Football player and trans advocate Emily Rowe has spoken out against the “snide remarks” and “hate” faced by trans people in sport.

In a piece for The Guardian, Rowe recalled being told to “stop being so strong” by an opposition player during a recent football game.

“These were the last words I expected to hear from an opposition player, who, in my most recent game playing for the St Kilda Sharks, grabbed me by the collar and drew me aggressively towards her face,” she wrote.

“My coach had given me the role of being physical, turning every loose ball into a hard ball for our opponents, and I was playing my role well; apparently too well.

“It was clear to me that ‘stop being so strong’ was not about how I was playing football. It was about who I am. As a trans person you get used to the coded language and snide remarks. You live daily with the micro aggressions, the mockery, the hate.”

Rowe added that many in society still hold onto the fallacy that men are stronger than women, and that this notion feeds into gendered discrimination.

“‘Stop being so strong’ meant ‘stop being a man’,” she wrote.

“Stop expecting to be welcome in women’s spaces. Stop being who you are meant to be.”

Despite the vitriol and transphobia still faced by gender diverse athletes, there are many making great strides towards inclusivity and acceptance on the sports field.

Bowie Stover from LGBTI sports charity Proud 2 Play is one of the people advocating for better inclusion of sex and gender diverse people in sport.

And last month, a trio of trans and non-binary activists spoke to players and staff at the Essendon Bombers football club about the impact of visibility in sport.

In her opinion piece, Rowe said the transphobia that persists in community sport is fed by the AFL’s reluctance to fully embrace trans players, as evidenced by Hannah Mouncey’s struggles getting drafted into the women’s league.

“‘Stop being so strong’. The truth is, I’m stronger now than I ever have been,” she wrote.

“And I’m not going to let any opponent, not even the AFL, hold me back.”

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