International Pronoun Day: Caz Fields on the feeling of being accepted as a non-binary player in Brighouse Town | Football news
When midfielder Caz Fields got the chance to advance to the women’s third division in August, there was excitement – and panic.
Brighouse Town was keen to get Fields ahead of their first campaign in the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division. The box-to-box player had impressed at United of Manchester FC, and Town manager Rob Mitchell had been commendable after a game between the two clubs.
“I’ve seen Brighouse have an open process and I’ve always been keen to try it,” says Fields, “so I told my boss at United that I would do it – I don’t know if I would was out of fear or something else.
“Shortly afterwards, however, Rob formally contacted me and I knew that I wanted to speak to him. If someone shows interest in you, that’s different.
“Moving clubs was still a big risk for me, but I have to say it went really well.” Fields was named Player of the Month in August, and the team has only lost one of their seven league games so far.
Before the move, there were two reasons for concern. “First of all, it had been a couple of years since I played at this higher level, which was pretty intimidating.
“Then I also thought about moving to a new club from a team where I was vice-captain and I felt very comfortable when everyone knew that I was not binary.”
Fields came out to her FC United teammates last year after speaking to close friend and club captain Kirsty Chambers during the lockdown helped clarify their gender identity. Their performance on the field improved, caught Mitchell’s eye and opened up the possibility of adding a division.
Part of Fields’ ongoing coming-out journey is letting others know that their pronouns are “they” and “they”. Wednesday is International Pronoun Day – an awareness day designed to help people understand gender pronouns and how we all use these words in everyday life – and they speak with Sky Sports share some of their football experiences in this regard.
My teammates only supported me. As for the pronouns, not everyone will get it right right away every time, but everyone tries and I couldn’t ask anything more from them.
A transfer would understandably introduce some additional challenges for a player who is not binary. For Fields, a welcoming and thoughtful conversation with Mitchell helped pave the way forward.
“Some of my old FC team-mates had told me, ‘What are you going to do when you get to Brighouse?’ That’s where I settled – everyone respected me and here I was about to jump to a new place.
“But Rob called me and really calmed me down. He told me I was going to get the number 8 jersey and we talked about how he wanted to play the team. And then he said, ‘I have one more question’.
“He stated that he noticed from my social media accounts that I am not binary and that he went out and did some research as he always wanted to make sure all of his players were comfortable when they were in come to the club.
“I didn’t expect a manager to be so up-to-date on gender identity issues. We had a good chat, he just assured me of respect for that part of me. He asked me if there was anything. ” Pay attention to the gender-specific language so that he can adapt his coaching style if necessary.
“I explained that it depends on the person, but for me it is good, for example, when I address the whole group ‘Come on, girls’ or ‘Come on, boys’ my pronouns are used.
“He had a lot of questions and really wanted to understand. It made me feel like I made the right decision.”
Teammates and TikTok
Fields fully appreciates that it is difficult for many to talk about gender and what it means to not be binary, especially when it comes to soccer and other sports that are divided into men’s and women’s competitions.
But in women’s football itself, they were encouraged by the healthy curiosity of their teammates and a strong sense of mutual respect, as demonstrated in their first training session in Brighouse.
“I didn’t feel the need to immediately say that I am not binary – most of the players followed me on social media after my signing was announced anyway,” said Fields.
“I just wanted to come in as a player and let my football do the talking, make friends and let them get to know me as a person.
“And conversations about being LGBTQ + have come naturally since then, and my teammates have only been supportive. When it comes to pronouns, not everyone will get it right right away every time, but every single person tries and I couldn’t. Don’t ask any more of them. We got closer very quickly.
“Some had never met a non-binary person before or knew what it meant. If I offer a little bit of representation, a little bit of education, that’s good.”
This visibility isn’t just limited to the Women’s National League. As for many people, the Field lockdown opened up new avenues of expression and exploration. They opened a TikTok account in April 2020 and discussed topics like Black Lives Matter, mental health, sexuality, gender and more.
The videos were well received by the platform’s large LGBTQ + community, but Fields found their content attracted many other users as well. To date, their posts have over 3 million likes and they have over 32,000 followers on the platform.
While the disadvantages of social media are highlighted more often, especially in soccer, Fields has found its place for positivity. “I just wanted to create fun content that was related to me – some posts are educational, others are about random things or just things I enjoy.
“I can get my personality across and on TikTok, it’s not about binding the identity to the person. People get to know me and hopefully this will develop their perception of what it means to be non-binary.
“They can ask questions that they probably wouldn’t ask if we were face to face. Yes, sometimes it’s rude or offensive and these are ignored or blocked when they’re really bad. But when someone is open to dialogue – and you can tell by the way they approach you – you can get a sense of how their understanding grows. “
A golden trailblazer
Undoubtedly, the football community’s understanding of gender identity has grown significantly with the performance of Canadian international Quinn, who helped his team win Olympic gold this summer.
The 26-year-old, who has played almost 70 caps for his country, is an inspiration to the other midfielders, Fields, with both players being valued for their defensive work and leadership skills at their respective levels. Quinn publicly appeared as a non-binary transgender in September 2020 and her success in Tokyo was a historic achievement.
“I really pushed for Quinn and Canada at the Olympics,” Fields nodded enthusiastically. “You have to think about the impact on people around the world who are struggling with their identities. You don’t seem to be available – you start to think who you are is a secret and cannot be celebrated.
“For an out athlete like Quinn who is successful on a global scale and reporters are using their pronouns correctly, this is a great stepping stone to where we need to be.”
How do you rate this progress? “Women’s football has always felt very inclusive – certainly to me – but it’s growing so fast and recent conversations about gender might feel like a lot.
“Awareness days like International Pronoun Day help in this regard. Suppose there is a young footballer who thinks, ‘everyone calls me’ she ‘and it doesn’t suit me.’ You hear from someone who gives birth to a Woman and “whoever turns out to be non-binary helps them understand who they are.
“People may think there are too many these days, but they don’t know how many people feel that they can’t talk about their gender identity or that of their friends or family members because of the stigma that still surrounds them. “
After Fields tackled these issues on his own, with his teammates, and on TikTok, Fields feels almost indebted to be an advocate. Most importantly, they emphasize the importance of patience and grace – realizing that mistakes are made and that an open minded attitude reduces fear of judgment from others.
The anticipation that went into that first phone call with the new manager after he agreed to sign for Brighouse was a case in point. “Part of me thought that this middle aged man didn’t want to argue about pronouns. I was still shy and decided not to mention it – but Rob brought it up instead.
“I’m so glad he did. It was an early turning point – I knew the club was inclusive right away. Well, if for any reason I’m not binary, I’m confident I can talk about it.” “It’s no surprise they thrive in Brighouse Town’s redesigned engine room.
For more information on International Pronoun Day, visit pronounsday.org.
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