The world of sport is notoriously full of barriers for women trying to eke out a living as pro athletes. But to do so as the first openly non-binary and trans athlete breaks these barriers on two fronts — and this is exactly what Layshia Clarendon, 30, has accomplished.
The one-time WNBA All-Star — who uses the pronouns he/him, she/her and they/them interchangeably — is also parent to a newborn known publicly as Baby C, whom they share with wife, Jessica Dolan.
While these two facts about Clarendon may seem disconnected, this couldn’t be further from the truth; in an ESPN profile, Clarendon shared that parenthood is one of the reasons they’re fighting so hard to make the world a more just and equal place.
When police brutality against POC and Black lives specifically came to wider public attention, Clarendon also took to the mic to say their names. And when lawmakers tried to erect barriers to transgender youth in sport, Clarendon revealed the surgical scars on their chest so others can see themselves reflected in their journey.
That journey included the backlash Clarendon witnessed when their older sister experienced strife within the family after it was discovered that the then-middle-schooler had a girlfriend. Clarendon revealed that they too could see their own situation reflected in that moment, and that they cried, asking, “Dear God, why did you make me this way?”
As they grew older, Clarendon learned to keep their sexuality under wraps, having witnessed first-hand that being gay wasn’t tolerated within her close circle.
Gradually over the years, Clarendon came to embrace their identity and that included work through queer theology — religious ideas that are inclusive of queer people. And as they progressed towards the WNBA, Clarendon realized there was more work to be done so other LGBTQ+ youth can see themselves more wholly included.
Where only eight years ago, many in the WNBA chose to keep their sexuality private, Clarendon opted to buck that trend as an openly LGBTQ+ first-round (read: highly visible) draft pick, opening the gates for others to follow suit and normalizing conversations around LGBTQ+ issues.
Related: 10 stigmas women still face every day.