We sat on the sideline of a soccer field in a small southern town not far from our own as 16 tween girls played some objectively good soccer just feet from us. My daughter, one of the Captains for that game, was in at Striker, her favorite position to play, and she’d been playing the entire half. Her golden-brown hair was matted with sweat and her white jersey had grass stains from when she tripped over a defender’s left foot, but not before passing the ball to her teammate.
“She’s aggressive!” you remarked, adding that you wish your daughter would pick up on a little of that.
I replied that my daughter is sassy because she’s so small for her age. It’s true. Standing barely over 4’ tall, and not quite tipping the scale to 60 pounds, she was easily the smallest girl on the field that day. Her coach nicknamed her “Firecracker” because she’s tiny and explosive. Nobody can believe this is her first season.
We talked a little more about how well the girls were doing on the field, how the passing drills coach puts them through every practice were paying off for them, and we were thrilled when they shut out the rival team on their own field, 6-0.
You and the other parents all yelled my daughter’s conveniently unisex name, which blends in fine with the other nonconventional names on the team, and you loved when she assisted the first goal, and every time she drove down the field, or got into a scrum and inevitably came out with the ball because it took two to three opposing players just to attempt to contain her.
My daughter is a soccer player. There is no doubt about that.
My daughter is also transgender.
You didn’t know it, and you probably never will, but you cheered for a transgender athlete today. Then you got into your SUV with the “Trump” sticker on the bumper, and you went to the polling place to vote for people who want to take away her rights.
I talked about this with my partner that night, and he reminded me that people fear what they don’t know, and most people don’t think they know a transgender person. He’s right. I can’t argue with his point.
That made me think, though. I’ll bet a lot more people know a transgender person than are even aware of that fact. There were probably 100 people on the sidelines of every one of my daughter’s games, and only a few of her teammates (the ones who were her classmates when she socially transitioned in 3rd grade) know she’s transgender. Everyone else just knows she’s a soccer player.
I’m not going to out my kid at her extracurricular activities. I’m not going to confront parents about their politics. I don’t want to make her life any harder than it already is in some ways. She likes blending in when she’s able. On that field, she’s a soccer player, nothing more, nothing less, and that’s beautiful.
Yet, in this format, in which my child is anonymous, I want to remind everyone that you have interacted with transgender people. You’ve shared bathrooms with them. You’ve shared lunch tables with them. You’ve sat next to them in college lectures. Maybe you even played soccer with one. You have, almost definitely, interacted with transgender people in your daily life, and you might not have even known it.
Let’s change that. Let’s all assume that in any given crowd of people, there’s probably someone who doesn’t fit neatly within the gender binary. They’re not in your face trying to make you wave rainbow flags and denounce your pronouns. They’re just living their lives, blending in with everyone else wherever possible, and that’s really the point, isn’t it?
You cheered for a transgender athlete today. You were fine. She wants to be fine, too.