Lee Lester

'I Want To Inspire Other Trans People To Get Involved In Football'

As part of the Club's support for Football v Transphobia, LCFC.com revisits an interview with lifelong Leicester City supporter Lee Lester, who opened up about his experience of being trans earlier this year.
More on this story...

- Lee shares his story of being a trans supporter of Leicester City
- The Foxes fan started his transition when he was 25 years old
- He aims to raise awareness of the trans community and discusses some of the challenges he’s faced in a football setting

Lee, 36, started his transition from a female to a male when he was 25 years old, and shares his story with us to raise awareness of the trans community while explaining how people can educate themselves in order to make trans people feel more comfortable in a football environment.

The Foxes Pride member also discusses the challenges he’s faced during his life, and addresses some of the inaccurate assumptions people can sometimes make of the trans community.

The Football v Transphobia week of action takes place from 24-31 March, ending on Transgender Day of Visibility.

This will be the third season Football v Homophobia have taken specific action on trans inclusion and transphobia in the game to help amplify the voices of trans people and allies in all aspects of football.

Here’s Lee’s story…

Why did you decide to transition?

I always knew I was different, and my identity felt different to my peers growing up. I was very masculine and the way I dressed and the hobbies I had were masculine. It wasn’t until I was quite late in life that I had a name for how I felt because being trans and finding out information about it when I was growing up wasn’t easy. I lived in a small village back then and the internet wasn’t around in those days, so it made things hard. Because of that I didn’t know what it was so I identified as a gay woman for a very long time, and it wasn’t really until I was around 21 that I suddenly learned that you could be trans, and it was a legitimate thing. I realised that being trans was exactly right for me, so I started off with a social transition, which involved changing my name and my pronouns, but then over time I started surgical procedures to continue that transition.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced?

A lot of people say that when they see a representation of themselves there’s something really free about it and there’s a feeling of acceptance because you don’t feel like you’re the only one. Having said that, there’s also something really scary about it too because you then have to acknowledge it and do something about it. The battle for me has never been about accessing any services or anything like that, it’s always been about my own demons and my own battle, and what I mean by that is thinking about what my parents would think, about what my friends and colleagues would think and about what so and so down the road would think.

The reality of it is that all of those people just went ‘yeah, we knew, it was obvious’ so it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone when I told them. I have a great amount of support from my friends and family, my wife is incredible and has always viewed me as male, along with my kids too.

Can you explain the process you went through? 

In terms of the medical side of things it’s just a matter of doing it. I don’t think it’s any more difficult than any other type of surgery, you’ve just got to be aware of everything and deal with the changes and the costs associated with doing something like this. When it’s something that you really want and it feels so right then all of that just becomes irrelevant. I’ve had top surgery which is the procedure for the top half of my body. I haven’t had bottom surgery, and it’s something I’m not going to do. For me, that is a complicated and quite dangerous procedure, with limited positive results. It’s not something I need in my life right now. I’m at the stage now where I’ve had enough surgical procedures. I’m very happy in my body. If I had to stop now and there was nothing else I could do to my transition then it wouldn’t matter to me because I could walk down the street and pass people quite comfortably.

What were people’s reactions like when you told them you were transitioning? 

Overall, the general reaction to my transition has been positive. Most people these days in 2021 have a relatively good concept of what it means to be trans. They might not necessarily know the terminology and understand the mechanics of it, but they have an idea it exists and that it’s valid. That helps enormously and there’s been so many great programmes and articles in the media of people coming out as trans, which has helped a great deal. I’m a person who lives in a bit of a bubble though, be that a political bubble or a moral bubble, and naturally I associate myself with people who are like-minded, so I often get a bit of a surprise when I step out of that bubble and realise that actually there are a lot of people out there who really don’t understand what it is and don’t tolerate trans identities. For me, I see a lot of misunderstanding on social media and people see it as something to joke about. I’ve had a good experience like I say, but that said, I have had issues where I’ve been challenged when I’ve been out and about, especially when it comes to toilets. Before I started transitioning, I still had this awkward moment, which I call the toilet dance, where I would stand in between the male and female toilets and move from side to side because I wasn’t sure which was the safest to go in. I don’t have that problem now because I use the male toilets, but previously when I didn’t maybe pass as well, toilets were a huge problem and I’ve had many altercations in toilets with people who have thought they have a right to tell me where I should be.

What has your experience been like at King Power Stadium?

This may come across as bias because Leicester City are my team, but I think King Power Stadium, out of all the grounds I’ve been to, is the best in terms of trying to make a difference and being inclusive of different identities. On matchdays I’ve never had an issue, nobody has ever said anything to me that I would class as transphobic, but what I do notice sometimes around the terraces is the kind of language used. I do hear homophobic elements in some of the language, but I know for a fact that staff at the stadium are really hot on that if it’s reported.

What are the barriers facing trans people at football?

The barrier is fear, it is simply that. It’s the fear of the unknown and the thoughts of what if? What if I’m there at a place that is predominantly full of working-class men and they turn on me? Historically football has been very male dominated and there is still a culture where there’s a slight intolerance to difference. It’s very much engrained in football, and you only have to look at the Black Lives Matter and Rainbow Laces stuff to see that. So yeah, it’s the fear of being targeted, the fear of being jeered at and having the focus turned on you. A lot of trans people just want to fit nicely into the background and just lead their lives. They don’t want to be so visible. This is especially true for trans women because they have it a lot harder and feel a lot more threatened for their safety. There’s some logistical problems as well. Toilets can be a big problem like I’ve mentioned because it causes a great deal of anxiety. It’s the every-day kind of things that people don’t have to think about that worry the trans community. It’s very hard for minority groups to feel truly safe at football if they haven’t got a watch over their shoulder, and that’s really hard when you want to immerse yourself in something.

