Detroit Pistons forward Reggie Bullock is turning personal tragedy into advocacy.
On Saturday, trans actresses Amiyah Scott and Angelica Ross will introducethe NBA star atGLAAD Media Awards in New York, where he will talk about losing his sister Mia Henderson, a Black trans woman who was murdered in Baltimore in 2014. A jury eventually acquitted her killer, Shawn Oliver, of all counts.
Ahead of his appearance at the awardsBullock spoke to INTO about his call to use his platform forLGBTQ activism and his favorite memory of Mia.
Reggie, thanks so much for talking to me today. I first want to say I’m sorry for the loss of your sister, Mia. Not everyone who loses someone feels called to then be an activist. What do you feel called you to do the work in the wake of the loss you experienced?
Well, I just started to see how many other lives were being takencases pretty much coming to an end without pretty much getting the person who did the crime. It was a decision of mine to be an advocate and stand up for something that hit close to home with my sister. The platform that I have with being a basketball player to bring awareness and stand up for something I believe init’s something that hits close to home for me and it’s a community that gets overlooked. I wanted to use my platform to bring awareness. I never truly understood my sister’s life and I wanted to learn about her community and stand up for them.
LIVE ON MIA 🌈 pic.twitter.com/y7BvT43Vyx
— Reggie Bullock (@ReggieBullock35) April 17, 2018
Did you ever feel like it was hard for you to speak up about LGBTQ acceptance, specifically for trans women, as someone in the sports world?
Well, I would say back in college, I knew that my sister had transitioned, but I didn’t know so much about the community. But when I got to the NBA and I got more help around me, my organization, I told my story, people started hearing my story and people started to make it a well-known thing, and I was able to stand up for my sister. It was something that was real and was truethere was nothing fake about it. I felt like I had the perfect voice and personality to be able to stand up for it.
Have you spoken to your fellow teammates or coaches about your activism and advocacy?
A lot. I have coaches that support me. Coach Otis [Smith]his wife comes to a lot of the events I have for the LGBT community. He’s one of the assistant coaches. My teammatesthey know what I’m standing up for and the reasons I’m doing it. I have a lot of support. I know that they all know why I’m standing up and I’m getting a lot of help from organizations and everybody around me to be able to use my platform.
What led you to work with GLAAD and raise awareness about trans women of color?
GLAADonce they heard my story and saw how much it meant to me and how much an impact you can have, they reached out to my organization and they reached out to my head of PR and my team and my organization, I met with them. And I wanted to be a voice for my sister, so I started working with them and it’s been going well so far.
I read that you got a tattoo on your leg for your sister. Can you tell me what the tattoo is, and what was behind you getting it?
I have my sister’s name and LGBTQ on top of her name with the day that she passed away. It’s Mia Henderson, the name she went by, because I knew how much it meant to Mia, to be who she actually was. So I got her name tattooed on my leg. I knew [the LGBTQ community] was a community she was a part of that I didn’t know that much about, so I got the letters above her name so that every day I walk in my life I can learn more about the community and advocate for it.
In a world where people are perpetually excluded for their differences, hated for their identities and subjected to discrimination simply because of how they look, live or love, I choose to stand against injustice. You are free to choose how you live, so I choose to stand for equality in the community and inclusion of all human beings. My sister, Mia Henderson, was murdered in a hate crime for simply being who she was. You do not have to support everyone’s choices in the world, but it is important to practice tolerance and support that everyone should be free to make their own choices without being subjected to persecution. I chose to follow the rainbow in search of what I hope will be brighter days worth more than gold. If you see me around you may notice my watch band. It represents the rainbow I follow and that I will forever keep my sister in my heart and on my mind. RIP MIA HENDERSON 🌈💔 (10/6/87- 7/16/14) I STAND WITH YOU
Can you tell us some of your favorite things about your sister? A favorite memory?
I’ll say that my favorite memory is probably when I was in middle school and I think she was in high schoolshe was probably in 11th [grade] and I was in seventh or eighth, and I came home one day and she was like “Reggie, come here and listen to this song. Come watch this performance!” And she grabbed a chair and the song was “Cater 2 U” by Beyonce, and she was imitating Beyonce dancing in front of the stairs. So that was probably one of the strongest memories of her, of her putting on a performance just so that I could watch.
What do you think is the main message that you want to convey from your platform?
Pretty much I would say that we need to understand the lives of people in the LGBTQ community. We have to bring equality, we have to integrate them into sports to be able to compete at the highest level and just try to understand those lives without isolating them from the rest of the world.