Premier League’s first transgender woman, Sophie, has told a surprising tale of how she was totally accepted by both players and fans after coming out as trans.
Naturally, Sophie feared backlash as she began the new season as herself, after previously living under the name Steve.
Sophie Cook, who is a a Premier League football photographer for AFC Bournemouth, has known she was a woman since she was young.
With Bournemouth club manager Eddie Howe and chairman Jeff Mostyn in tow, Sophie broke the news to her team.
“Living with the burden any longer would have killed me, so it was time to be true to myself. I couldn’t keep living in the shadows. I had to tell the guys. I was living in Brighton and had hair extensions. It wasn’t as if I could go back to Bournemouth, take my wig off and pretend I was still Steve. I was Sophie.”
“The assistant manager called the players together and said: ‘You’ll probably notice our photographer has changed a little from last season, lost a bit of weight, and grown her hair out a bit. I’d like you all to meet Sophie.’ I had no idea how they would react but suddenly the captain started clapping and the rest of the boys joined in. I haven’t looked back. It feels amazing.”
Sophie began her journey in June of last year, has been taking female hormones and lost an impressive five stone in four months.
Under NHS Guidelines, transgender people must spend two years living as a woman (or man, depending) before they can undergo gender reassignment surgery.
“It was just a switch that suddenly went. I realised why I hated myself so much and I knew I had to end the mental torment. My wife knew I was transgender when I met her but when our son was born disabled and we nearly lost him, I realised we already had enough to deal with and I couldn’t put my family through it.”
“I took Sophie, put her in a box and buried her for 15 years of hell. When I told my wife after the Leeds game, she said she always knew it would come back. She’s a wonderful woman and though we are no longer man and wife, we are best friends.”
Sophie and her wife had been married for ten years, but separated this year. They had, however, managed to remain good friends. They had planned to tell their children, aged 11 and 14, during the summer holidays but when news of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition broke they took their chance.
“I said to them: ‘You know how when you were growing up and how you knew in your heads you were either a boy or a girl? It’s not been like that for me. I always thought I was a girl and I had to hide it which made me very, very sad.’ I said from now on I was going to start being a woman but that wouldn’t change how much I loved them. They were brilliant.”
“The first time my son met Sophie he said outright: ‘You look weird’ and one time told the next door neighbours: ‘My daddy is a lady’. All my daughter wants to do is go make up shopping together and she even said to me once after I posted a poem on Facebook to thank Steve for his strength over the years: ‘You’re my hero. Steve was great but Sophie is better’.”
“Every day I thought about suicide. It was a horrible, lonely, painful place to be. Now, when I look at old photos of me with the family as Steve, I just look dead, I look like a zombie.”
We wish Sophie the best of luck with her transition, and hope that everyone else in her life is just as supportive as her team and her family.