Football’s only transgender referee will take to the pitch on Sunday afternoon for the first time under her new identity.
Lucy Clark, 46, has been known as Nick in the world of soccer for years and admits being nervous about fans’ reaction tomorrow.
But she tells the Sunday Mirror: “I hope the world accepts me for the person I am.”
Happily married and with three children, Lucy adds: “I have kept this secret hidden away most of my life. Now is the time to be ME.
“I can appreciate people will be a bit shocked when I run on to the pitch.
“But I’m the same person. I will just look a bit different. It’ll be nice not to live in two different worlds and be me.
“I want to inspire others to be who they are.”
Lucy’s decision to live as a woman follows a 30-year gender struggle which pushed her to the brink.
Her amazing transition is fully backed by the Football Association.
In the first part of a remarkable interview, Lucy tells how:
- Football saved her life as she struggled to become her true self, even attempting suicide.
- Wife Avril is continuing to support her and will be at the first game.
- She dreams of refereeing matches at a higher level.
Lucy, who works as a black cab driver and lives in Surrey, happily posed for pictures and clutched Avril’s hand as she told her story.
Avril has stood by Lucy since she told her, one drunken night 18 years ago, that she was a woman trapped in a man’s body.
They remain in love and believe their future as a couple remains as bright as ever.
They share make-up tips and enjoy clothes shopping together.
But as a semi-professional football referee, it is Lucy’s job to go about her work without being noticed.
And while family and close pals know she is transitioning, those in the macho world of football don’t – which leaves her plagued with doubt.
Lucy’s left hand, clasped in Avril’s, shakes as she talks openly for the first time about the future.
Smiling nervously, she says: “It’s going to be awkward.
“Players I can deal with. I can just give red or yellow cards to them. It’s the fans – that’s where the issues could come.
“I’m preparing myself for the derogatory comments. I don’t want to lose my control and I don’t want to be putting complaints into clubs about the behaviour of their fans.
“I’m a bit concerned. If I’ve suddenly got 200 people shouting stuff about me I don’t know how I’ll react.
“But I am thick-skinned, you’ve got to be.
“We’re doing voice coaching but that’ll be interesting on the pitch.
“I still need a strong voice while reffing but I’m thinking how I can make the whistle talk more. But that’s not my game though, I’m vocal.”
Lucy reveals how doubts about her true identity first surfaced when she was a child. She goes on: “I knew something wasn’t quite right when I was seven.
“I didn’t feel like the others kids at my boys’ school. I yearned to be at the girls’ school with my sister.
“I didn’t want to do what boys did so I threw myself into football because that’s what a boy should do.”
It was the love of the sport that came to Lucy’s rescue in her time of need. And it will lead her to changing history on Sunday.
She adds: “Some of my best friends don’t know. A referee friend popped around for a cup of tea this week. I had to get changed quick and put a baggy T-shirt on.
“No one chooses to be transgender. It’s not cool. Everyone who is wishes they weren’t, but I am who I am and this is the stick life has dealt me.”
Lucy’s life has been a tough one to navigate. In her teens she struggled to cope with the changes puberty made to her body and feelings that surfaced.
Questioning who she was, suicidal thoughts washed over her. And at 15 she tried to take her own life. She recalls: “I used to go to sleep and wish I’d never wake up.
“There used to be a big block of flats on the road where I lived. On more than one occasion I’d stand on the top of it and thought about ending it all.
“I took tablets and drank alcohol. I ended up having my stomach pumped. A ridiculously high percentage of transgender people attempt suicide. How many succeeded, we don’t know.”
Lucy hopes that by talking more about the transgender issue fewer people will feel so lost and helpless.
“We are better now than 30 years ago and I hope it improves in the next 30 years. Me speaking out, hopefully, can make a difference,” she says.
Avril helped Lucy feel truly comfortable in who she was. The pair enjoy dressing up and going on nights out in London and Milton Keynes.
And during our interview Lucy grows in confidence simply by telling her story. She reveals the next step is gender reassignment surgery, explaining: “I’ve been on hormones for three years. Next year I’ll be having surgery. I don’t want facial feminisation. Luckily, I don’t have the Adam’s apple.
“Me and Avril are talking about make-up lessons. I have a contour kit but don’t know how to use it. We get our nails done together and go shopping. Avril steals my clothes.
“We have our own styles. She’ll see something I wear and go ‘I like that’. I’ve nicked a body suit. Avril wears Doc Martens, which I never wear.”
Of her tattoos, she says: “One is a phoenix rising from the ashes – a bit like me. The others are just flowers and colours I like.”
Lucy has quietly been part of the transgender community for 18 years and this year launched Trans Radio UK. She says, proudly: “It’s broadcasting to over 39 countries now, which is unbelievable.
“I can’t believe how quickly it’s grown.”
For now, though, the focus is on football and her decision to go public has won the support of FA officials.
Lucy will initially officiate women’s matches but she hopes to move back into the men’s game.
She regularly officiated at 100 games a year in leagues including the Combined Counties, the Isthmian and the National Under 19.
The Football Association said in a statement today: “The FA fully supports Lucy and anyone else who wants to participate in football in their preferred gender.
“Football is For All and in 2014 The FA announced a policy, as well as an information guide distributed to all clubs, to encourage trans people to participate in football.”
Lucy, meanwhile, is determined that Sunday is the start of a remarkable new chapter in a story that will have a positive ending.
Her much-loved pink whistle makes a return for the game – a nod to the woman she’s always been.
She adds: “I am looking to the future and want to progress as a referee. I’d have loved to have got to the Premier League but am probably too old. It would take 10 years to get there and I’d be in my 50s.
“But I want to go up a few levels. The only thing that is changing is the name they put on the team sheet at the start of the match.
“When I blow that whistle today I can finally be myself. I’ve waited a lifetime for that.”
Kellie backs brave Lucy
It’s four years since Kellie Maloney told in the Sunday Mirror how she was transitioning from boxing promoter Frank to the woman she is today.
Now she is helping Lucy tell her story. Kellie, 65, says: “Lucy came to me for advice and I encouraged her to take control of her story.
“I’ve gone from someone who was frightened to come out in public to a confident woman.
“It’s a brave decision Lucy’s taken. She’s in a very male-dominated world like I was. The biggest fear I had was going to Millwall, but I was made to feel so welcome by their fans. I’m hoping Lucy gets the same reception when she goes out to ref her games. If people understand the struggle you’ve endured they support you.
“From this moment on she can stop being two people. She can go out and be Lucy and continue to do what she loves.”
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