Asking for a Friend: My Young Daughter Is Trans—How Do I Get Her on the Right Soccer Team Without Forcing Her to Come Out?

Asking for a Friend: My Young Daughter Is Trans—How Do I Get Her on the Right Soccer Team Without Forcing Her to Come Out?

Asking for a Friend: My Young Daughter Is Trans—How Do I Get Her on the Right Soccer Team Without Forcing Her to Come Out?

Another reader is worried that his artisanal carpentry limits him to crafting for the 1 percent.


Dear Liza,

I am a builder who works for billionaires because I favor the company of excellent craftspeople who, like me, prefer to use excellent quality materials. Regular people like us cannot afford this standard. How can I free myself of this burdensome addiction without a socialist revolution or anarcho-syndicalist takeover? 
—Sadly Pursuing Quality in All Things

Dear Sadly Pursuing Quality in All Things,
Your dilemma is shared by many artisans, including fashion designers, high-end chefs, landscape artists, and visual artists. Even many progressive teachers grapple with it; finding they cannot, in the public-school system, teach the way they believe children learn best (without high-stakes testing, for example), some end up working in private schools where their labor benefits the offspring of hedge-fund managers. One of the problems with capitalism is that, too often, only the 1 percent get to enjoy the fruits of our best labors. Keep working for the billionaires, Sadly, because you deserve the best working conditions, and because making beautiful things is worthwhile in itself. But also consider donating your labor to build something beautiful for the common good. The other day, for example, my son’s public school was looking for a volunteer to build a bookshelf. I imagine opportunities like this arise in your community all the time; ask in your library, senior center, or local school. The materials would be substandard, certainly, but you and the public could enjoy your work collectively.

* * *

Dear Liza,
My daughter, a transgender girl, is turning 11 and wants to join a girls’ soccer team in Brooklyn. She will be going on hormone blockers when she hits puberty and identifies strongly within the binary as a girl. We disclosed her trans status to the club officials, who insisted their policies were inclusive, but asked me to check with the league rules. The league said that with a note from a health professional verifying her gender identity as female she could play. She was readily accepted after tryouts and was very excited to play for them. Over the summer, her team switched leagues and informed us that she is no longer able to play because the new league mandates she play on the club’s boys’ team. The club offered her a tryout for the boys’ team, which they halfheartedly claim is coed, though there are no girls on the team. My daughter is not interested in being an activist. She just wants to play soccer on the team whose identity reflects her own. I know that trans people’s participation in sports can be a touchy subject, with some gray areas, but my daughter is not yet 11 and will never even be exposed to testosterone. I’d like to fight for change because I think it’s important, but I don’t want to expose my child; her school friends, many of whom play for this team, know her as a girl, and she does not want to “come out” as trans right now. I believe that until the individual soccer teams stand up to the leagues they will not change their policy, and without parents agitating for change nothing will transpire. How can I fight the system and protect my daughter’s privacy? Or am I being oversensitive and she should just play wherever the league deems fit? —Mom Seeking Justice

Dear Mom Seeking Justice,
You’re not being oversensitive. Asaf Orr, staff attorney at the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, says, “Asking her girl to play on a boys’ team is such an affront to her identity as a girl, and is the least palatable option here.” You should fight this, Mom. Luckily, there are many ways to get your daughter onto the field without jeopardizing her privacy.

Chris Mosier, vice president of program development and community relations for You Can Play, an organization advocating fairness in sports for LGBTQ people, is a trans triathlete who successfully challenged the International Olympic Committee to change its policy so he could compete as a man. He points out the illogic of the league policy you’re confronting. “Kids’ sports are segregated by gender because adult sports are,” but before puberty, “there is no hormonal advantage or disadvantage” to either sex when competing. A penis doesn’t make a person run faster. (There’s only one reason for the belief that preadolescent “boys” are physically stronger or naturally better at sports, and that’s sexism.) Thanks to Jazz Jennings, the United States Soccer Federation now has a policy that reflects these facts. When she was 8, Jennings, a trans girl, was, like your daughter, forbidden to play on a girls’ travel team. She won a lawsuit, forcing the USSF to change its rules, which are now a model of inclusion, mandating that all amateur players must be allowed to play on the team whose gender reflects their own identity.

The conduct of the league is at odds with not only USSF rules, but also New York City law, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. A letter from a lawyer addressing both the club and the league, letting them know that they are violating your daughter’s civil rights, may resolve this problem quickly. A letter or phone call to the USSF could help expedite matters. If none of these measures work, you can take legal action without outing your daughter; it’s not un­usual to file lawsuits on behalf of trans people anonymously to protect their pri­vacy. The downside of a lawsuit is that the process can take for­ever, and your athletic kid needs to play now. Filing a complaint with New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, which investigates possible violations of anti-­discrimination laws, can make that happen more quickly and with greater assurance of confidentiality. What’s happening to your daughter is unfair, but the law is on her side.

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Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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