How All Trans Team TRUK Are Looking Shake Up Football

truk united fc with colourful background

Thanks to the likes of J. K. Rowling, trans people are under constant attack in the United Kingdom. Often used as a political football by Members of Parliament from both sides of the divide who have decided to make trans people the latest topic of a culture war in order to save them from having to deal with the actual problems facing the country, people who just wish to live their lives are regularly having to defend themselves from those in far more powerful positions.

One of the ways in which some people have chosen to fight back is by forming an all-trans masculine football team, but how does it work and what does the future hold?

TRUK United FC

truk squad and staff picture

Trans people are regularly told that they don’t belong. Whether they be men that have transitioned to become women or women who have transitioned to men, they often find that they are on the receiving end of abuse simply for being who they are. As a result, many lovers of football felt that there was no place for them in the sport any more. Many contacted Lucy Clark, the first openly transgender football referee anywhere in the world, and said that they wanted to get back into the game but didn’t know how. The result was a decision by her to start the all trans-feminine side TRUK United in 2022, playing against Dulwich Hamlet Women for their first match.

Playing at Champion Hill, the non-league stadium located in the South of London, the two teams went head-to-head on the 31st of March 2022 in a game that made history. The date wasn’t an accident; it was Transgender Day of Visibility, with TRUK United being a charity team that was formed as an offshoot of Trans Radio UK. The team, as you might have guessed, was made up entirely of trans women, making it the first time that such a team played a game in the United Kingdom. The opposition wasn’t just a walkover for publicity either. Dulwich Hamlet Women is a semi-professional side that plays in the fifth tier of the English footballing pyramid.

The players of the Dulwich Hamlet team as well as those in management couldn’t have been more supportive, doing whatever they could to make it work. That wasn’t too much of a surprise to many, with the team having worked hard to make itself one of the most inclusive and liberal in the English game. The club’s centre-back, Ceylon Hickman, felt that the match would go a long way towards promotion inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in football. It is fair to say that the sport still has a long way to go in order to reach any sort of level that would see LGBTQ+ people feel welcome everywhere, owing to the backwards views of many football fans.

The All Trans-Masculine Team

A little over a year after the all trans-feminine team made history, there was a match played between an all trans-masculine team and a Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Team side. It was also on Trans Day of Visibility, with the TRUK United side having not only never played together before but with some that hadn’t even met before taking to the pitch. The captain devised a warm-up that allowed the players to get to know one another’s names, yet the fact that they didn’t know each other didn’t stop them from taking the game to the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Team. They lost 8-1, but the message they sent to the world was clear.

In the wake of the match, the team received countless messages of support from people all over the world, getting in touch not only to congratulate the players for taking part in the historic match but also asking how they could set up their own team. The captain of the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Team was quick to say that the TRUK United side played with more unity and togetherness than many sides that he’d faced. For those on the TRUK United team, that didn’t come as too much of a surprise, given the shared experience that they all had. Of all of the messages that meant a lot to the team, those from parents of trans kids thanking them for giving them something they could show their kids meant the most.

The Super 5 League

As the all trans-feminine team was taking on Dulwich Hamlet Women in 2022, they were doing so to a backdrop of transphobia not only in the media but in the sporting world as a whole. The Super 5 League had promoted itself as an LGBTQ+-inclusive division, winning accolades at the 2020 FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards. As a match between Camden Bells and one of the other sides was gearing up to take place, however, an official from Super 5 informed them that one of their players should not be allowed to take part in a ‘women’s league’ because they were trans non-binary, causing uproar.

Camden Bells FC took to instagram to confirm that they would be boycotting the Super 5 League and encouraging others to do the same over the treatment of one of their players. The founder of the team, Hannah Thornley, said,

“The league needs to take any LGBT+ branding off their site. This is why we are so angry – by being affiliated with the FA, it adheres to archaic transphobic rules. We encourage Super 5 League and the FA to look at the distress they have caused, and take action. This can’t be brushed under the carpet…We just want to make proper change that lasts, and make people feel safe.”

What Does the Future of Trans Football Look Like?

truk united fc badgeIt is extremely difficult to imagine a world in which trans players are welcomed at the top of the men’s game, such is the nature of football and its toxic-masculinity. When Camden Bells announced that they wouldn’t take part in their Super 5 League match, countless other sides confirmed that they too would be standing down. The result was that the league announced that it would be suspended until further notice. It was a sign that there is a desire for trans people to be accepted across numerous parts of the game, even if politicians and some transphobic writers known for their work writing about wizards would say that they aren’t welcome.

The obvious question, then, is what the future holds for trans people in football. The good news is that there are leagues out there in which they are welcome. The Gay Football Supporters’ Network welcomes trans teams, with both all trans-feminine and all trans-masculine sides of the TRUK United side playing their matches in the league. Boasting two divisions and what is essentially a cup competition, there are plenty of games to be played by trans-inclusive teams. Quite whether such a thing could ever go mainstream is difficult to see, but one can only hope that time will allow people to see that trans people are just like everyone else.

By Bob