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Meet WNBA’s First Openly Non-Binary Transgender Athlete Layshia Clarendon

Basketball Player Layshia Clarendon arrives for the Premiere Of Fox Searchlight Pictures'
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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. 

Related: Levelling the playing field: sport exec Eva Havaris talks becoming CEO at 30 and more.

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.

See also: 10 celebrities who are owning their pansexual identity.

Layshia Clarendon #7 of the New York Liberty gives a thumbs up during the second half of a game against the Washington Mystics at Feld Entertainment Center on August 07, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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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. 

See also: First open LGBTQ+ couple in sports to appear in ESPN’s body issue is engaged.

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.


Related: How Kim Ng is making history as the first Asian female GM in Major League Baseball

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. 

Related: Sarah Thomas to be the first woman to ref a Super Bowl.

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

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