Soccer coach comes out to team as transgender: ‘I’m still me’ – ABC News

A beloved soccer coach coming out to his team as transgender has been captured on video.

Kaig Lightner, 36, founder and director of Portland Community Football Club in Portland, Oregon, revealed his story to the kids on May 1.

“I thought it was really fantastic that the first question was, ‘How old are you?” Lightner told ABC News. “Kids don’t have as many concerns about these larger social issues as adults do. They just want to know what age I am.”

As for the video, the response had been amazingly positive, he added. “They were like ‘OK you’re our coach, we’re glad you did this now let’s go play soccer.'”

Lightner was assigned female sex at birth. But, as a child, he recognized that “something was different,” he said.

“As I became older, more into my 20’s, is when I really started to think about transitioning,” Lightener added. “I recognized that my identity fit more towards the masculine end of the gender spectrum.”

PHOTO: Kaig Lightner, 36, founder of the Portland Community Football Club, came out to his team that he is transgender on May 1.Kurt Borchardt
Kaig Lightner, 36, founder of the Portland Community Football Club, came out to his team that he is transgender on May 1.

Lightner began taking testosterone at age 26 and in 2005, he legally changed his first name. A year later, he received top surgery, he said.

Lightner’s mom, Betty Lightner, from Whidbey Island Washington, told ABC News that she and her family embraced his journey from the very beginning.

“We didn’t want him to be alone for one minute,” Betty Lightner said. “Because this whole thing kind of started in high school, that she, at the time, was totally ridiculed and put-off by a lot of people and left out of a lot of things, which pained us.”

She said once Lightner began taking testosterone, the family noticed he was happier.

“The top surgery, it was hard and we went with him,” Betty Lightner added. “But it was the last step that completed the circle and made him who he is now. He is a gorgeous, intelligent, amazing, loving strong, intelligent man. He’s a great friend, a great person and he is making a difference in the world and there’s nothing more a parent can ask for than that.”

PHOTO: Kaig Lightner seen in this undated photo at age 15, before his transition. Kaig Lightner
Kaig Lightner seen in this undated photo at age 15, before his transition.

In 2013, Lightner launched the Portland Community Football Club, which accepts players and coaches from racially and economically diverse backgrounds. The club is also a welcoming environment for many different identities, including LGBTQ players, parents and coaches.

Throughout the years, Lightner said the soccer club became a “family” to him. Earlier this month, he decided it was time to share his past with the kids.

“I had just gotten to this place with them that I thought they need to know and deserve to know,” he said. “To have them learn about this from somebody they already love and respect is better than learning from a second source about my identity.”

After a group warm-up during practice, Lightner gathered the kids and began his speech.

“Some of you may or may not know this, but I am transgender,” Lightner said in his speech, captured in the seven-minute video.

“That means that I was born a girl and that I grew up playing this soccer as a girl and that’s not something that I share with players or people in the sports world very often because it’s not an easy thing,” he said. “We have a lot of rules in sports about how boys play and how girls play and that’s not very fair.”

PHOTO: Kaig Lightner seen in this undated photo at age 13, before his transition. Kaig Lightner
Kaig Lightner seen in this undated photo at age 13, before his transition.

“I got told a lot of things about being a soccer player as a girl,” he continued. “I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t strong enough, or I was too strong, I acted too much like a boy.”

“I bet you all had things said to you about your color of your skin, or the way you talk, or the country your parents are from or any of that, that’s really similar to how I got treated as a kid too.”

In the video, the players are listening to Lightner’s story and one walks up and gives him a hug.

Lightner continued: “I may have this white skin and I may look like I just cruised right through life with a lot of privilege, which I have had, but I have one thing that a lot of people don’t know about me.”

Lightner admitted that he was nervous to come out to his players.

“We got to love each other no matter what … I’m still me,” he said. “I’m still the same guy who comes out here, gets you guys to be better soccer players, gets on you when you’re not playing hard, loves you no matter what.”

PHOTO: Kaig Lightner seen in this undated photo at age 15, before his transition. Kaig Lightner
Kaig Lightner seen in this undated photo at age 15, before his transition.

Kurt Borchardt is an assistant coach and helps coordinate fundraising for the soccer club. Borchardt met Lightner just after he began transitioning from female to male, he told ABC News.

Borchardt said he was “very proud” of the players and of Lightner after viewing the video of his speech.

“He’s amazing,” Borchardt said of Lightner. “They know he cares about them. He’s invested in them and he’s an awesome mentor. He’s been a great role model to all of us as his friends in terms of his courage to be who he is, while at the same time, investing in our community.”

PHOTO: Kaig Lightner, 36, founder of the Portland Community Football Club, came out to his team that he is transgender on May 1.Kaig Lightner
Kaig Lightner, 36, founder of the Portland Community Football Club, came out to his team that he is transgender on May 1.

Betty Lightner said prior to the video, she was unaware that her son had not come out to the soccer club, but is glad that he did.

“We realized it was freeing to Kaig,” she added. “Maybe there are some trans kids out there who want to play soccer and are afraid they won’t be accepted. It opens a huge door for trans people who want to be accepted and loved.”

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