NBA referee Che Flores becomes first non-binary trans ref in the league

NBA Referee Che Flores

Referee Che Flores is now the NBA’s first out non-binary transgender staff referee, after coming out in a landmark interview this week.

Flores has just started their first NBA season as a staff referee, having worked 35 games last season, and 12 games as a non-staff referee the previous season. Across their 14-year career, they have worked at least 1,000 games.

When Che Flores was first hired, they were proudly announced by the NBA as one of two new female referees.

NBA Referee Che Flores
Che Flores is now the NBA’s first out non-binary transgender staff referee. (Getty Images)

“Being misgendered as she/her always just felt like a little jab in the gut,” they told GQ, explaining that they had privately identified as trans for the last number of years.

Now that Flores has come out, they feel they can “go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably.”

Flores has already come out to some of their colleagues ahead of this year’s NBA referee’s annual preseason meeting.

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The first person Flores came out to was the NBA’s referee training program head, Monty McCutcheon during a mid-season review call last February.

Flores recalls how quickly McCutcheon was able to switch to the correct pronouns and shared those pronouns with the NBA’s officiating operations.

By the end of the 2021-2022 season, even the NBA game announcer was referring to Che as they/them.

NBA Referee Che Flores
The first person Flores came out to was the NBA’s referee training program head, Monty McCutcheon. (Getty Images)

“I got a little emotional and I’m like, ‘Dude, get with it. You’re about to referee a game,’” Flores laughed.

“It allowed me to be, I guess, free in a way,” Flores says. “I was like, ‘All right, cool. I’m here.’”

As a result, the referee has been able to be a more authentic version of themselves at work, which comes as a huge relief.

“When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way,” they said.

“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.”

As well as finally being able to be their true self, Flores has said that one of the main motivators for coming out was giving queer kids someone to look up to.

“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it,” they told GQ.

“And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way. 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.”

By talking about their identity in such a public manner for the first time, Flores said: “I’m allowing you in my life. And then you have the decision to be a part of it or not. 

“I feel like I have a responsibility to be who exactly I am without hiding anything. I am letting everybody in.

“I just feel like just 100 percent myself now, and I just feel so light now moving around, not having to worry about anything. 

“Now, “I don’t have to worry about myself not being myself.”