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A youth soccer coach gathered his team around to deliver an important message. His talk had nothing to do with passing or dribbling.
“We ask a lot of you guys to show up and be yourselves and be who you are and get to be better players, and I haven’t totally shared with you something about myself that’s important,” Kaig Lightner told his Portland, Oregon, team, in a video that was posted on YouTube with the title “Authenticity” on May 3.
“Some of you may or may not know this, but I am transgender,” he explained. “So what that means is … that I was born a girl and that I grew up playing soccer as a girl. And that’s not something I share with players or people in the sports world very often because it’s not an easy thing.”
Lightner, whose first name is pronounced Cage, founded the Portland Community Football Club in 2012 to offer high-level training for low-income families or underprivileged kids. The PCFC is a non-profit organization and is “one of the first youth sports clubs in Portland to openly accept LGBTQ players, coaches and families,” according to its website.
Lightner, 36, said the sports world often imposes rules on how boys are supposed to play or how girls are supposed to play — and that he often was told he couldn’t play that way because he was a girl. Lightner transitioned about a decade ago, according to the PCFC website.
“I be you all have had the same things said to you about the color of your skin or the way you talk or the country your parents are from,” he said. “That’s really similar to how I got treated as a kid, too.”
He said the response from his players has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The best thing has been how normal everything has been,” Lightner told the HuffPost. “Practice went on that day as normal. I coached as I always have and the kids played as they always have.”
After telling the players, Lightner asked if they had any questions. The first one he got was about how old he was.
“These kids come from cultures and religions that are different from my own experiences,” he told BuzzFeed. “I didn’t know what their responses would be. I really appreciate that the first question was how old I am. I think it speaks to how much this generation of youth have so much more exposure to LGBT people and concepts than I did as a kid.”