It’s a cold night in Plymouth and thus I am wrapped up in a hoodie and have a rather toasty hot water bottle sitting on my lap. Thoughts today centre around my recent return to playing football, which I am REALLY excited about! If you have five minutes, keep on reading and I’ll take you through why it’s so great for me and also the difficulties that come with it as a trans woman.
Ok, so why is this so why are you so excited Amber?
Well, thank you for asking (yes, I realise I’m talking to myself, let it go, I’ve been crazy for a while).
Returning to sport, particularly a team sport, is something that I have been wanting to do for a while now. About 3 years ago my life was put into a blender, everything changed. With all of the big changes and losing many things in my life I was never able to fully commit to a team.
Since I was tiny I have loved sports and they’ve played a massive part in making me the person I am today. So over the past few months I noticed that there was a distinct lack of sport in my life. I decided it was now time to find a new endeavour to throw my love of sport into.
Having always enjoyed and played reasonably well at football I thought it would be a good one to go for, plus being 29 it’s not a sport I will get very many more chances at, I want to play while I still have a decent amount of pace in my legs!
Have you found a team?
Yes! After searching for local women’s football teams in Plymouth I wasn’t able to find an awful lot of information initially, so I contacted Plymouth Argyle Ladies. They’re the biggest team in the city.
Argyle weren’t looking to take on any new players but gave me contact details for another local club who were, Plympton Ladies FC.
After getting in touch with the manager I was able to join them for training, which I have been to for two weeks now and love it. A lot of practice will be needed until I’m playing at a decent standard, but I’m delighted to be involved with a team again.
Oh, that was easy?
Well… yes and no.
I made it sound very easy, but in reality every step of that process was a difficult milestone. Starting right from sending that first email to Plymouth Argyle, asking about playing. I didn’t know what to expect and was nervous when I didn’t hear back for a few days. to be honest I thought they’d just ignored me!
Again contacting Plympton Ladies FC, I was nervous and trusted the simple tactic of writing a coherent email and thinking ‘F**k it’ – ‘send’!
But that pales in comparison to overcoming the hurdle of going to my first training session. I’m trans and still have no idea whether people who meet me for the first time know that I’m trans or not. It doesn’t so much matter, I’m perfectly happy for people to know I’m trans, I’m proud of it. But not knowing makes some situations hard to read and it’s hard enough meeting a whole team of new people without having extra unknown elements.
I didn’t know what to expect, would they know I’m trans and if so would they care? Would they let me train, would I be turned away? Probably not, but there’s still a lot of prejudice in the world. But also would I be good enough, I haven’t properly played football for years.
A whirlwind of thoughts, all of which grew louder and louder in my mind, which raced out in multiple directions, playing out every different reality of what may or may not happen.
The fear and anxiety nearly got the better of me. I was SO scared to leave my little flat, physically shaking and feeling sick (I always know when I’m at my most nervous because my jaw starts shaking as if I’m shivering). I don’t think been this nervous since the very first time I left the house dressed female. It was a mix of fear and anxiety along with really wanting it to go well because of how much I wanted to do it.
I’m very proud of making even past my front door that day, it may not seem like much, but it was a huge step.
So, what DID happen?
It was great! Nobody said anything about me being trans, so I have no idea if anyone knew or noticed. Which is great, because it’s not relevant. I’m a woman who wants to play football and that’s exactly how I was treated.
I managed to play some ok passes and hit a couple of decent shots, overall pleased with my comeback to sport.
Thank you Plympton Ladies for even just these two training sessions, it may not seem like much but it has brought a balance and fullness back to my life, something that I have certainly needed and am now loving.
What’s the catch?
The catch is that I’m not yet eligible/allowed to play any matches. Simply due to being trans.
It’s understandable, I’m not complaining (yet). Football is split into men’s and women’s leagues so I expected to have to go through some process.
Due to the league being part of the FA I am currently in discussion with the FA to find out if I can take part. I need to send evidence of hormone levels, ID and contact details for the doctor who is prescribing my medications. They seem to have a good trans policy, at present they asses each application for trans participation on a case by case basis, so fingers crossed!
It feels brilliant to be back, even if it is just training at the moment. Sport has always been a huge part of my life and I don’t see any reason why that should change.
And, to finish off this article, here’s a terrible video I made straight after getting back from my first training session. Enjoy my terrible vlogging skills… you’re welcome.