Danielle Cortez resigned before being dismissed. After the transition, the MLB photographer briefly quit her dream job in her hometown as she didn’t believe an openly transgender person could work at the stadium.
She returned a few months later, coming out to her boss. But Cortez still had no idea how she would be received at Chase Field, where the Arizona Diamondbacks play their home games. Then she had a conversation with a trusted colleague, and suddenly she was able to breathe out.
A year later, Cortez launched the first pitch at Diamondbacks Pride Night. It was a triumphant moment. Cortez wasn’t just being kissed where she served as her emotional refuge.
She was in the center of the scene.
“Friday was so surreal,” Cortez told Outsports in an email. “Two years ago, I remember working for Pride Night and being hurt so badly that I wasn’t to the point, personally, that I could celebrate out loud. And now to be recognized and celebrated by the team I was obsessed with was something really special.
Cortez told him the story of his coming out Zach Buchanan from The Athletic, detailing her struggles with gender dysphoria since the age of nine. Her anxiety continued to grow for two decades, which led to her quitting playing baseball as a teenager.
But she always felt comfortable inside Chase Field. As a college student, Cortez applied for a social media internship with his beloved Diamondbacks, at the behest of a professor, Josh Rawitch, who is also the team’s vice president of communications.
For the past six years, Cortez has worked as a “live content creator” for the MLB, taking photos and videos during every Diamondbacks home game. At first, she tried to live two separate lives, but couldn’t suppress her inner anguish. The breaking point came on her way to a spring training game in 2017.
Cortez suffered a panic attack while driving. At that point, she decided she would be dating in two years. She started counseling and in August 2019 started hormone replacement therapy.
At the end of the 2019 season, Cortez believed she would never return to Chase Field. But she did, sitting inside Chase Field for the first time as herself to watch summer practice one day last July. Director of Media Relations Casey Wilcox was the first person to approach her and soothed her nerves with four simple words: “We love you here”.
The Diamondbacks matched Wilcox’s words to the action. In a phone conversation with Rawitch, Cortez remarked that she got dehydrated at work because she didn’t want to choose which bathroom to use.
At the end of the day, Chase Field had a gender-neutral washroom.
After the transition, the stadium remains a safe space for Cortez, as it always has been. She is part of the Diamondbacks employee group dedicated to LGBTQ issues, which is how she first met Billy Bean, the MLB Ambassador for Inclusion.
Friday night, Bean was crouched behind the plate, awaiting Cortez’s throw.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about me,” Cortez said. “It’s about showing everyone watching that they belong, not just baseball, they belong anywhere and everywhere, no matter who they are or who they love. And it’s so important to me. “
You can follow Danielle Cortez on Twitter here.