The National Basketball Association has announced that Che Flores has become the league’s first openly “nonbinary” referee.
Claiming she hopes to be a. model for “queer” youths, Flores says that when anyone called her a woman, it felt like a “jab in the gut,” Fox News reports.
“One piece I was missing for myself was that no one knew how I identified,” the California native told GQ magazine. “Being misgendered as she/her always just felt like a little jab in the gut.”
Flores prefers the pronouns “they/them,” she has told the league.
Che Flores has become the first openly transgender and nonbinary referee in American professional sports.
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) October 23, 2023
“When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way,” Flores continued. “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 now.”
“I can go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably,” she said.
And she hopes her example will be as a role model for “queer kids.”
“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it,” she said.
“And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way,” Flores explained. “This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways. 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.”
“I feel like I have a responsibility to be who exactly I am without hiding anything. I am letting everybody in,” Flores added.
Flores joined the NBA as a non-staff official during the 2021-22 season. She also officiated in the WNBA’s G League for ten seasons.
She was also a ref for the NCAA for 13 years and officiated at the 2021 NCAA Women’s National Championship Game and the Women’s Final Four in 2019.
Flores will officially be identified as “they/them” at the top of the season this year, though she was on hand to officiate at 35 games last season while officially being identified as “she.”