I first became aware of Chris Mosier about five years ago, when I was talking with a friend. He ran (still runs) the zine Original Plumbing, a resource and culture outlet for men like us: Trans men. I don’t remember how Chris Mosier came up or what exactly we said about him, but there was a lot tosay. How he was the first track star running in men’s races as a trans guy. How he was a visible trans athlete. How he created a path for future athletes who want to compete and don’t fit neatly into one category or the other.
Chris wrote for Original Plumbing. He wrote about being the first of his kind–or rather the first visible trans male athlete. He wrote about what he saw as his role, his responsibility in speaking out and being seen, so that people after him would know that someone existed before them. The things he wrote were moving, startling and beautiful.
This Olympic year, Mosier is more visible than ever. He’s the first trans athlete on our USA team. He changed the IOC rules so that they would include him and all trans athletes to come. And he just starred in an extremely personal, beautifully-shot Nike ad that’s a game changer not only for trans stories, but for the future of advertising.
The ad opens with bouncy, neutral music, and a brief introduction to Chris. We follow him through the streets of New York, as an unseen narrator asks him some pretty personal questions. Uncomfortable questions, really. “How did you know you could compete against men?” “How did you know your team would accept you?”
His answer to all these questions is the same: “I didn’t.”
So by the end, when he’s asked if he ever thought of quitting, we’re not surprised to hear him answer again:
“Yeah. But I didn’t.”
It’s kind of a sucker punch. And yes, we’ve seen these ads before. “Inspirational” sports-related coverage that show just how far persistence, hard work, and adversity can take you in this world. But this ad is different. It’s not trying to play at your heartstrings—it just does. It’s organic. It’s not weepy, sentimental, or condescending. It’s real, and it positions Chris’s struggle and his achievement in the real of the everyday. Why does Chris do what he does when there are all these obstacles in the way?
Because it never occurred to him not to.
That’s what real achievement is. It doesn’t look like bravery. It doesn’t look like struggle—it looks like doing something that needs to be done because it would never occur to you not to do it. Because the thought of backing down is impossible. It doesn’t even cross your mind.
Chris Mosier isn’t just an inspiration. He isn’t a just hero. To call him those things is to take away from what he actually is: A worker, a doer. Someone who doesn’t shy away from pain or fear, but accepts those things as a natural part of like.
He’s someone who reminds us that sometimes you have to leap before you look.