Have you ever felt fear?

I’m a very confident person and I’m very fortunate that I’ve grown up and developed a confidence and an identity about who I am, so I feel I could challenge something quite effectively. I don’t fear violence towards me as a trans person, I don’t feel that would happen at King Power Stadium, I really don’t. Going to away grounds can be different though. You just haven’t got that family feel as much and things can be a little bit more edgy. Say for example if people have been drinking and your team have lost and everybody pours out of the stadium, there’s a moment where you do feel a bit of fear. Social media is the reason for some of my fear because I read some awful things and it gets me thinking. I do have to always check if I’m okay, like for example I check my voice to see if I’m talking deep enough when I go to buy a pint on the concourse just to make sure I won’t get rumbled. It’s a really weird concept to be so aware of yourself all the time.

Tell us about your involvement with Foxes Pride and the importance of campaigns such as Football v Homophobia and Rainbow Laces?

I’ve been a member of Foxes Pride now for about 18 months. I’m not the most active member, I’ll freely admit that, life and coronavirus has got in the way a little bit, but the fact the group are there and that it exists is what makes me so happy. It’s a really well run, honest group of people who are there to support. These campaigns are so important but there is so much still to be done. More lesbian and gay people are attending games, and that number is slowly increasing for bi people too, but I do think trans people, especially trans women, are not just a minority in the world, but such a minority in football. I know very few trans women who would feel comfortable to attend a football match. The more we normalise things, and the more we see players wearing rainbow armbands and rainbow laces, the better because then people will see that this is fine and completely accepted. This can only be a good thing for young trans people and other LGB people growing up to see role models.  

What more can Leicester City do to support trans people?

I think training is vitally important. Training every single staff member, be that people who work in the Foxes Fanstore to those working in the food kiosks on the concourses to the Directors. It sounds ludicrous but training is the one of the best things you can offer employees in terms of equality and diversity because what you are doing is helping people to have a safe place to explore concepts of diversity and ask questions that they probably can’t ask anywhere else because of embarrassment. It’s fear that generates people’s intolerance because they’re so scared of saying the wrong thing, so training makes people realise that we’re all pushing in the same direction. I always think training is such a positive thing, even if it’s just to a reasonable level so people can try to understand what trans even means, and why we shouldn’t use words like transexual or hermaphrodite any more. There’s a whole linguistic thing that would help so many people, and that would be a really good start. Having the opportunity to share my story and be open with you today helps massively too. Hearing trans voices and individual stories is so important.

What do you hope your story achieves?

There’s two things I want to do and I want to appeal to two very different sets of people. I want to appeal to people who aren’t sure about trans people or feel confused about it, and to make them realise there’s no agenda and that we don’t want to achieve anything more than equality. It’s not something that’s just been invented in the last 10 years, there’s been trans people everywhere in all walks of life throughout time and it would be really nice to educate people through this article that we exist, and we don’t want division, we don’t want to cause a fuss, we just want equality and to feel united in football. I’d also like to appeal to people out there who are trans, especially young people who don’t feel like football is the place for them or who are really nervous about coming along to games and getting involved in things. I want to be seen as inspiration to others, I’m a 36-year-old trans guy who loves his football club and wouldn’t want anything stopping me from pursuing that. I hope my story gives other trans people some type of protection and for them to get involved in football. There’s a big community out there who will keep you safe. I want you to enjoy football without any hate.

What are some of the inaccurate assumptions people make of the trans community? 

There’s an assumption that being trans is an attention seeking thing or that people want to be trans because they’re really unhappy in their lives and they feel that changing will change that. I’ve been happy throughout my life with who I am, I just needed the outside to match the inside. There’s always been an assumption from people about why am I doing this to myself? Why am I putting myself at risk and putting my body through these things? My answer to that is that I’ve always had to do it because not being your authentic self is just a waste of life. There’s also always been an assumption as well that trans people are really angry, and in a sense we are. We’re pretty angry that we’re at the bottom of the food chain, we are kind of like the last taboo because we see our gay brothers and sisters slightly more accepted than us in society, and we’d like a piece of that. Even within LGBT communities, the T is down the pecking order and we still get a lot of transphobia from people. So yeah, we are annoyed, but there’s a misconception that the anger is misdirected and that we’ve got a chip on our shoulder. I’m a very laid-back person who just wants to educate people, I’m not trying to humiliate anyone, I just want them to understand the things they say can be really unhelpful and backward thinking.

What would your final message be?

I’d really encourage people, no matter who they are, where they come from and what their background is to just educate themselves a little bit about trans lives. There’s some amazing resources out there on the internet that you can read and learn about. Education breaks down so many barriers, so that would be a really powerful thing. My other point to anyone who is trans and doesn’t feel like football is for them is to make it be. Speak to other trans people and realise that we need to change football, we can’t expect football to change for us. We have to turn up and be counted and be present in order to change the face of football. The game should be for everybody.

Please click HERE for more information about Football v Transphobia.

For further details about Foxes Pride, please click HERE.




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