Mack Beggs is the subject of the ESPN Films 30 for 30 short “Mack Wrestles” that is co-directed by Erin Sanger and Taylor Hess (check out our interview with them here). It’s about his struggle as a transgender athlete at a high school in Euless, Texas. Because Texas is one of nine states that uses the standard of gender assigned at birth (rather than how you identify) for student athletes, Mack was forced to compete with girls. Then people accused him of cheating, and the uproar from parents eventually became a national news story with Mack as the unwilling participant at the center of it all.
We briefly spoke with Mack after watching the short film, which premiered March 8 at SXSW. Read on to find out more about his story:
Is this your first time at SXSW?
Mack: Yeah, and it’s really cool.
It must be weird to be here for your first time as a documentary subject and not just a participant.
Mack: Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s pretty different.
So, what was it like to go from just a high school student to local, then statewide, then national news?
Mack: It was pretty crazy, because I was just living my life and then it became news. I just wanted to wrestle.
Did that affect your decision to be the subject of a documentary?
Mack: Yeah, it did. I always wanted to be able to be a voice, so it was kind of a gift. But at first it wasn’t really good, being in the news, but making this helped.
Yeah, it seems like it allowed you to change the narrative.
Mack: Exactly. That’s what I wanted to do, was to be able to have my own voice and tell my own story. Like, I was posting online during it but this is bigger.
Do you hope to become an icon or role model for future generations of athletes and people in general?
Mack: Yeah, sure.
Is there anyone you look up to or find particularly inspiring?
Mack: I’d have to say my coach at Life University. He’s always pushing us, like if you want to do something you have to do it. He lets us know that everything in life is earned, and he’s really great.
It seemed like, in the documentary, your family, friends and coach were supportive. But how did they deal with you being in the news so much?
Mack: They all just really wanted me to stay safe, and they tried to do that for me.
What other interests do you have besides wrestling? Is there anything else you would want people to know about you?
Mack: Hmmm. I’m really into marine biology, actually. I think I might want to do something with that, because I like to watch a lot of documentaries about it and I like the water.
So you think that might be a path you’d take?
Mack: Yeah, and I’m at a good school for it. But if I didn’t do that, I’d definitely want to be a coach.
“Mack Wrestles” will be playing one more time at SXSW, on March 16 at the Alamo Drafthouse on S. Lamar Boulevard.
Featured image credit: SXSW
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dogs, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia.