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‘Describing it in one word, lifesaving:’ Transgender athlete talks importance of sports in South Dakota

Published: Feb. 28, 2021 at 5:40 PM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) -Football, a sport played all across the United States. For some, it’s just a pastime, but for Kris Wilka, it’s more.

“Describing it in one word, lifesaving,” Wilka, a seventh-grader at North Middle School in Harrisburg said.

Wilka knew exactly who he was from a young age.

“Ever since I could process any thought, I knew I wanted to be a boy,” says Wilka.

He has played football for the last five years, first as a quarterback and now as a pulling guard. To him, it’s more than just a game.

“It is everything to me. I mean, if football didn’t exist, I don’t think I would be here, honestly, because it has saved my life. I will not lie. It has,” says Wilka.

While the sport has helped Wilka thrive and create new friendships, that wasn’t always the case. His last school wouldn’t let him play because he is transgender. They feared he would confuse the other players.

Now, Wilka’s supported not only by his new school but also by his teammates.

“About two weeks ago, I told them that I was transgender because I wanted to tell them personally before anything got out, and they were like, ‘Dude that’s so cool, that’s amazing,’ and I was like: ‘Woo, that is not expected,’” says Wilka.

Now Wilka’s tackling a new opponent, the South Dakota State legislature and a bill aimed directly at transgender students. He went on the defense in front of legislators in Pierre, and the seventh-grader has a message for everyone in the Mount Rushmore State.

“Respect the person next to you and the person behind you and just let them live their life the way they want to and make them feel accepted because that all anyone ever wants,” says Wilka.

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