01/17/2019 18:45 EST

Reggie Bullock's Tattoo Became A Teachable Moment On His LGBTQ Advocacy Journey

The Detroit Pistons' small forward says he feels "blessed" to be a queer ally in professional sports.

Reggie Bullock of the Detroit Pistons says he always knew he had a chance at NBA glory. What never entered his mind was that he’d be a staunch advocate for the LGBTQ community one day. 

That changed in 2014, when Bullock’s transgender sister, Mia Henderson, was stabbed to death in Maryland. Since then, the athlete says he feels “blessed” to be an outspoken queer ally in professional sports. 

In a new interview for the Advocates for Youth video series “Kikis With Louie,” Bullock recalled how one of his tattoos became a teachable moment as he educated himself on trans issues. Shortly after Henderson’s death, he got a tattoo in her honor, but used the name his sister had used prior to her transition. It wasn’t until after the tattoo had been completed, he said, that he understood he’d made a grievous error. 

“I wasn’t educated enough ― that’s pretty much dead-naming her,” Bullock, who eventually rectified the mistake with a second tattoo, told host Louie Ortiz-Fonseca. “This was the person I thought I knew and the life she lived when it actually wasn’t. She wanted to be recognized as Mia Henderson, which was her street name that she picked up, and that was the real life that she was living.”

He also praised Henderson as “the backbone in my family.”

“She loved dance, she loved fashion ... very loud when she’d get in arguments, but she was a backbone of support,” he said. “She was just a power source to the community.” 

Bullock, 27, has gone to lengths to stay vocal about LGBTQ issues in recent months. 

On Wednesday, he spoke out against South Dakota’s Senate Bill 49. If it becomes law, the measure will prohibit transgender student-athletes from competing on teams that align with their gender identity. In other words, a transgender girl would be required to compete on a boys’ team.  

Last year, he appeared at NYC Pride, and proposed that NBA teams play games in rainbow-colored jerseys to “incorporate #LGBTQ into sports.” 

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