I’ve wished to play soccer since I used to be in elementary college.
I begged my dad and mom to let me play, however as a result of I used to be assigned feminine at start, I used to be not allowed. I attempted my hardest to persuade them to let me play, together with breaking all of my NFL pencils that I beloved in protest, but it surely didn’t work.
As an alternative, I ended up enjoying fast-pitch softball and changing into a catcher, the hardest place on the sector.
One of many exhausting issues about rising up as a “tomboy,” sporting quick hair for a lot of my life, and enjoying softball, was that many individuals assumed I used to be a lesbian. I knew for positive I wasn’t, as I all the time favored guys, however due to how I appeared and acted, the blokes by no means appeared to love me.
I additionally by no means felt comfy in my very own pores and skin, particularly as soon as puberty hit. It wasn’t till 2015, as a 27-year-old, that my therapist helped me come to the belief that I’m a trans male.
I wasn’t positive the best way to exist on this society the place gender is so polarized, however I’ve discovered solace within the trans and LGBTQ+ group. I out of the blue had a connection to this entire new group of those that I by no means wished to determine with earlier than.
Not solely did I come out as transgender, but in addition as a homosexual male. I learn up on the whole lot I may concerning the LGBTQ+ group and the sources accessible in my space of Connecticut, discovering that I needed to journey at the least 45 minutes to get to any type of help group or something LGBTQ+ associated.
I began attending a few totally different help teams, the place mates rapidly grew to become household. It felt really easy to type bonds with my new mates due to all of the mutual experiences we shared. Forming these friendships was one thing that was by no means straightforward for me earlier than, as I’ve struggled with social nervousness for many of my life.
After having prime surgical procedure in February of 2016, then beginning hormone alternative remedy that March, I used to be actually starting to reside life authentically for the primary time.
One thing was lacking although. I had all the time been an athlete, and I missed being a part of a workforce and enjoying aggressive sports activities. I began looking out the web for LGBTQ+ sports activities leagues and got here throughout the New York Homosexual Soccer League. I couldn’t imagine it! This might be my probability to lastly play soccer! I made a decision within the fall of 2017 to affix the league. I knew driving from Connecticut to New York Metropolis each weekend can be so much, however in my thoughts it was completely value it. There was no league like this in Connecticut.
I used to be drafted to the inexperienced workforce, sponsored by “Mr. Biggs,” a sports activities bar in Hell’s Kitchen. I’ll always remember the night time of my first sport, and placing on that jersey for the primary time. I appeared within the mirror and couldn’t cease smiling. I bear in mind attending to the sector and being greeted by teammates and gamers from different groups, and everybody was so welcoming and type.
Once I was with my teammates, I felt like simply one other one of many guys. They took me in and it was like I out of the blue was part of this enormous household.
The truth that I’m trans didn’t matter to them. I used to be simply one other homosexual man, enjoying within the New York Homosexual Soccer League, and it felt wonderful. I’ll always remember the primary factors I scored, which got here on an additional level after a landing, and the way joyful the remainder of my workforce was for me.
I earned the nickname “particular groups,” as I ended up scoring fairly just a few further factors all through the season. It didn’t take lengthy in any respect to bond with my teammates and lots of the gamers all through the league. We might all exit collectively after the video games, generally hanging out at one of many man’s flats for a bit earlier than heading to no matter bar had sponsored that night time.
My nervousness makes it exhausting for me to socialize, however the guys all the time included me, serving to me really feel extra comfy.
Not solely do I battle with nervousness, however I even have main melancholy, and when it was getting near time for the following fall season of the NYGFL season to begin, it hit me actually exhausting. I used to be in a very darkish place, considering suicide, and ended up within the hospital.
It was getting near time to register for the season, and I panicked as a result of I didn’t have entry to the web. I defined to my physician how necessary this league was to me, the way it gave me one thing to look ahead to. It gave me hope. Fascinated about enjoying soccer with my NYGFL household once more was instrumental in preserving me alive. The physician allowed me to register from the hospital, and I used to be launched in time for the beginning of the season.
This time I used to be drafted to the gray workforce, sponsored by the well-known “Stonewall Inn,” website of the well-known riots that helped propel the LGBTQ+ rights motion. This was one other nice group of fellows who instantly took me in and have become a part of my household.
It was solely my second season, but it surely felt like I had identified the blokes on this league for a few years. That season gave me one thing to look ahead to each week, and the help and friendship I wanted to get by means of that main depressive episode.
I beloved being across the guys and enjoying this superior sport a lot that I made a decision to play that Spring season as a result of I couldn’t wait an entire yr to play once more. I joined the yellow workforce, “DBL” (Dive Bar Lounge), and had a season I’ll always remember. By that point, I knew not solely all my former teammates however many of the guys within the league, and it was nice with the ability to hang around with them each weekend.
I additionally knew, nevertheless, that on the finish of the season I’d be shifting to Florida with my household to be close to my youthful brother and my model new nephew. I made essentially the most of it and spent as a lot time with the blokes as I may. I’ll always remember my final sport within the NYGFL. My captain and quarterback referred to as performs to get me the ball as a lot as he may, and I even got here just a few yards shy of scoring my first landing!
After the sport the opposing workforce even did a cheer for me, realizing it was my final sport with them. My captain made cupcakes for the event, and my workforce signed a jersey and soccer for me to take to Florida with me. I used to be so touched, and honored to be part of this household. These guys really cared about me, and it was actually tough to have to go away.
Earlier than leaving for Florida, I researched the world to see if there was a soccer league just like the NYGFL near the place I’d be dwelling. Fortunately, I used to be shifting to South Florida, not removed from Wilton Manors and Ft. Lauderdale, dwelling of the South Florida Flag Soccer League. I acquired related with their Fb web page and began making connections earlier than I even moved.
I acquired concerned as quickly as I may. I used to be thrilled to know that I’d have one other group of fellows to get to know and play soccer with. This was one other shut knit group that felt instantly like household.
In Florida, not solely did I play within the common season, however I additionally had the chance to affix the Sharks, one of many journey groups that was making ready to go to the Homosexual Bowl. In 2019, the Homosexual Bowl occurred to be in none aside from New York Metropolis! So it was not simply my first Homosexual Bowl but in addition a homecoming for me.
It was an unbelievable expertise going to the town with my new South Florida household, enjoying towards groups from everywhere in the nation, and seeing my NYGFL household once more.
I’ll always remember on the finish of the closing ceremonies, the venue had cleared out apart from the NY guys, they usually determined to take an image on stage collectively. I used to be standing there trying on, they usually referred to as me up with them, saying, “come on up Caidin, you’re one in all us!”
These experiences have been a tremendous welcoming into the LGBTQ+ group. I now have the largest prolonged household ever, who help me unconditionally on my journey to dwelling as my genuine self.
I need to thank the NYGFL and SFFFL for being there for me and accepting me into your households. You all proceed to carry a particular place in my coronary heart, and I’m so grateful to know all of you.
You possibly can comply with Caidin Thomas Smith on Instagram @caidin5, or on Twitter @caidinsmith.
You’ll find the New York Homosexual Flag Soccer League on Fb, and you’ll discover the South Florida Flag Soccer league on Fb as effectively.
Story editor: Cyd Zeigler
In case you are an out LGBTQ particular person in sports activities and need to inform your story, e-mail Jim Buzinski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Try our archive of popping out tales.
In case you are contemplating suicide, LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and youthful) can attain the Trevor Undertaking Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. You may as well contact the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day, and it’s accessible to folks of all ages and identities. Trans or gender-nonconforming folks can attain Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.