Kaig Lightner was born in Denver, Colorado in 1980. From a young age Kaig didn't quite fit the gender binary.
Disclaimer: Out of respect to Kaig's current gender identity male pronouns will be used to speak about him in past tense. However, Kaig used his birth-given name and female pronouns until the age of 25.
Kaig and his family moved to Redmond, WA in 1987. He grew up in a quiet suburb, but from the first day of 2nd grade to the final day of High School he was teased, bullied and questioned about his gender identity nearly everyday. "Are you a boy or a girl?" was a common daily question. In those days there was very little positive language or media representation of transgender or gender non-conforming people. Kaig felt that he was completely alone in his experience of "not quite fitting in". What did give him a sense of belonging was being a member of the athletic world. Starting at the age of 8 Kaig began playing softball and then quickly started basketball, soccer and eventually volleyball. The team atmosphere, connecting with others and the ability to simply run off his anxiety and anger was just what he needed. Kaig also discovered the unbelievable rewards of coaching at the age of 15. Kaig found coaching to be his true calling.
September, 1999 Kaig stepped onto the vast expanse of the University of Washington campus to discover that he had absolutely no idea what he wanted to dedicate the next four years of learning towards. But after taking a Philosophy 101 course he once again had that feeling of belonging. So for the next 4 years he studied the unanswerable questions of the universe, our society and slowly began to question one of the most prevalent quandaries of modern time - why does the gender binary exist and who does it serve? During this time of exploration of self and society Kaig also began to identify as gay. He came out to his parents at the age 21. This was a monumental step in his journey towards ultimately identifying as a transgender man. It was also during this time that he discovered a brand new sport - rowing.
Kaig took a risk and decided to walk onto the #1 rowing team in the country - also as the shortest person on the team. After 3 months of grueling workouts he clawed his way up to the top novice boat where he shared the privilege of rowing with nationally ranked athletes from both the US and Italy. He had the opportunity to row in the PAC-10 Championships and experience some of the most exhilarating and exhausting athletic competitions of his life. But his gender identity was still being questioned constantly during this time. He was rowing on the women's team but consistently assumed to be on the men's team (and assumed to be the coxswain - the shortest member of the crew!). He started to recognize that something drastic was going to have to change and soon.
May 1, 2005 Kaig moved to Portland, Oregon, not knowing a soul in the city. He had landed an exciting coaching position and soon after also began working in the field of social work via several after school programs. He was also ready to begin a new life using the name Kaig and using male pronouns. By 2007 he began taking testosterone to achieve the much needed masculine traits he had been dreaming about since a teenager. In 2008 he traveled to Baltimore, MD with his parents to have surgery to remove his breasts. It was not long after returning from this surgery that Kaig began to share his personal experiences of transitioning and growing up as a gender non-conforming youth through workshops, trainings and public speaking engagements. He discovered yet again another place he belonged - up on stage!
Kaig has shared his story with hundreds of people over the past decade in addition to helping many understand the complexities and challenges. But on May 1, 2017 he decided to take a bold step and come out to a group of kids he coaches at Portland Community Football Club. Within days of this video being posted to the club's Facebook page it was making headlines in the Huffington Post, NBC.com and making it's way around the world. The video received over 100,000 views in less than a month on YouTube. Kaig never intended for this video to circle the globe, but as soon as the media attention began flowing in he saw it as an opportunity to be a spokesperson for the visibility of transgender people. It also further motivated him to launch Breaking the Gender Binary Consulting.