A transgender footballer, who has been banned from playing for a Leeds ladies’ team, has received global support in her bid to return to the pitch.
Supporters from as far afield as Mexico, Nepal and Australia have backed Aeris Houlihan, who was born male, after she was told by the Football Association she could only play with men despite being legally classed a woman.
Despite having been on Hormone Replacement Therapy for eight months and scheduling gender reassignment surgery for March 2014, FA rules state the 32-year-old cannot play until two years after her operation.
The sales executive, who plays Sunday league football for Middleton Park Ladies’ Football Club in south Leeds, used to play against men but says her hormone therapy has left her too weak to do so.
Aeris, who works in Leeds, told the YEP: “I play for a third division side in Leeds – it’s not like I play for Barcelona.
“I just feel disappointed that, watching the England team and seeing the level of dedication that and all other areas get compared to this, for trans girls in general it’s just not encouraging.
“There aren’t a lot of trans girls in football and this is probably the reason why.”
She applied to the FA to play in June and sent a doctor’s note verifying that her hormone levels were at a female level but had to wait until October to be told she must wait until 2016 to play in anything other than friendlies.
Having had global responses to her story and YouTube posts on the subject, Aeris is hopeful the authorities will change their stance on trans inclusion in football despite being told she could not appeal the FA’s ruling.
She said: “They need to keep on top of the times and make sure that if changes come into play in society in terms of being classed as female, things need to be reviewed in a quick way.
“I’m pushing for changes in something that desperately needs changing.”
Middleton Park FC has voiced its backing for Aeris.
Oscar Antao, the club’s media advisor, said: “She has a British passport and she should be allowed to compete as a woman, just as she is allowed to live as a woman in her everyday life.
“So as a club we fully support all our players at Middleton Park FC and will stand by them.”
A spokesman for the FA said the policy on trans inclusion in football was set with expert help and with guidance from the Government and the International Olympic Committee.
He added: “If an individual does not meet the requirements of the policy, they are not able to play football in their legally acquired gender.”