Kaig Lightner is the Founder and Director of Coaching for the Portland Community Football Club (PCFC) in Portland, Oregon, and after realizing that while the club asks its youth players to be open and be themselves, he hadn’t been completely open about who he was and the fact that he happens to be transgender.
“I started to realize that the players I see every day – whom I love like my own family – weren’t getting to really know who I am and I expected them to show up to practice and be authentic, vulnerable, real, and work hard for me and the other coaches … That felt inauthentic.”
- Kaig Lightner to BuzzFeed News
The 36-year-old coach enjoys sharing his passion for soccer with underprivileged youth in his community who share the same type of love for the game, even so, that he started the Portland Community Football Club in 2012 which aims to provide high-quality soccer to low-income families and youth in Portland. The PCFC league is one where athletes, coaches, and families – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, and orientation – are to feel accepted and welcomed. He and the other coaches “really expect the kids to uphold the values of love and respect for each other and to further encourage inclusion and respect for others, Lightner, who began his transition at the age of 26, huddled his players together on May 1st to share the most personal detail about himself.
Although he felt that “it would be good for them to see someone who they already respect and love to be open about being transgender,” it didn’t stop him from being nervous to do so (especially due to the rigid gender limitation and stereotypes in the sports world); however, the reaction he feared never came as half-way through his speech one of his players hugged him and directly after another player just simply asked, “How old are you?”
“The best thing has been how normal everything has been. Practice went on that day as normal. I coached as I always have and the kids played as they always have.”
- Kaig Lightner to Huffington Post
Lighter, who isn't a newcomer to transgender advocacy (co-founded TransActive, a Portland-based organization that supports transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families), hopes that his coming out moment will contribute to future transgender visibility in the sports world, and as for the opinions of his youth players, another coach heard them saying, “Whatever. It’s just Coach Kaig. It doesn’t matter. Let’s go play soccer.”
The video of his speech called "Authenticity" was uploaded to YouTube on May 3 and has since received a little over 85, 000 views. Check it out here: