TRUK United FC played regional league side Dulwich Hamlet FC with a squad consisting of trans women.
London witnessed possibly the first-ever soccer match featuring a team entirely consisting of transgender women. On International Transgender Day of Visibility—March 31—a competitive league side from Dulwich Hamlet FC played TRUK United FC, a squad made up of transgender women. The match was played on Dulwich Hamlet’s home pitch in south London. TRUK United FC was founded in January 2021 by Lucy Clark, who's also the manager, reported Outsports. Clark is also the first transgender person in the world to become a licensed official in the FA in 2018 and officiated her first match that season. The idea behind TRUK United FC was to "play fun, friendly and inclusive football all over the UK and beyond."
DHFC X TRUK United FC:— Dulwich Hamlet FC (@DulwichHamletFC) March 30, 2022
Check out the limited edition kit @DHFC_W will be wearing when we play tomorrows historic game w/ TRUK United FC!
Proudly presented by @petercrouch.
We’ll be auctioning the kits off after the game, details to follow. #DHFC💖💙 #TransDayOfVisibility pic.twitter.com/qJ8syMmlv4
The match against Dulwich Hamlet is a historic one for both the club and the community. “We’ve never had an eleven on the pitch consisting solely of trans women,” said team founder/manager Lucy Clark. “Well, let’s right that wrong and create a little bit of history and show that football is for everyone, even if you are transgender.” Clark has been an important cog in the trans community in the UK. She founded Trans Radio UK, an online radio station dedicated to the trans community.
When Clark founded TRUK United FC in 2021, it was a mixed squad of transgender people. “The team came about because we had a lot of people contacting me saying, ‘I want to play football but there is no team for me,’” said Clark in an interview on the Trans Sporter Room podcast. “A lot of players were a bit wary and a bit nervous about going down to join a team, so I thought I would just create a team that would be inclusive for everyone. So now no one can say that there isn’t a team for them.” Clark found hope in football and she wanted to offer the same to many trans women out there. “Football was a lifesaver for me. If it wasn’t for football. I may not be here talking to you today” said Clark. “This is so great because this team has already built a community within ourselves where it going to get people playing football and that there is a safe space for them to play.”
TRUK United played its first game in the opening round of the National Affinity Cup for charity teams last year. The team lost 6-3 in its first match but the team's fighting spirit stood out. Some of the trans women on that side shined during the game and Clark wondered if she could put together a team comprising of trans women. She invited trans women from across the UK to come to play for TRUK United. Players from Scotland and Wales joined in to make a competitive side. One of the more talented players on the team is TRUK United midfielder-striker Samantha Walker. She was a prodigy at Watford's academy but left at the age of 17 as she struggled with her gender identity.
After transitioning at 26, Walker knew she wanted to get back to playing football but had no avenue to play. Walker was often mocked or discriminated against when she played for women's football teams. “I tried playing ladies’ football when I came out but when you first transition you don’t necessarily look the part, and I found there was a little bit of hostility towards me,” she told BBC Sport in 2019. “I was frequently called by the wrong pronouns, occasionally with a tone of malice.”
When Walker heard of TRUK United, she was so happy at a chance to get back to her favorite sport. “I was invited to play in the Affinity Cup and I jumped at the chance,” said Walker who can play in midfield and as a striker. “Injuries had kept me out of playing regular football for a while and I was just so excited to get back on the pitch! The opportunity to play for a side that stood for full inclusion wasn't an opportunity I was going to miss!” She is easily the best player on the side now.
Walker believes the match against Dulwich Hamlet FC can help the community at a time when transphobia is rampant in the UK. “Sensationalised stories and ‘what ifs’ have been utilized to exclude players who are trans.” she said. “The rhetoric that we are never welcome is constantly pushed. To have a women’s side play us, out of choice, gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that there is a way we can include the small number of trans people that play football in the UK without all the misinformation and fear-mongering.”
Natalie Washington, who plays as an attacking fullback for TRUK United, believes the match offers a great opportunity to raise awareness. “It is important for us as trans women to take up some space in football and to have a moment to celebrate us being part of the game,” she said. “So often trans women in sports are seen as ‘controversial’ and a ‘problem we have to solve.’ Instead, we can have this game where it’s about joy of participation and showing some inspiration to younger people, so they see can see that football is a place where they can be themselves.”