15 year old transsexual Nelly Larsen is finally eligible to play girls soccer due to a rule reversal by the Norwegian football association (NFF). On the 9th of March this year, the previous ruling refusing Nelly to play with a girls team was successfully repealed .
Nelly, who used to be called Markus, was born biologically male. By the age of 11 she realized that her body and gender identity did not match.
“ I was 11 when I realized that I was not like others. I liked dresses, wearing makeup and felt like a girl” Nelly explained to NRK , a Norwegian news agency. Now, at 15 she is still too young to undergo a sex change and is currently taking hormone treatment. When she reaches 18 she will go through the operation to complete her transition.
Similar situations have arisen since the early 1930’s . “People don’t understand who a transgender person is at all. It’s not about their sexual orientation” says Kristen Worley, a professional cycler who fought for her right to compete in the Olympics. ”It’s about how they feel pertaining to gender. That’s a hard thing to wrap your head around”.
Some members of athletic organizations have been (and still are) concerned whether male-to-female transsexuals have physical advantages when competing against CIS women, this has been the major obstacle that Nelly and other transsexual athletes have faced. Until the NFF’s ruling reversal, Nelly was forced to watch the matches from the bench although practicing as a member of Mysen IF:s girl’s 15-17.
The NFF based their initial decision, refusing Nelly the right to participate in the girl’s soccer series, on the fact that male bodies have larger hearts and lungs than female bodies which can give them an unfair advantage over female athletes. This leads to the biggest hurdle that transsexual athletes face – convincing critics that male-to-female transsexuals do not have a physical advantage over their competitors. Transsexuals who compete as men face a more problematic situation because they take testosterone which is considered a performance enhancing drug and is illegal under present Olympic rules. “On the other hand, when male to female transsexuals undergo hormone therapy, they are reducing testosterone levels and taking female hormones. They lose muscle mass, which is the advantage testosterone gives you” says Jill Pillgrim, a sports and entertainment lawyer in an article posted on transgenderlaw.org.
Nelly’s coaches and club have been working proactively for two years to convince the Norwegian Football Association to change the rules. Last week, they received a reply, Nelly can finally now play matches with her team. The change to this rule does not only apply to Nelly, the NFF has decided that all transsexuals can now play football with the team gender they identify themselves as.
Nelly expressed great happiness that being who she is does not mean having to give up the sport she loves, unfortunately this is not the case for other transexual athletes around the world.
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