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I suppose my story really starts in September 2017 although before then I’d been involved in football from more than three decades with Dulwich Hamlet as a fan, committee member and volunteer in myriad roles including, but not only, running the turnstiles, fundraising, writing match reports, looking after social media, writing for fanzines & programmes etc. I’d also been a regular player for the supporters’ team though I’d fallen out of love for a variety of reasons that will become clearer as my story unfolds. Anyway in September 2017, I started feeling myself slowing down, falling asleep in the middle of the day but most noticeably passing blood in my urine. So one day I decided to go into St Thomas’ A&E as a precaution. 24 hours later I found myself in the Intensive Care Unit at Guy’s awaiting a diagnosis of Bladder Cancer which was confirmed a few days later. Thankfully the cancer had not spread from my bladder and after a few nervous moment surgery to remove the bladder pretty much saved my life. This gave me the resolve to root out the things in my life that had allowed me to reach this stage. Smoking was first to go, more than five years clean of cigarettes now, followed by copious alcohol consumption. However these were both symptoms of something that had been with me since. In August 2019 I finally admitted to myself that I am transgender and began the process of transitioning. Covid proved both a blessing and a curse but once things had eased I discovered Goal Diggers FC, a football club that is genuinely inclusive, welcoming all women, trans women included, and non-binary players. From my first tentative steps back into playing, I was so unfit my knee gave out in my first training session, I grew both as person and player gaining strength and self confidence from the women I was playing with and just as importantly those that I was playing against. I discovered a new belief in my own abilities as a player, returning to playing as a goalkeeper, a position I loved playing in but had not done so for 15 years. Such was my improvement as a player that I was approached by a friend involved with Peckham Town who told me the newly reformed Women’s team were in need of a keeper. Like myself the team had a lot of women returning to football who’d found themselves excluded from the game. Although we ended up being relegated the improvement throughout the team was immense from losing our opening game in our Saturday 11s league before I joined 19-0 to ending the season with a 2-1 defeat against the league runners-up. It was hard to hold back the tears when at the end of the season I was named “Managers’ Player of the Season”. This season we’ve continued to improve, winning our first games and being close to the battle for promotion. Meanwhile I’ve continued to play for Goal Diggers, occasionally going from a Peckham game to a Goal Diggers one, most notably on my 58th birthday when a quick change of kits was needed on the sidelines! In addition to the 11s football I’m also playing is a number of small sided leagues such as the Islington Women’s League and the Ladies Super Liga. Both leagues operate a friendly ethos of sharing players and it’s an absolute pleasure to help out opponents, opponents who’ve become more than friends, they’re allies. At the last count I think I’ve played for about a dozen different teams in the Super Liga. In addition to Goal Diggers and Peckham Town I’ve also played for TRUK United, a club providing a safe space for transgender people, male, female and nonbinary, to play the game we love. On Trans Day of Visibility 2022, TRUK took to the field at Champion Hill to face Dulwich Hamlet Women in a game that made history with them fielding a side consisting entirely of trans women. The game was featured on the Discovery+ documentary “Peter Crouch: Save Our Beautiful Game” The strength and confidence I’ve discovered playing the game alongside friends and allies has extended into my wider life. Thanks to them I’ve done things I’d have never thought possible a couple of years ago from crossing the Andes on foot to reach Machu Picchu to filming and even some modelling.
Reason for nomination:
While sport, and football in particular, has become more inclusive, more welcoming and more diverse in recent times, trans athletes have continued to find themselves marginalised in sport. We have become the targets of those who wish to exploit our participation, even our very existence, for their political or financial gain. It needs to be shown that it is the women who play the game who welcome trans women in face of the bile of politicians, media and hatemongers.