An Israeli football referee has come out as transgender, making her the first trans referee in the country’s top league.
Sapir Berman, 26, revealed the news on Tuesday at a press conference at the headquarters of the Israel Football Association.
The Times of Israel reports that Berman told the press conference: “In the end, I decided to come out, to show [the world] who I am.
“First for myself, for my own wellbeing, but also for my loved ones, so they wouldn’t see me suffering.”
The news has been welcomed by Israel’s FA, which said: “We have a new Referee, Sapir Berman. The first Referee to be transgender! We are so proud.”
UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, also praised Berman, adding: “An inspirational story that highlights football’s spirit of inclusiveness. Well done Sapir Berman, we’re with you!”
Berman told reporters that she had kept her gender identity under wraps for a long time over fears “society would not accept me.”
“To the family, I was a man as well, but when I was alone, I was a woman,” she said.
“I divided these worlds because I understood that society would not accept me, would not be by my side. So I continued living like this for 26 years.”
Berman added that the reaction from fans and players had been overwhelmingly positive.
On Sunday, the top ref will oversee a playoff match between heavyweight teams Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem.
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