Sophie Cook on her new ambassadorial role at Kick It Out
Sophie Cook, a photographer for AFC Bournemouth, is a transwoman working at the highest level of the domestic game.
On 22 September, Sophie was announced as an ambassador for Kick It Out. In her new role, she will help support the organisation’s messages of equality and inclusion in the game and through her work helping people in the LGBT community.
In an exclusive blog following the announcement, Sophie discussed her experiences as a transwoman and her hopes for an inclusive future.
Sophie began by explaining how she was afraid to reveal her identity publically since childhood.
“I’ve known I was transgender since I was seven years old but I was terrified of coming out because I thought I would lose everything.
“When I came out within the game I was truly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to work in the sport again. That fear was because there was no history of anyone else doing it. Until we have an environment where people feel comfortable in coming out about their gender identity that is always going to be the issue.
“I don’t think I ever got to the point where I felt comfortable about revealing my transition, I came out when I did because I had no choice. It was either change my life or end it – it was as simple as that. I had to do this to make myself well.”
Homophobia within the game is an issue which has been recently highlighted by research from Stonewall and Sophie believes education has a key role to play in changing attitudes towards the LGBT community.
“You only have to look at Stonewall’s research which shows how much homophobia still goes on within the game.
“I believe it’s massively important that we educated around these issues. When homophobic abuse can be still seen as just ‘banter’ by a lot of people, it creates an atmosphere of hate which means people won’t feel safe coming out.
“We need to have a zero-tolerance approach throughout the game and that will only happen through education and that is one of the things that Kick It Out are amazing at alongside raising awareness.
“I think the crucial thing is we need to raise more awareness of LGBT issues; we need more people coming out within the game as the more it happens, the less of a big deal it will be. We need to get to the stage where a player’s sexuality is as irrelevant as their eye colour.”
Sophie believes since her transition, despite initial fears, she has found more comfort within herself.
“When I came out there wasn’t anything that made me feel safe, I was absolutely terrified.
“It wasn’t until I look back that I noticed positive things started to happen for me, for example I’m now working in my second season in the Premier League. I have been able to speak at Wembley Stadium and I’m now also an ambassador for Kick It Out – these are the kind of things which are starting to make me feel comfortable in my own skin. This has all happened post-coming out.
There is still work to be done in the sport to conquer transphobia and homophobia, but Sophie can see a time in the future when these issues become a thing of the past.
“Football reflects society – if there is bigotry and homophobia in society it is likely to be in the game as well – so it is not purely football’s problem. But things are improving; five years ago I couldn’t imagine sitting on the touchline of a Premier League game as a transwoman, or stood in the centre circle taking shots of the players in a stadium full of fans.
“I think there will be a day in the near future when a player comes out where the majority of reaction from people will be an outpouring of love and support. But we all want to get to the point where a player does come out and no one even notices.”
Sophie hopes her new role as an ambassador for Kick It Out can help spread a positive message about transgender across football and society.
“My message would be – we’re all people. There is no difference between us under the skin, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and any other characteristics – we all have value.
“Until we reach the point where society says ‘we respect everyone’ there is going to be a fight against discrimination. Equality is about making everyone equal and that is what I hope to push in my role as an ambassador.
“I also hope, speaking out as a transwoman, people can learn and understand more about transgender and see that we are like everyone else. As I mentioned before, we need to get to the point where people meet other people with differences and don’t actually notice it as a ‘thing’.”