LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Dawn Wilson has been fighting for LGBTQ+ equality for nearly 30 years.

What You Need To Know

  • Dawn Wilson is a world-class fencer, church elder and LGBTQ+ advocate

  • Wilson has been leading a fairness campaign for nearly 30 years

  • She’s testified frequently and helped shape current USA Fencing policy for trans athletes

  • Once rated 14th in the world, Wilson is once again in the running to join USA Fencing’s National Women’s team

It’s not every day Dawn Wilson can take a break from her busy schedule, because there’s always more to do. 

“If we just walk away, everything just goes away,” Wilson said.

Wilson is an elder at Douglas Boulevard Church in Louisville and a longtime advocate and voice for Kentucky’s LGBTQ+ residents. 

“Couple weeks ago I preached Pentecost here,” Wilson said, sitting on the steps of her church. For decades Wilson has been a leader in a fairness campaign that has pushed progress, and celebrated successes in the fight for equal rights.

“I ended up lobbying in Washington D.C. Locally, I was lobbying for the right of folks not to be discriminated against,” Wilson said.

In this fight for change, there have been victories and also setbacks, even recently for Wilson, notably the passage of Senate Bill 150. The controversial Kentucky law bans gender transition treatment for children, aims to restrict lessons on gender identity and sexuality, and prohibits school districts from requiring staff to use pronouns students use.

“Everything from banning trans athletes to telling people what pronouns they can’t use, telling students you have to use a bathroom that’s dedicated to that binary,” she said of the state law.

Wilson preaches progress and fairness in church and outside of it. Because she’s seen and heard on the public stage, Wilson said others who feel silenced often find their own strength to speak out.

“Once you have a sense of who you are, you’re able to stand up and say, ‘hey, I’m not going to put up with this,’” she said. “I’m a human being. You’re a human being.”

On the matter of trans athletes, Wilson is well versed. Wilson, who transitioned over 20 years ago, is also a world-class fencer and has competed on the USA Fencing Women’s national team in the 50 plus division and previously reached a world ranking of 14th.

The topic of trans athletes has never been debated more, and Wilson’s knowledge has been leveraged when USA Fencing’s governing body shaped its own policy on the matter.

“We actually have a policy that states from six until 14, if you sign an affirmation saying this is not something that’s being done to get an advantage over somebody,... we will let you compete,” she explained.

And for athletes older who have begun a medical transition, they must pause sanctioned competitions for a year.

“One of the things with USA Fencing, especially with belonging, we take that very seriously,” Wilson said. “Because if you don’t feel like you belong, if you feel like you don’t have any agency there, you’re not going to do well in the sport.”

Wilson was fencing in Louisville at the USA Fencing North American Cup host at the Kentucky International Convention Center this past January.

“But the fun part about that was I got to fence at home and a lot of my friends had never seen me fence,” Wilson said with a smile.

Wilson has a long list of passions requiring so much of her time, but as demanding as her days are, none of it is done alone. She’s surrounded by a supportive church family, teammates and allies across the world.

Wilson says she is currently rated 7th in the country in the Over 50 Women’s Division, and in contention to once again join the USA Fencing National Team.