who has been accepted onto the USA national team. He also happens to be trans.
People have touted this as a huge step forward for trans* visibility, for breaking barriers and challenging assumptions on gender. However, all it does is serve to put trans* people in the spotlight while reinforcing the age old narrative that trans people are not “real” men or women.
Because the voice over asks questions such as: “Chris, How’d you know you’d be fast enough to compete against men?….or strong enough? ….”. And yes, they may be valid questions, how did you know you were strong enough *full stop*. But it doesn’t need to be followed by “against men”, because he is a man. You wouldn’t ask that to any other male athlete, assuming that they had grown up wondering if they could compete in their gender category. The fact that these questions are asked to Chris imply that he is not in fact a man and therein lies the problem.
Society has a huge problem with transphobia, not that you would always know it. Often it is hidden in the little snide remarks (you’re taller than I expected!), at the end of sentences (You’re pretty..for a trans girl). This advert reinforces these transphobic ideas by it’s implication that Chris runs fast, for a trans* guy, and thereby its implication that Chris is not a “real” man.