Mara Gómez recently became the first transgender woman to play football (American soccer) in Argentina.
The 23-year-old received approval from the Argentina Football Association (AFA) after she signed with Villa San Carlos as a forward. Gómez has been fighting since January to convince the AFA that being a trans woman gave her no physical advantage over the cis women in the league.
“When I started out, football was a therapy for me and I couldn’t think it was possible to dream or consider playing in the top division,” Gómez told ESPN. “A few years back this was unthinkable to talk about or debate but now we are opening new roads. This is a huge achievement. I’m totally grateful to my club, to my teammates and coaching staff for opening the doors for me and for showing me respect from the beginning.”
Gómez’s inclusion did come with stipulations that aren’t asked of cis women, though. Before she could play, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) required her to receive regular blood tests before to evaluate her testosterone levels.
Argentina has been a leader in transgender rights around the world. In 2012, the country granted its citizens the right to change their legal gender identity without undergoing judicial, psychiatric and/or medical procedures.
Gómez played her first game as part of Villa San Carlos on Dec. 7, beating Lanus 7-1. But there were no hard feelings: Lanus presented Gómez with a club jersey as a kind tribute.
“It wasn’t magic, it wasn’t a gift, it wasn’t easy,” Gómez wrote on Instagram after the game. “There was a life of fighting, suffering and sadness. There was a life on the edge of death and a broken heart. Many obstacles had to be overcome to revert the past. This has only just begun. Today I breathe, today my soul returns to my body.”
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