March 8, 2024

CJ’s Story, Inspiring Inclusion – International Women’s Day 2024

Hi all, my name is CJ, and this is my story, thoughts, and experience of playing women’s sports as a transwoman.

I grew up in a small town and fell in love with the game of cricket at the age of 5 playing backyard cricket with my cousins. This continued until I was 11 and given an opportunity to play a junior cricket game with my friend’s team, which was the best.

When I began secondary school, I decided to play socially on Saturdays. This meant attending twice weekly practice with guys who were 5 years my senior as it was men’s grade cricket. During this time, I continued to love the game, despite a struggle to learn the skills needed to play at this level. Regardless, I went out each Saturday with friends to give it our best… and we lost almost every game for the next 5 years.

After leaving school I joined another club and we made the local finals twice, with the second one being played at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, against a higher graded team. We batted first and played well, I batted 11 and managed to bat out the last 8 overs with the number 10 setting a total of 140 odd. We ended up bowling them out for less than 100. This was the last moment I played men’s cricket.

After this game, I began my transition and stopped playing cricket for 5 years.

Having got my life to where I wanted it, my partner pointed out my itch to play cricket again. He supported me back into the sport I love and gave me the courage to find a local women’s team. Unknown to me, the only women’s team (at the time) was the local rep team, so I went along, dusted the dust off and joined up.

I informed the coach of being transgender and inquired what policies there were, he said to give him a week to find out. A week later, he said they were none and what they would do is confirm with each team we were to play against that they were comfortable playing against a transwoman. I didn’t attend every game that season (that’s life sometimes), and am unsure if these conversations were had, but I played the best cricket I could and enjoyed every moment on the field.

A year later, a social grade of women’s cricket was announced and I was keen to play. Aside from the most recent season of rep cricket, though enjoyable, for me, cricket is about getting out there and enjoying time with people with a shared interest (and having a few drinks afterwards). I missed the first season of the new social grade due to medical reasons but was contacted at the start of the second season explaining how it’s now club cricket and would I like to join the Marist team – which is what I did.

The first season with Marist was great. We made it to the finals, and I was asked to open the bowling, we had the opposition 7 down for 20ish runs with myself having 3 wickets and the other opener having 4. I was set to bowl an over to their number 9 batter, and realised I cannot take this wicket due to the concerns about transwomen in sports – how we are seen as threats to sport. So, I had to bowl 6 balls that did not get this batter out, nor for them to hit it and get herself out. In the end I did it, and the other opening bowler bowled out the last wicket getting their 5-wicket haul (which is an achievement in itself in 9 aside cricket!).

This next point is hearsay, and I was informed of it after the fact. As I understand it, there was a meeting to discuss the success and challenges of this grade, and I was brought up as a concern. Fortunately, I had some good allies at this meeting who advocated on my behalf and argued for my staying in this grade. If this meeting went as I understand it, I am very thankful to those people. For me, I cannot imagine what the outcome would have been had I got that last wicket – denying our strike bowler her 5-wicket haul.

Fast forward to today, I have continued playing in this social women’s grade and remain mindful not to do too well due to the ongoing conversations that surround trans people in sport. I am learning to play the sport at my pace, with the backing of a supportive team and club.  Best of all, I am still in love with this sport 28 years on from when I first started playing backyard cricket with my cousins. I hope my story shows how trans and cis women can play sport together, (it has been happening successfully for longer than most people know), but also highlights the very real need of having allies and the importance they play in the stories of our trans communities. My journey as a trans woman in sport could have had a completely different ending without the support of allies.