It was at the beginning of the summer of 2013. My transgender son loves football and wants to play football. He also knows exactly which club. We will complete the registration form together. A simple job in itself, but with transgender children, ordinary questions can provide some food for thought. The name went well, because our son didn’t have a boy name yet. But yes, gender. Just filled in the V. At the bottom of the form I wrote in an explanation that my child identifies as a boy and therefore wants to play football with the boys. He himself proudly got on his bike to take the registration form away.
Because I still hadn’t heard anything a few weeks later, I called the secretary. He was glad I called, because he still had a question. How did I prevent my child from being bullied?
For a moment I was thrown off balance by this question, but I quickly realized that this man had no idea what to expect with a transgender child. So I explained to him that my child looked like a boy, but had a girl’s body and we also addressed him as a girl. It was a nice conversation and at the end of the conversation he was willing to give it a try. My son would be placed in a boys’ team and I would still be told which team.
After the summer holidays I realized I hadn’t heard anything yet so I called the secretary again. He said that that evening the application of my child would be discussed in the board meeting. Afterwards I would be informed. That didn’t feel right and the next day my hunch was confirmed. My child was not allowed to play football at this club. Reason: Due to the gender dysphoria, the club expected bullying behavior that they could not control.
Telling that news to my child is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a mother. I can still see him sitting in front of me. Crying, he indicated that he did not understand. “I didn’t ask to be born that way, did I?”
The injustice dripped from me. Because if you can reject a transgender child because of possible bullying, what about children who are fat? Or wear glasses? Or stutter? This rejection was the start of a journey that lasted almost a year. At first I tried to start a conversation by means of a constructive letter. I never got an answer to that. When I called to ask if they were open to a conversation with me and someone from NOC-NSF I was told that I had to accept that my child is a girl and therefore would play soccer with the girls. I never received an answer to my letter to the Dutch Football Association KNVB.
We were now a few months further and I was faced with the choice: let it rest or continue. I couldn’t let it rest. What kind of signal would I give to my children? But I also realized that continuing meant it could get bad. My family agreed so I continued. After a disappointing conversation with the local police officer, I ended up at the Bureau for Discrimination Affairs. My story was listened to very carefully and a rebuttal letter was sent to the club. The answer to that was inimitable, so we went to the Institute for Human Rights. My child had been playing football at another club for a long time, but I wanted to know whether this – rejecting a child because it is transgender – was allowed in the Netherlands.
After three weeks, the statement was sent by post: no, this is not allowed in the Netherlands. The club was wrong. Every sports club is obliged to accept someone’s gender identity and should never reject anyone for it. It was an important matter. People had come to the meeting. Which I really never thought. It has also produced unique case law.
Although things are going well at most sports clubs, that is not always the case. I decided to bring it up, but especially if you feel strong enough for this and your family supports you. If you want to know more about how you can do this, I would be happy to help you.