Images from the double-header of games at Dulwich Hamlet FC have gone viral, bringing TRUK United FC to the attention of many more people around the world; Lucy Copsey, who was behind the camera after turning out for TRUK’s women’s team, talks us through her journey with the club and the joy conveyed within her match photography…
Emblazoned in rainbow lettering across the top of the Main Stand at Champion Hill, the sign reads ‘In our house, we are all equal‘.
It’s the slogan of Dulwich Hamlet FC sponsor Defected Records and on a rain-lashed night in south London, it may never have been more fitting.
For the second consecutive year, this house was playing host to TRUK United FC, the trans-inclusive club that offers a home to players who are all too often discouraged from taking part in football.
Many in the TRUK United ranks can tell a story of being snubbed or shunned in the game, while for others, that feeling is an understandable expectation based on their lived experiences of navigating society as trans and non-binary people.
The thought of playing in an 11-a-side game on a full-size pitch in front of a crowd of hundreds, alongside team-mates who have been on similar journeys… without TRUK United, that would all be fantasy football.
Last Friday night, on Trans Day of Visibility, the club fielded both a women’s team and a men’s team in friendly games at Champion Hill. The differences between these two sides and their respective opponents were not important. Here, everyone was equal.
“The atmosphere was amazing, the support was incredible. It was a breathtaking moment, especially when we got our first goal. It was electric. Our team showed the world that trans athletes can play and compete. We made history and inspired so many others. What more could we have asked for?”— Parker Dunn, TRUK United FC Men goalscorer
The exhilaration and exuberance shown by the TRUK United men’s players have helped the images go viral on social media.
Writing on Twitter, TRUK’s Harry Nicholas said: “We made history tonight. The first all trans masculine team to play a football match in Europe against a cis men’s team.
“A lot of our team hadn’t played sport since school. I’ve never felt Community like it. This is trans joy. And trans people belong in sport.”
The photos were taken by Lucy Copsey, who had earlier played in the TRUK United women’s team match.
Speaking to Sports Media LGBT+, she says she feels privileged to have been able to contribute both on and off the pitch to an occasion that will live long in the memory.
Lucy, who is a 25-year-old photographer with Hashtag United FC in Essex, kindly took time to tell us about her own story and reflect on a special night…
Hi Lucy, thank you for chatting with us. How did your involvement with TRUK United FC come about?
Thanks! I joined the club in October last year. I’d heard about them from the first game at Dulwich Hamlet a year ago, which was just before I came out as trans.
I contacted them to say that I was looking to play football as myself but that I wasn’t sure about which team I could play in, and where I might fit in.
I thought TRUK would be the perfect team for me – and so it’s proved. It’s really inclusive, and everyone’s really friendly.
You haven’t got to worry about whether you should or shouldn’t be in the team, and you’re surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through and can help you in life as well as in football.
What’s your background in sports photography?
It’s something I’ve been doing for nearly two years now. I’ve always loved taking photos and videos on my phone and I was curious how they got such professional photos at football games.
I looked into it more and found out that you have to get special DSLR cameras. I took my dad’s camera along to a Hashtag United game, and I loved it.
From there, I got my own camera, upgraded my gear to professional standard and I’ve been taking on jobs whenever I can. I do the Hashtag United women’s match photography pretty much every week now and sometimes I do it for the men as well now, plus jobs for other teams.
Doing football photography, or even just photography in general, would be my dream career. Either way, it’s a wonderful hobby to have.
Tell us more about Hashtag United. It’s only been going seven years but their men’s team could soon be promoted to Step 3!
Yeah, I’d been watching them on YouTube and then I decided to start going along to the games as a fan and gradually got more involved. It was only a year and a half ago that I decided to take the camera along and take some photos.
Since I’ve come out as trans, they’ve been amazing – so inclusive and helpful. Everyone knows everyone, it’s non-league local football, very friendly with a good community spirit.
They knew me from before I came out and they’ve made sure that I feel able to be myself around the club and that everyone knows.
The photography side of it has personally made me feel even more comfortable. It’s all gone from strength to strength.
What were your expectations of coming out?
I was definitely concerned, particularly with how family and friends would take it. Thankfully, nothing has taken a backwards step.
I still play 5-a-side on Thursday nights with a big group of people, mainly guys. I thought that might be awkward but they’ve thought nothing of it really. I’ve been able to carry on playing football with them, and move on to play with TRUK United as well.
I don’t know if I’m lucky or maybe that the world is pretty good now, but I’ve had only positivity or at the very least, just acceptance.
