Sunday 4 December 2016

First Transgender woman to work as a Premier League photographer – ‘I thought I’d never work in football again’

Published 05/01/2016 | 16:01

Photo: Sophie Cook Photography
Photo: Sophie Cook Photography

A sports photographer has become the first transgender woman to work in the Premier League after fearing she would “never work in football again” following her transition.

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Sophie Cook (48) revealed she didn’t know how her colleagues would react to her transition from Steve to Sophie last summer but was amazed by the support she’s received from her football colleagues at AFC Bournemouth.

“The end of last season we were promoted to the Premier League and I remember standing on the pitch when we became Football League Champions,” said Sophie speaking to The Anton Savage Show on Today FM.

“It was the most amazing day in the history of my football club but I was terrified because I knew that during the summer I was going to tell them I was transgender and I thought I’d never work in football again.

“The fear was real,” she said.

Sophie admitted that she dreaded the moment when she would tell her colleagues of her 15 year struggle with gender identity and didn’t know what to expect from them.

“I got in touch with my boss and I told him on the phone and he arranged for me to go in for a meeting with the chairman and the manager of the team Eddie Howes and I sat down in one of the boxes with them as just me – in pencil skirt and heels, looking fabulous –and it was the first time they ever met the real me.

“I went in for a training session with the players and Eddie introduced me as Sophie.

Photo: Sophie Cook Photography
Photo: Sophie Cook Photography

“I had built the whole thing up so much in my head and I don’t know what I was expecting but when they were told all the guys started clapping and the captain said ‘Let’s go and train’. Some of the guys came up afterwards and showed their support. They have been amazing,” she said.

Sophie originally began her transition in 2000, but decided not to go through with it because her son was born with a disability and she didn’t want to put her family through any more pain.

“I originally began my transition in 2000 but then my son was born disabled and I thought ‘I can’t go through with this and put my family through this at this time’.

“I killed Sophie for 15 years and buried her. This time last year I was in Leeds for a football match and something just switched in my head. I suddenly realised why I hated myself so much.

“I started to actually make the change in July.

“Throughout the years I put on about six stones in weight because I was self-harming with food.

“I suffered from very dark depression and I had suicidal feelings very often.

“Although a Travel Lodge in Leeds isn’t the best place for an epiphany, all of a sudden I came to the realisation. I looked into the mirror and realised that that’s why I had been so cruel to myself all these years. I had to start loving myself and paying attention to myself and who I really was.

Sophie, who is the father of two children aged 14 and 11, revealed that Caitlyn Jenner’s transition made it earlier to explain her situation to her children.

“I had to tell my children as well and it was about the time that Caitlyn Jenner came out. My youngest daughter is eleven and she knew all about the Kardashians. She started talking about Bruce as was then and my wife said maybe now is the time to tell her and my 14-year-old disabled son.

“We spoke about it and the love and support I’ve gotten from them and my now ex wife has been amazing.

“We still love each other dearly. I still spent Christmas Day with them and they’re my best friends,” she said.

Since her transition, Sophie has shed more than five stone and celebrated the New Year by running a half-marathon.

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