WITH open arms, Wagga United has welcomed a transgender player to its ranks, a decision that has been met with hostility by some community members, who believe Holly Conroy should not be playing in the women’s soccer competition.
On Tuesday an online punter directed a nasty comment, that was quickly removed, towards Conroy on a Daily Advertiser soccer story that made no mention of her.
Conroy, compelled to prevent further hostility, has defended her choice to play.
“If I went and competed in a martial arts tournament right now, I’d probably cop a lot of flak, I’d still hold quite an advantage over female opponents,” she said.
“But as far as soccer goes I really don’t understand why people have their reservations, because it more comes down to skill.”
Conroy grew up playing rugby league and doing mixed martial arts, started her transition over a year ago, and took up soccer for the first time this season.
“A year ago I was nervous about everything, I wouldn’t go outside without looking sideways,” she said.
“The love of sport and being outside drove me to get back into it. I have amazing friends and family who have supported me right from the start. As far as the girls go, we’ve all become really close friends, I haven’t had a problem from anybody, it’s been really, really good.”
Hormonal changes induced by testosterone blockers and estrogen have changed Conroy’s physiological composition.
“I’ve noticed a big difference as far as strength goes,” she said.
“The hormones make your muscles shrink.”
Before taking Conroy on, head coach Chris Driscoll checked with Football NSW guidelines and discovered transgender players are to be treated equally, and they need not submit additional documentation.
Wagga United captain Jes Smith has thrown her support behind Conroy.
“Holly's just fitted in so well, she’s become part of the family,” Smith said.
“It’s no different to any other player. Even if I was playing against her, I wouldn’t think any differently, and I haven’t heard anything from other teams, no one’s really said anything.”
Conroy has been treated respectfully by rivals so far this season, and while the nasty online comment took her by surprise, she wasn’t too shocked.
“People feel braver behind a keyboard,” she said.
“Things get said that people certainly wouldn’t say out loud, I welcome them to talk to me in person.”
So far, soccer has been a positive choice for Conroy’s well-being.
Coupled with the physical benefits of sport are the mental health benefits, vital for trans women who are almost 10 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode than the general population.
“Yep it definitely helps,” Conroy said.
“That’s the big problem with a lot of trans people is that they feel so alienated and restricted, they tend to develop mental problems.”