Che Flores has become the National Basketball Association (NBA)’s first openly transgender and non-binary referee after coming out in a major interview on Monday, October 23.
Flores first became an NBA official in 2022 and worked 35 games last season. When they were hired, the league was proud to diversify its predominantly cis-male group of referees and first identified Che as one of two new women referees. However, this description was difficult for Flores, who had privately identified as trans for years.
During an interview with GQ that was published on Monday, Che (pronounced “Shay”) shared that “being misgendered as she/her always just felt like a little jab in the gut.”
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) October 23, 2023
They came out to some of their colleagues last month during preseason meetings and shared their identity and pronouns with the referee training program head, Monty McCutcheon, who was extremely supportive.
McCutchen said: “There’s a confidence that comes anytime any of us claim ourselves, both privately and publicly. When you are able to say publicly who and what you stand for, you can’t help but grow in strength and courage.”
Some of the NBA’s officiating operations and game officers used their correct pronouns last year, but the general public still heard Che referred to with she/her pronouns.
Sports and queerness can be a hard intersection to navigate but @nba referee Che Flores is letting people in on what it really means to be part of such a community.
— Brauna Marks (@therealbrauna) October 23, 2023
In the GQ interview, Che was described as the first out trans and non-binary referee in American professional sports. Che explained: “I just feel like just 100 percent myself now, and I just feel so light now moving around, not having to worry about anything.”
Flores first came out as queer at the age of 19, when their mom found a letter they’d written to their girlfriend. Over time, their parents have become LGBTQ+ allies.
In addition to feeling more comfortable and being able to show up as themself, Che said one of their main motivations for coming out publicly is so that queer kids will have someone to look up to, adding: “This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways.”
While trans rights are under attack and trans athletes are facing discrimination worldwide, Che is entering their second season as an NBA staff referee this year. Flores will spend the next several months travelling around the US to referee games as a visibly out and proud trans and non-binary sports professional.
© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.