Bristol

Bristol trans footballer abused after signing for club

Sammy Walker Image copyright Sammy Walker
Image caption Ms Walker has been the focus of online abuse on Twitter

A trans footballer who endured online abuse after announcing she was joining a professional team said the experience has been "hurtful."

Sammy Walker, 29, from Bristol, was targeted by Twitter users who labelled her a "paedophile" and claimed she was stealing places from female players.

"I fought tooth and nail to be me, and it obviously hurts," she said.

The FA's policy on trans people in football states "gender identity should not be a barrier to participation".

Trans individuals who wish to play professionally are judged on a case-by-case basis.

Players must submit blood samples to prove their testosterone levels do not give them a physical advantage.

Ms Walker is waiting to hear from the FA whether she is medically eligible for competitive fixtures, but is playing friendly matches with her club in the meantime.

"When I look back at the video of my [club] trial it doesn't look like there's a big lumbering man on the pitch.

"It's frustrating that people think my participation is a risk to women's sport in general," she said.

Image caption Martina Navratilova said she had been "vilified" as "transphobic" since making comments on the subject

The issue of trans players in sports has sparked debate online in recent years, with high profile athletes like tennis player Martina Navratilova and swimmer Sharron Davies speaking about the issue.

Davies was heavily criticised last year after saying transgender athletes should not compete in women's sport.

While the club she has signed for has been supportive, Ms Walker, who played academy football before transitioning, says the experience has been "upsetting."

"Football is my life, it's my first love.

"When I'm playing, I don't worry that people are thinking a certain way of me, or that I might be attacked.

"It supports that release and gives me an escape.

"I've got a thick skin and it will take more than words on a screen to deter me," she added.

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