American middle-distance runner Nikki Hiltz used the occasion of Transgender Day of Visibility to announce on Instagram they identify as trans and nonbinary. Hiltz had previously come out as gay while in college and has been a visible and affirming presence for gay athletes in the past. Now, she hopes her revelation will help bring greater visibility and affirmation to trans athletes afraid of living truthfully and openly.
“Hi, I’m Nikki and I’m transgender,” Hiltz posted to Instagram yesterday. “That means I don’t identify with the gender I was assigned at birth.
Hilitz, 26, who now uses she/they personal pronouns, went on to politely explain and define their gender identity for followers.
“The word I use currently to describe my gender is non-binary,” she continued. “The best way I can explain my gender is as fluid.”
The middle-distance runner with their eyes on the Tokyo Summer Olympics said sometimes she awakens “feeling like a powerful queen” while other times they are “just a guy being a dude.” And then there are times they feel entirely outside the gender binary altogether.
“It’s complicated and complex,” Hiltz continued, noting their identity is still something they are “trying to navigate” but that the time was right to share their gender fluidity with the public.
“Posting this is both exciting and terrifying but I am and always will be a firm believer that vulnerability and visibility are essential in creating social change and acceptance,” she explained. “So here I am, once again, coming out of a closet to be my true authentic self,” referring to previously coming out as gay seven years ago at the age of 19.
While she experienced some negative comments from the public after that earlier revelation, the overwhelming response was positive. Plus, they soon learned that they were running for something greater than trophies and recognition, but to inspire and empower others.
“I was at a meet one time and this dad approached me right before the race and said, ‘I want you to know that my daughter just came out to me and she said she saw Nikki Hiltz do it and if she can be out and proud, so could she,’” Hiltz explained via Team USA last year. “During that race I thought I’m doing it for more kids like that so more kids can see me. I feel like I have this superpower that none of my competitors have in that I have this whole community behind me and supporting me.”
Hiltz placed that responsibility to the community front and center when her 2020 Olympics dreams were placed on hold due to the global pandemic. Rather than sulk, she instead used the downtime to organize a virtual 5k Pride run in conjunction with Golden Coast Track Club in San Diego where she trains.
“I wanted there to be something for people to look forward to,” they said last year. “That’s when I thought that we could do a virtual race and have it be the pride celebration for Pride Month.”
Hiltz promised to continue with that type of activism and visibility now that they have come out as trans.
“Today I can be visible because of the many Trans folks who have paved the way for me,” Hiltz posted. “So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you and happy trans day of visibility to my beautiful and powerful trans family.”