“The easy thing would be to give up refereeing, but I didn’t want to give up. Why should I give up something I love because I’m trans?”
The first trans-female football referee has very publicly transitioned, in a sport not known for being inclusive.
46 year old Lucy Clark from Surrey took to the field as herself for the first time on the 19th of August, armed with a pink whistle.
“It went really well”, Lucy told Transnews. In fact everything has gone well since she announced that she would be refereeing as a woman.
“It’s been totally amazing. The support has been quite overwhelming. Old friends have come out of the woodwork, and the referee community has been very supportive”.
“Guys I’ve worked with had no clue, but some said things from the past have now started to fall into place”.
Lucy had stopped taking showers at the end of games after she started hormone therapy three years, and she arrived with her kit on under her jacket & tie so she could change without stripping off. Now the other refs know why.
“I went on the pitch with my nails painted inside my boots”, she laughed, “I’m not paying £15 to have them done just to take the polish off for a game of football”.
Lucy has known since she was about 7 or 8.
“The clues were always there”, she says, “I had pink and white teddy which went everywhere with me”.
As a player, a manager, and a referee, football has been a big part of Lucy’s life since she was a child.
She refereed her first game at the age of ten when she was in the little league, and became a full referee about 15 years ago. By then she was going out as Lucy, and people close to her already new the rest her, but on the pitch it was something to hide.
As part of preparing for GRS next spring, her part in her favourite sport had to change. And now things are moving quickly. The first three games with a pink whistle have been women’s matches, but on Monday she will referee a boys’ game.
Preparing for the worst
“It’s an under 18’s game”, she says, “rather than start with a senior game I’m doing this as a test”.
In the past Lucy reckons she had refereed over a thousand games, and when she sent players off as a man
she was often faced with abuse. So she’s not looking forward to the possibility of any outburst the first time she has to send someone off in this new phase of her refereeing career.
“I’m a realist, I know it’s going to happen. I’m prepared for the worst. Let’s see how the FA deal with that as and when it happens”.
Support and advice
So far, the FA have been supportive. Lucy says everyone there has been very nice, but they’ve never dealt with a situation like this before. When she first contacted them to talk about referring as a woman they didn’t have a clue where to begin.
One senior official joked “this is going to test our inclusion policies”.
Lucy is a friend of the former boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, who had a high profile coming out four years ago. Kelly’s advice was to go to the papers with a positive story, before one of them found out for themselves and printed something grubby.
Complete and utter whirlwind
Kellie suggested the Mirror, because they’d been good to her when she was in a similar position.
“She said if they did a good first story that I was happy with the other papers were likely to follow suit. It was sound advice”, Lucy says.
The result has left her totally surprised and in the middle of what she calls a complete and utter whirlwind. The Mirror went much bigger with the story than she’d imagined, and it’s been picked up by news organisations around the world.
Inspiring role model
The LGBT organisation Stonewall says by being public about her transition in sport Lucy is sending an extremely powerful message.
“We know from our research that attitudes in sport need to change before everyone feels free to be themselves; Lucy’s decision to speak out is part of that change”, says Kirsty Clarke, Stonewall’s Director of Sport.
“She is an inspiring role model and … role models like Lucy can inspire young lesbian, gay, bi and trans people by letting them know they are not alone”.
“someone has to be brave enough”
She is making the news right now, but Lucy hopes the in the future the fact that someone is trans won’t even warrant a mention.
” I wish someone had done it ten years ago, but there has to be someone brave enough to be the first, and it had to be me’.
“I hoped I would inspire somebody else and I’ve had messages from people saying that I have. A schoolteacher told me they’re planning to go back for the new term as their real selves”.
Picture Sources: Football, Wikimedia Commons. Whistle, Wikimedia Commons (edited).