A 47-year-old transgender woman was cleared to play in an Australian women's soccer league after spending 25 years in men's leagues. Martine Delaney, who used to compete as Martin Delaney, received approval from Soccer Tasmania this week. She had a sex-change operation more than two years ago.
Delaney, a human rights activist for many years, was surprised she had become front-page news in Australia. "It's not the primary reason I decided to play, but it's given transgender issues some profile--for sure," Delaney told the Associated Press by telephone. "I've had some wonderful reactions. An elderly lady recognized me and walked up to me, grabbed my arm, and told me, 'Congratulations, you've done a good thing. Go for it, girl!"'
Football Federation Australia does not have a specific policy regarding transgender players. But it advised Tasmanian state authorities that if Delaney was legally classified female, she qualified for the women's competition under guidelines adopted by the International Olympic Committee. Delaney was tentative about returning to soccer but did so in recent months at the insistence of some girlfriends. She scored a half dozen goals for Claremont United in the women's division 1 competition before rival fans discovered Delaney's past and asked the state association for clarification.
Soccer Tasmania chief executive Martin Shaw gave the OK, saying state laws and the FFA's rules prohibited discrimination in Delaney's case. Delaney works in a counseling agency for gay and transgender people in Hobart. She said she'd heard of Mianne Bagger, the Danish-born Australian who
made headlines this year by forcing the European and Australian women's golf tours to change their "female by birth" qualification criteria. "My decision was threefold, I suppose," Delaney said. "I had a lifelong love of soccer and wanted to get back; I had some heart problems a few years back, and
my doctor told me I needed more exercise; and I thought it might make a difference."