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NBA Referee Che Flores Comes Out as Transgender and Nonbinary

NBA Referee Che Flores Comes Out as Transgender and Nonbinary

NBA Referee Che Flores formerly Cheryl
Image: Soobum Im/Getty Images

The veteran referee is in their second full season as an NBA referee.

NBA referee Che Flores came out as transgender and nonbinary in an interview with GQ published yesterday.

Flores is in their second season with the league as a staff referee, after working 10 years in the WNBA and 9 years in the NBA’s G League, as well as officiating games for the NCAA. Che (pronounced “Shay”) is the first out trans or nonbinary referee in the NBA, and potentially the other major professional sports leagues in the U.S. as well.

“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, who uses they/them pronouns, told GQ. “I don't have to worry about myself not being myself.”

Flores said they had identified privately as trans and nonbinary over the past few years.

They took notice when they were misgendered in a press release announcing their promotion, but didn’t realize the important role they could play in the affirmation of the community until Flores was recognized and thanked at a queer party in Los Angeles last season.

“That conversation really shifted my idea of timing, as far as letting the league know,” Flores said of the encounter.

They also told their partner, the artist Kait Shuster, about the conversation and a new sense of urgency they felt to be a more visible presence for the community.

The first person in the league Flores told was Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s senior vice president of referee development and training. McCutchen had been tracking Flores’s career for years before he added them to his staff of referees for the 2022-23 season. He immediately responded to their coming out by using Flores’s chosen name and offering to send their preferred pronouns to the rest of the league officials.

Flores stressed they are not using the league to call attention to themselves, but rather using their visibility to deliver an affirmational message to others, especially youth, who are questioning or coming to terms with their identity.

“This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways,” Flores said. “For me, that is most important – to just be a face that somebody can be like, Oh, okay, that person exists. I think I can do that.”

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