I know it’s not the same for everyone. But from personal experience, I’ve had nothing but support from all corners of my world.
What was the turning point for you?
It’s hard to say. Maybe I’m mentally strong. I never got to a really low point in my life or anything like that.
But I’ve always had a serious lack of confidence. I felt like I wasn’t being myself, I hated how I looked and how I was perceived, and that had a knock-on effect.
I would be really quiet, not talking to anyone, feeling alone, and always putting it on that I wasn’t. It was the fact that I didn’t feel on the outside like how I was on the inside.
I knew something wasn’t right and I just wanted to give myself time to make sure. But every year, nothing would change – if anything, it just got worse and worse. I’d think, why am I feeling like this?
Thankfully I’ve been able to find the right resources, come to terms with it and understand it myself, to the point where I’ve now come out and can explain this to other people too, to help them to understand.
It took me about eight years from when I first thought ‘what’s happening here’, to then coming to terms and accepting myself and then thinking other people need to know so that I don’t have to hide away and pretend, and live some other life. That’s where I’ve been at.
Friday was also Trans Day of Visibility. What’s it like becoming more visible through football?
Yeah, the club has had a lot of great coverage and Sky Sports came down to see us recently at the five-a-side league we play in. I’ve been part of that and I like to give a positive outlook and show that it’s OK.
The more people that get out there, the more we’ll help people that maybe haven’t yet come out. We want to give them confidence and show that there are people out there in similar positions.
It’s OK to be who you are. It’s always going to be difficult, but the more aware people are, the more understanding they’ll have. And the easier it will become for future generations.
The women’s team suffered a heavy loss to Dulwich Hamlet FC Women 12 months ago but in a shorter game, it was much tighter this year – a 1-0 defeat. That must be encouraging?
I watched the highlights of last year’s game on YouTube. Since then, the team has got better and new players have joined.
We feared we might get battered again so we said ‘let’s have fun’. When we came off having put in a great performance, we felt we could have won it!
It was an unbelievable night. I keep playing it over in my head and thinking how great it was – the attendance, the good vibes, everyone cheering and how it brought great awareness to the cause. The weather was horrendous but it didn’t dampen our spirits!
And the images you took of the men’s team really captured that joy…
Yeah, the one of them all at full-time, just after they got their goal, running towards the crowd and leaping into the air – I love that photo and if I’d pressed the shutter a second earlier, it probably doesn’t look anywhere near as good!
I just got them at that moment when they all look really overjoyed. It captures it all perfectly – the spirit, the enjoyment, the togetherness of the team and of the community really.
After playing myself, I was able to get back into ‘photographer mode’ quickly because I knew the images would go down in the club’s history and I didn’t want to mess them up!
@theimpossiblegoals Last night we made history in Europe! 🏳️⚧️ And I was scored a history making goal. 🏳️⚧️🙏 #dreambig #life #footballer #football #transition #gender #athlete #trans #🏳️🌈 #balling #footie #mensgame #goal #openmindset ♬ Pointless – Chorus – Lewis Capaldi
Lucy, let’s finish with a few words from you about TRUK United FC founder Lucy Clark. How do you sum her up?
I could go on for ages about what Lucy has done for the community, for Trans Radio UK and for us as a football club.
It’s not just a team, it’s a community that brings together trans people, supporters and allies. You’ve got people you can relate to, and that you can talk to whenever you want.
You feel like you’re part of something and you’re not alone. For a long time, you felt you might be, and that no one understood you.
There are so many aspects to it – Lucy and her wife Avril have done so much to organise everything. It’s quite remarkable what they’ve achieved.
“What an amazing night. It was everything we hoped for and so much more. To see the players from all four teams having the times of their lives – and the amazing support from all those who attended – made everything we do to organise this worthwhile. I’m so proud of everyone who pulled on our jersey and represented not only TRUK but our community. Dulwich Hamlet as always were the perfect hosts. Friday night will live in my memory for ever!”— Lucy Clark, TRUK United FC founder
Our thanks to Lucy Copsey, Lucy Clark and Parker Dunn. To find out more about TRUK United FC, visit the club’s website here.
All trans masc football team: “We made history here” (Arthur Webber, captain of TRUK United FC Men’s team, Trans Writes)
First all-trans masc side makes football history: ‘I hope trans kids see this and know there is a place for them in sport’ (Harriet Williamson, PinkNews)
TRUK United: “People will see us enjoying the beautiful game with a smile on our faces, which is how it should be played” (Andrew Henderson, Pride of the Terraces)
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