January 30, 2021
Layshia Clarendon announces they had top surgery
The New York Liberty point guard gets support from his team and others within the WNBA community and the sports media landscape
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On Friday afternoon, New York Liberty guard and WNBPA First Vice President Layshia Clarendon took to social media to announce that on January 13th, they had undergone top surgery.
The WNBA All-Star recounted the moments leading up to her surgery on Instagram, describing the moment she walked in for her procedure. She expressed how liberating it was to be free of her chest to see it the way she’s always seen it.
For the first time, they felt “a sense of gender euphoria as opposed to gender dysphoria.”
“Sighhhh…freedom… freedom at last,” he wrote. “I’m usually not scared to share news publicly but the amount of hate, myths & ignorance surrounding Trans and Non-Binary people’s existence actually had me debating sharing this joy. I want Trans people to know and see that we’ve always existed & no one can erase us! I want people to remember that my freedom is your freedom because none of us are free until we are all free!!!”
Clarendon has identified as non-cisgender since 2015, when they wrote a story called “Keeping the Faith” in The Players’ Tribune. But back then, Clarendon wasn’t necessarily sure exactly what that meant. They knew what they weren’t but not who they were. Clarendon initially just saw the binary narratives associated with transness, and it was framed often “like this destination.”
“I knew what I wasn’t but I didn’t know what I was,” they told Chase Strangio, a lawyer at the ACLU, on Friday night during an Instagram Live. “Because we’ve framed transness and so many of the narratives that we’re now seeing, I think in more recent years and more public way of like this concept of being nonbinary and then it was like, ‘Oh, I think that’s me.’”
In an Instagram post in December, Clarendon pronounced loudly and proudly that “There’s No One Way To Be Trans.”
While he was anxious to share the news of his top surgery, he was comforted and even overwhelmed by all of the support he received on Friday from the WNBA, other athletes, and sports media folks.
“I was nervous about posting this and the slap in the face of love that I got and like the mothering hug in the best of ways has been hard to even put into words,” she said on Instagram Live.
Immediately after Clarendon announced their news to the world, the Liberty’s franchise’s official social media accounts followed suit with support. “The New York Liberty family is in full support of Layshia Clarendon and their choice to live authentically,” the statement read. “The Liberty has been and will continue to be an organization that celebrates the individuality all of people.”
Teammate Amanda Zahui B. expressed her joy for Clarendon, quoting their announcement and tweeting: “❤️💙 you are amazing.” Co-WNBPA executive committee member and Atlanta Dream forward Elizabeth Williams shared an Instagram story showing Clarendon love and support. The WNBPA made a statement supporting its First Vice President. “With the support of this union, Layshia has shared a personal part of their story with the world and reminds us that what it means to be human is to be authentic, holistic, and inclusive.”
NWSL and USWNT star Megan Rapinoe praised Clarendon and acknowledged the path the point guard is blazing.
Prominent figures in sports media including espnW’s Sarah Spain and Around the Horn’s Tony Reali not only embraced Clarendon’s bravery but explained exactly how their bravery will result in action and in turn make the world a better place.
Within minutes of her post, Clarendon’s bravery allowed other folks to feel seen and strive to embody their truest selves as well. A middle school teacher who wished they had someone like Clarendon to look up to as a child gushed on Instagram that now their students will.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert shared her own thoughts about Clarendon and their story. Engelbert reminisced about an emotional discussion the two of them had. Her hope is that Clarendon’s story encourages “all levels of sport” to support the trans community.
And Clarendon herself is already making an impact on the trans community within the sports world. The Next’s Jenn Hatfield wrote earlier this month about their role in signing an amicus brief opposing an Idaho law barring transgender women from women’s sports. The bottom line is that Clarendon wants folks to know that trans people belong in sports and everywhere. She wants folks to connect the dots and understand that trans people are everywhere and aren’t so far away from broader society.
“I wanted people to realize especially the platform I have… like you’re asking if my existence matters, like do I belong in sports? Mind you, I’m already in sports and I already do belong,” he said while on Instagram live with Strangio.
After an hour of talking to Strangio about both their identities and what can be done to counter anti-trans legislation across the country, Clarendon took a deep breath before signing off. They were grateful.
“Thank you for everyone who was over the top supportive today,” he said on Friday night. “It honestly really meant the world to me and I was really nervous to see people’s reactions and y’all just showed up and showed out in the best f*cking ways ever. So thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Written by Jackie Powell
Jackie Powell covers the New York Liberty and runs social media and engagement strategy for The Next. She also covers women's basketball for Bleacher Report and her work has appeared in Sports Illustrated and SLAM. She also self identifies as a Lady Gaga stan, is a connoisseur of pop music and is a mental health advocate.