It's back to sport for Capt. Hannah Winterbourne
I'm an Officer in the British Army and I have recently rekindled my love of team sports after a break of three years.
So, why the break? Was it because I suddenly forgot how to be competitive? Or because I no longer enjoyed being part of a team? Or perhaps it was because I lost my fitness?
In fact, it was none of these…
I am a transgender woman and I was led to believe by society around me that there was no place for me in team sports after starting my transition. So imagine my delight when out of the blue I was invited to play football with an LGB&T friendly team! I stuffed my shin pads down my socks for the first time in years and had a run out on a pitch. Afterwards, I was completely buzzing (probably helped by my seven goals – no biggy…) and screamed inwardly at myself, ‘why didn’t you do this sooner?!’
The truth is, that I didn’t know that I could. This I why I am sat writing this blog, I hope to reach out to others in a similar situation, to let you know that being transgender does not limit you on a sports pitch.
From an early age, growing up in Cardiff I have always loved sport and competition. Only ever an enthusiastic amateur, I enjoyed rugby, football, cricket and pretty much any sport that involves a ball. Then, at the age of 16, I left home to embark on a career in the Army that included a sixth form college, university and Sandhurst, eventually commissioning as an officer in 2010.
Throughout this time my competitiveness and love of sport only increased as the Army gave me so many options to play and become part of some really strong teams. A highlight was captaining my battalion’s cricket team and winning an Army competition in Germany.
But then things changed, I came out as transgender and even though my friends, family and colleagues have all been completely supportive, my sporting hobbies suffered. I thought that I couldn’t compete in a female team, fearing abuse and jeers for not fitting in and people claiming that I had ‘an unfair advantage’. I couldn’t play for a male team either because I was now legally female. I felt stuck between two worlds and so I just stopped competing all together. I missed it terribly. I’d never even considered looking for an LGB&T friendly team…
And now, three years on, things have changed again! I had had my eyes opened to a new world of inclusive sport! Last week I was welcomed by the fabulous men and women of the Cardiff Dragons Football Club. I was nervous of how people would approach me and whether I would be accepted, but all they nly cared that I was marking the opposition and that my shots were on target (which they were by the way). Playing like that, away from any labels, was truly liberating and I can't wait until the next session!
I am not an elite sports person. I am never going to win the Six Nations for Wales or regain the ashes from the Aussies, but I am a transgender woman who loves sport and loves competing. So if you are like me and just like playing for no other reason than it makes you feel good and you want to be part of a team, I urge you to find a team near you and get involved!