Next in our profiles on out TGI athletes, meet martial artist Kelly Mathew Vanna!
How do you identify or describe your gender?
Female to Male transgender
What sports do you currently play or have you played before?
Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido
Are you a professional athlete?
Yes, but I also have a “day job”. I work at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago
How would you describe your playing style?
Hmmm is bad ass considered a style? 😉
What do you to get ready for competition?
On my way to a demonstration or a competition, I’m usually blasting the Foo Fighters in the car. Right before a performance, I can be found meditating and stretching.
What’s your most memorable sports moment or top accolade?
Appearing on Steve Harvey’s Big Time show and also winning a bronze medal at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.
What have sports meant to you as a TGI person?
Everyone has a God given talent. I truly believe that. Martial arts is MY God given talent. Martial arts has given me the ability to believe in myself. I have become a more confident and well-rounded person because of martial arts.
What do you think are the most pressing issues facing TGI athletes?
Just being accepted as the people that we are. Personally, I have been made to feel as if I were a science experiment. (Yet after people watch me break a stack of bricks, they seem to change their minds!!) People have to look past the TGI and look more at the ATHLETES that we are!!
Please describe a particularly empowering moment for you.
One moment that stands out more than any was the night that I received my 4th degree black belt. My parents were there and my instructor looked at my mother and said “I remember when Mrs. Vanna signed Kelly up for a 3 month summer program. She said ‘Kelly won’t finish the 3 months!’” 28 years later, same instructor, I’ve made it way past the 3 months, and am now one of two 4th degree black belts that my instructor has ever graduated. I have become a Master of my craft. Not a more empowering moment in my life than that!
What advice do you have for young TGI athletes?
It’s not going to be an easy road being a TGI athlete!! Do your best, shrug off the negativity, always be true to yourself!!!!
Is there anyone you would like to thank/acknowledge?
H. Thomas Cameron and my family for NEVER EVER giving up on me!!!!
This is the fifth in our series of TGI athlete profiles. Our goal with this series is to promote the diversity and awesomeness of TGI athletes and to help broaden and improve the cultural narrative surrounding us.
If you are a TGI athlete and you would like to join the group or be profiled, please send us an e-mail at TGIAthleteNetwork@gmail.com.