“As I led the first ever all trans masc football team in Europe onto that pitch to thunderous applause, all my worries melted away. It didn’t matter what the score was; it didn’t matter if I left the field covered in mud and smelling like the Year 9 boys PE changing room. We made history here.” Arthur Webber for Trans Writes;
Like most trans people, I gave up football when I came out. After 11 years away from the sport, in January 2022, I started playing again for Leftfooters FC, an LGBTQ+ inclusive team. They’re an absolutely wonderful group of people, who have grown my confidence unbelievably over the last year, and have made me feel comfortable and welcome. But they’re mostly cisgender. Calm your booing, they can’t help it!
So, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a space here for an all trans masc football team. There had already been an all trans feminine team and the atmosphere at that match was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. Trans pride flags were plastered across the walls of Dulwich Hamlet’s stadium as if they were the actual wallpaper. Against a backdrop of increasing measures to exclude trans people from sport, I could not have felt more included than that night. Could we do the same for trans men?
Lucy Clark (TRUK’s manager) asked me after an outing for TRUK United FC’s all-gender team last summer if I would be up for being captain of such a squad – if we could assemble one. I couldn’t have bitten her arm off faster. This was everything I’d been asking for.
When I put a social media call out for players, the response was overwhelming. I’d hoped that maybe one guy who also used to play at school who lived in London and could spare an hour might take me up on the offer, as a favour because he enjoyed my tweets. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My inbox was flooded with dudes desperate to play a part, even if they got substituted after five minutes.
I’ve never been a captain before. It’s a whole other level of responsibility. Whilst spectators helped themselves to our merchandise, I spent most of the evening running around Dulwich Hamlet’s stadium chasing stray transgender men. The phrase “like herding cats” has never been more apt. Once I’d found one and brought him to the changing room for the team talk, two more had wandered off to the bar.
One of my personal highlights of being captain for the all trans masc football team came about in the changing room before the game. My teammate and good friend Harry had tweeted the night before that I had reminded him to wear tight underwear for the match, so that no prosthetic genitalia slipped out his shorts whilst running. Not the kind of balls we want on the pitch. After changing, I witnessed several dudes rolling up their shorts to assure me that they had seen the tweet, their boxers were form-fitting and there wouldn’t be any flying penises today. I don’t know if cis captains can boast about that.
So proud to have been captain of this team!
First football team of all trans men in Europe. Match played on Trans Day of Visibility.
History made 🏳️⚧️🏳️⚧️🏳️⚧️
— Arthur Webber 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@BernieTranders) April 2, 2023
Time began to tick away and I was still down one man. Ash Palmisciano of Emmerdale fame was driving down from Leeds to London just to play, but he was stuck in traffic. I hadn’t heard from him in hours. I couldn’t have him show up just as the game was finishing and have to send him home without letting him pull on his boots. He’d bought new ones especially for the game! That would have been immeasurably cruel. Where was he?! Five minutes before kick off, I found him, lost in the maze of changing rooms underneath the stands. I could have cried.
As I led the first ever all trans masc football team in Europe onto that football pitch to thunderous applause, all my worries melted away. It didn’t matter what the score was; it didn’t matter if I left the field covered in mud and smelling like the Year 9 boys PE changing room. We made history here.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything quite like watching Parker’s free kick bounce down from the crossbar and into the net. It was as if it wasn’t nearly 10pm and I wasn’t resembling a drowned rat after playing for an hour in torrential rain. With newfound energy, I sprinted towards the rest of my team in tears, and saw that they were crying too. 500 spectators jumped out of their seats in celebration. We hugged, we sobbed, we screamed until our throats were raw. That was trans joy. Pure, unadulterated trans joy.
A consolation goal for the ages, and it’s LIMBS in the big stand! Over the wall & in off the underside of the bar – what a way to score the first goal by an all trans team in European history.
— Nakul Pande (@NakulMPande) March 31, 2023
We’re a little family now. A group of lads from across the UK who had never met each other before the match. Men in all stages of their transitions. Dudes who had never kicked a ball before and semi-professionals at the top of their game. I didn’t know most of their names before they arrived at the stadium, but I’ll never forget any of them.
I knew how much it meant to me, but I think I’d underestimated how much the game meant to the whole community. Within minutes of tweeting about the match, I had dozens of responses from people crying, who had also assumed that there wasn’t a space for trans men in football. When I woke up the next morning, dozens had turned into hundreds. As my relatives don’t have any social media used by anyone under 40, I also posted about it on Facebook and discovered that going viral on there is a thing. I didn’t even receive that many friend requests back when I set up my account.
So proud to have been captain of the first ever football team of all transgender men in Europe!
It was such a special night, thank you to the boys for being incredible and to all our supporters!
— Arthur Webber 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@BernieTranders) March 31, 2023
If 13 year-old me had seen a team like us existed, I don’t think he would have given up football. He’d have fought harder to be included in the boy’s team, or pushed for a mixed-gender squad. But back then, he had no hope. And that’s the main reason why I wanted to do this. Hopefully there’s a teenage trans guy right now, reading this article, watching the match highlights, following us all on social media, who now knows he is welcome here. Trans men belong in football. Trans men belong everywhere.