NBA referee Che Flores has made LGBTQIA+ history as the first openly trans and non-binary ref in American pro sports.
The sports official – who uses they/them pronouns – announced the exciting news in their immersive feature for GQ.
“When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way. This is the first time I’m comfortable expressing myself through my own fashion and not having to worry about it. I feel one hundred percent myself,” they explained.
“One piece I was missing for myself was that no one knew how I identified. Being misgendered as she/her always just felt like a little jab in the gut. I can go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably.”
Elsewhere in the feature, the veteran referee opened up about their heartwarming coming out experience with the NBA’s head of referee training and development, Monty McCutchen.
“He immediately just called me Che, with no problem, which just makes you feel more comfortable and easier to let him know everything that was related to my gender,” they told the publication.
Following the heartfelt exchange, McCutchen sent their preferred pronouns and name to ref operations, which were later announced during Flores’ last game assignment.
Meet Che Flores, breaking barriers and making history as the NBA’s first trans and non-binary referee. Their passion for the game and commitment to being their true self inspires us all.
— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) October 26, 2023
“I got a little emotional, and I’m like, ‘Dude, get with it. You’re about to referee a game. It allowed me to be free in a way. I was like, ‘All right, cool. I’m here.'”
Lastly, Flores expressed their hopes to inspire younger queer individuals who may be going through a similar gender journey.
“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high profile stage and not using it. And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way,” they said.
“This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways. For me, that is the most important – to just be a face that somebody can be like, ‘Oh, okay, that person exists. I think I can do that.'”
The upcoming 2023-2024 season is set to be Flores’ second outing as a ref in the NBA, with them first working for the league as a non-staff official in 2021.
Before joining the aforementioned league, they had cultivated a long and successful career working games for the G League, WNBA and the NCAA.
Congratulations are in order for Che Flores!