‘All my teammates have got my back’: Blair Hamilton talks trans inclusion on Football v Transphobia Podcast

Published by Jon Holmes on

Goalkeeper Blair Hamilton plays for fifth-tier Saltdean United Women, while Natalie Washington is at Rushmoor in tier six; they’re probably the most high-profile trans women players in English football; on a special FvT Pod for the Week of Action, they discuss welcoming cultures, spikes in anti-trans reporting stats, and more…

By Jon Holmes

Blair Hamilton has been with Saltdean United Women since 2022 (image: Liam Asman, Dulwich Hamlet)

After keeping a clean sheet in a recent win at Fulham and then helping her side to a victory over the league leaders, Blair Hamilton is quite rightly enjoying her spell with Saltdean United.

There’s the excitement of two cup finals to look forward to, in what is building up to a thrilling finale to the season for the Brighton-based club.

For Blair, it’s also about holding on to a close bond that she has with her teammates. In a few months’ time, she’ll be moving to live up north. This time of her life is also about making memories with loyal friends.

To mark the annual Week of Action of the Football v Transphobia campaign, the goalkeeper – who is a proud Scot, a leading academic and a trans woman – joins a special FvT Podcast episode to talk about Saltdean, her happy place down on the south coast.

“I’m about to relocate for work, and what makes this bittersweet is just how special Saltdean actually is,” she tells FvT campaign lead Natalie Washington and podcast host Jon Holmes, who are both part of the core team on the wider Football v Homophobia initiative.

“Honestly, I love every one of those players so much. I’ve never been in a dressing room where everyone’s so chilled and there’s so much character there.

“In terms of inclusivity, most of the players are in same-sex relationships and everyone’s got your back.

“An example of that is, we were playing a cup semi-final a couple of weeks ago and we were 3-0 down at half-time to Dorking – then we came back and won it on penalties.

“After the game, we’re all singing ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus and people are crying, it’s just an emotional place. It made me realise that I’ve been in good dressing rooms, but this one’s really special.

“So big kudos to the Saltdean United dressing room because they’re all fantastic.”

Natalie has found a similar vibe at her club Rushmoor, who play at the level below in the women’s pyramid.

She and Blair are probably the best-known trans women out on the pitch in the English game, having shared their stories over the years to provide some visibility for a relatively tiny community of gender-diverse players in grassroots competitive football.

That has brought a lot of attention at times, and while each embraces opportunities to help others understand more about inclusion policies and inclusive language, they are increasingly conscious of escalating discrimination in sport and wider society.

Natalie plays in the Hampshire County Women’s Football League (image: Emma Hen)

In the FvT Week of Action, Kick It Out has released new figures that show a significant rise in reports of transphobia. The organisation has received the same number of reports this season as it has for the four previous seasons combined. 

That represents a 150% increase on the previous year, across grassroots football, the professional game, and online. 

“Obviously, social media is the absolute worst for it,” says Natalie on the podcast. “We see huge amounts of that, but I think what‘s alarming is that we’re seeing growing amounts in the game, in grounds, on pitches and that’s really what pushes people away.

“Am I welcome in this game? That unfortunately is the reaction people have when they receive abuse on a football pitch. Not everyone has the strength of character or is in the place in their life that they’re able to deal with that and let it wash over them and carry on.

“So we do lose people from the game for that reason. As a result, it’s really important that we take that seriously, and that the game takes action against that.

“I think we’ll probably see this continue to increase for a while as we get more people reporting it. Sadly, we’ll probably have more incidents.

“But the positive takeaway is that the reporting mechanisms are taking it seriously. They have an idea of what transphobia is now, which we maybe didn’t have five or 10 years ago. 

“The message for people out there is to say if you go and report it to Kick It Out or you go and report it to your league or your club, it will be tracked. It will hopefully be taken seriously and on many occasions, action is taken.”

Natalie joined Sky Sports News to talk about the rise in reports of discrimination linked to transphobia

This year, FvT is asking clubs and leagues across the country that are committed to creating welcoming spaces for trans and non-binary people to talk publicly about what inclusion looks like for them.

“We want to hear from allies,” adds Blair on the podcast.

“One of the most powerful things I remember is when I got selected for the England Universities team and obviously there was a pile-on of abuse online.

“But my university team put out a statement, it was reported in the media and it got quite a lot of traction. That’s the sort of stuff we need to see – allies sticking up for us, standing side by side with us.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re standing out there on our own and I think if we get the inclusive stories, like mine and my teammates, and like Natalie’s team – more of their stories would help.”

Find out more about supporting Football v Transphobia on the FvH website and for more from Blair and Natalie, listen to the FvT Podcast!

Further reading…

Fans urged to speak in support of trans people as FootballvTransphobia campaign launched (Jacob Leeks, Mirror Football)

Natalie joins Charlie Martin on The HangOUT to talk about their experiences as trans women in sport (Sky Sports)

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