A Portland, Ore. soccer coach is making international headlines after revealing to members of his youth club that he is transgender in a video that was posted online.
Kaig Lightner, founder, director and coach of the Portland Community Football Club, opened up to his club on May 1 in a video shared on the club’s Facebook page in which he revealed he transitioned from a woman to a man beginning in 2007.
Lightner said in the video that he decided to reveal the personal details about his gender after attending a conference that focused on making sports more accessible.
“I realized while I was there that we ask a lot of you guys to show up and be yourselves and be who you are,” Lightner told the group. “I haven’t totally shared with you something about myself that’s kind of important … and it’s important thing for me to share because we should all be who we are.”
“Some of you may or may not know is I am transgender.”
Even though Lightner is open about his transition from woman to man on the club’s website and promotes it as LGBTQ-friendly, he told Global News he felt “strange” about being an advocate for LGBTQ equality outside of sports, while feeling uncomfortable being his entire self on the pitch.
“There’s a stigma of being LGBTQ and working with kids,” Lightner said, adding that prejudices held him back from telling his players sooner.
The “overdue” exercise in honesty and authenticity was meant to demonstrate that an individual’s appearance does not always reveal their whole story, and stereotyping or discriminating against someone’s exterior can underestimate their abilities.
“What that means is that I was born a girl, and that I grew up playing soccer as a girl. And that’s not something I share with players or people in the sports world very often because it’s not an easy thing,” Lightner said in the video. “We have a lot of rules in sports about how boys play and how girls play. And that’s not really fair.”
Lightner added that because he’s white and male, he’s been able to remain virtually “invisible” to many prejudices, something many of his players, who are from visible minority groups, have had to face.
“You never know what’s going on with somebody, you never know what kind of thing they’re not sharing with you,” Lightner told his players in the video. “So that’s why you have to be kind and respectful and nice to everybody you possibly can, even when people aren’t kind and respectful to you — which I know happens to you guys.”
The revelation was met with giggles from some participants — a reaction Lightner expected.
“If you’re confused, that’s OK … If you’re like kinda weirded out, that’s OK,” Lightner said. “If you have questions, come talk to me.”
Lightner he understood the response from some players, but said almost all the feedback he has received from players, parents and strangers on social media has been positive and supportive.
“Some kids had questions, but most just said, ‘no big deal, let’s play soccer.'”
“I’m just an average citizen trying to make it in this world.”
Lightner said he filmed and posted the video as a way of sharing his personal story with kids and parents who weren’t at practice, but admits it was naive to think it wouldn’t grab attention outside the club.
“I didn’t know it would be such a statement of visibility for the transgender community,” he said.
Lightner did receive one message accusing him of being perverse, but said he didn’t want to “spend any time or energy focusing on that.”
Instead, Lightner is hoping the exposure the video has provided will help him grow the club and provide more kids with an opportunity to be themselves and play soccer in an inclusive environment.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.