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Transgender man builds community on women’s football team

June 16, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Players from both football teams come together in the middle of the football field. The final game of the season is over, and they make plans to meet up at Flo’s Sports Bar.

The players raise their arms in a huddle and shout, “Women’s football!”

One of those players, who wears jersey No. 66, leaves the field feeling a renewed sense of belonging, even though he identifies as a man.

Justice Galloway, a transgender man, said his teammates on the Grand Rapids Tidal Waves tackle football team make him feel welcome and an integral part of the team.

“It’s a family, it’s a team, and they need me right now more than ever,” Galloway said in an interview. “I just can’t walk away. I get all choked up, but they’re important to me.”

Cindy Arends, one of the players on the Grand Rapids team, said she can’t imagine not having Galloway on the team and credits him for helping her improve in football.

“I’m glad to call him my teammate,” Arends said.

Galloway decided to try his hand at football after his fighting career slowed down. However, an application to play on a male team required a copy of his driver’s license, which lists him as female, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

“I just haven’t been stable enough to be settled down to start transition,” he said of the testosterone treatments. “Between work and sports, doctor appointments are tough to make.”

The Grand Rapids Tidal Waves welcomed him onto their team because he has yet to start testosterone.

Founded in 2018, the Tidal Waves compete in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) league.

“He came in late last year and did not get much time to learn our offense,” Coach Linny Beedle said. “I told him what he needed to do to contribute and he did it. I’m proud of him.”

Teammate Katie Baxter describes him as her “football hubby,” similar to a person’s “work spouse.” Baxter also called Galloway an inspiration for overcoming exhaustion from working physical jobs and playing tackle football.

“I love Justice to pieces, and he’ll always be my hubs,” Baxter said.

After making many friendships on the team this season, Galloway said he plans to play one more year with the women’s team before he begins the medical transition to becoming a male.

Galloway grew up in Ash Fork, Arizona, along Route 66, which is how he chose his jersey number. As a child, he said he knew he was “different” from girls. His father didn’t care that he wanted to wear boys’ clothes, just as long as his pants didn’t sag.

At age 16, his father grew ill and Galloway went to live with a family friend he calls “burrito lady.” He asked her what she would name him if he were a boy, and together they came up with “Justice,” because he always believes in doing the right thing.

Football, Galloway said, gives him something larger to focus on than himself.

Pam Blazo, president of the Tidal Waves, said Galloway came out of his shell and grew in confidence this season.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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