Michael Turner of the Football v Homophobia Youth Panel gives his thoughts on barriers to trans participation in sport:
The English Football’s Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Action Plan (2016) highlights the FA’s vision for everyone to be actively involved in football.
‘There should be no barriers to involvement or development and football should always operate in a safe, fun and friendly environment.’
If this is the case then why are we still seeing so little participation in football from the trans community?
There are a number of potential barriers to participation and, while this is not an extensive list, it’s worth considering each as food for thought.
Accessing sports facilities
Access to sports facilities can be one of the biggest obstacles faced by trans people.
If someone doesn’t necessarily physically present as the gender they identify with, using gendered facilities can feel both awkward and potentially dangerous. Communal showers may further exacerbate this issue, with trans people not wanting to cause discomfort to other people accessing the facilities. Particularly in the case of trans people who aren’t currently undertaking hormone treatment/having re-assignment surgeries, gendered facilities can be an all-round uncomfortable experience and a large factor in the lack of trans involvement in sports.
For people who identify outside of the default ‘male’ or ‘female’, finding a team or club to participate with can be difficult. Finding a place to fit in within a mostly gendered environment can be prevent non-binary people from getting involved in sport as a whole.
Fear or experience of abuse due to gender identity and expression in football is a genuine concern for trans people. This could come in many forms. Interacting with staff, players or other facility users who aren’t as educated on trans issues may leave trans people susceptible to abuse – be it verbal or physical. Without the assurance of support or understanding, trans people may not even consider getting involved in the sport, due to the already high statistics of prejudice and abuse towards the community. As well as this, the continued LGBTphobia prevalent in the stands at football games at all levels is often enough to make trans people not feel comfortable enough to attend games or events like other fans are able to.
There are plenty of other reasons why a trans individual may feel excluded from the football world, and so plenty of reasons why the football world should act to stop them from feeling excluded – but it’s not all doom and gloom. More and more trans people are getting involved as players, club staff, referees, and more. With that, the barriers to football can hopefully start coming down.