USC trailblazer encourages others to live authentically

Headshot of Karrie Kingsley

Karrie Kingsley hopes to create a safe environment and serve as a role model for students who struggle with their gender identity.

I could say what I wasn’t, but I couldn’t say what I was.”

This realization about their identity has led Karrie Kingsley to a lifetime of advocacy work on behalf of others who have struggled with issues of gender identity. Kingsley’s mom likes to joke that their first sentence was “no dress” as an 18-month-old — an early sign of activism.

Kingsley, USC’s associate chief inclusion and diversity officer for faculty and staff success, was the first assigned-female-at-birth player on a boys baseball team as a young child growing up in Santa Monica; they stormed the boy’s water polo tryouts when they were a little older, fighting discrimination all the while.

Even though they were good enough to be selected for the all-star team in baseball, Kingsley was told they could not join the team for a tournament out of town because the coaches could not figure out how to chaperone them.

“I think that is so bizarre that you could just tell me, just boldface discrimination basically, that you can’t come even though you’re good enough to be there,” Kingsley said. “We’re going to give you the league MVP award as compensation.”

Read more about Karrie’s story