Trans darts player reveals extent of online abuse: ‘I didn’t want to leave the house’

Trans darts player Noa-Lynn van Leuven says online abuse levelled at her following an opponent’s decision to forfeit a match left her not wanting to leave the house.

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews, Noa-Lynn Van Leuven said that while she initially didn’t feel welcomed in the world of professional darts as a trans woman, there are lots of players who support her right to compete.

“I’ve gained a few really good friends through darts,” she says. “I’m really happy with that.”

The Dutch darts player made headlines earlier this month after her British opponent, Deta Hedman, forfeited a quarter-final match at the Denmark Open.

Sources initially reported that Hedman had pulled out due to illnesses but she later confirmed that she was boycotting the match because she refused to play a transgender opponent.

“No fake illness, I said I wouldn’t play a man in a women’s event,” Hedman said, misgendering Van Leuven.

“This subject [is] causing much angst in the sport I love. People can be whoever they want in life, but I don’t think biological-born men should compete in women’s sport.”

Noa-Lynn van Leuven playing darts
Noa-Lynn van Leuven was disappointed by her opponent’s stance but not particularly surprised. (PDC Darts)

Van Leuven later lost her semi-final match against Beau Greaves and said she felt humiliated after “half the hall started clapping.”

It was “really harsh” to find out about Hedman’s boycott on social media, but she wasn’t too surprised.

“It’s a shame things like this happen,” Van Leuven says. “The [World Darts Federation] told me [which league] I had to play [in] and that’s what I’m doing, so I’m doing nothing wrong.”

After practising for 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled clash with Hedman, there was the feeling among the crowd that the British player wouldn’t turn up.

“I walked up to the tournament director and they told me she pulled. Then I found out she wasn’t going to play me because I’m trans. Or, in her words, she doesn’t want to play a man in a ladies’ tournament.

“We’ve played each other before and it was never a problem. Now, all of a sudden it was, but it’s happening in every sport. So yeah, I think I was already expecting her to pull out.”

‘Where does the advantage come from?’

Van Leuven says the decision to forfeit is particularly frustrating because doesn’t believe there’s “really a difference between men and women” in darts.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re two metres tall or 160 [metres],” she says. “A few years ago we had [16 times men’s world champion] Phil Taylor and he won against anyone but was a really small man.

“Someone who’s [tall] isn’t winning everything, so where does the advantage come from?”

Since the controversy, Van Leuven has received a wave of hate on social media, which she said has caused her to have panic and anxiety attacks.

“I’ve got some nasty DMs on my social media,” she says. “Some really, really nasty s**t. I didn’t even want to leave the house, but in the end when I went on [talk show Sophie and Jeroen]. I gained a really big group of allies and a whole community standing behind me.

“There [are] also people against me but, luckily, I also have allies and people [who] stick up for me.”

And Van Leuven has advice for fellow trans athletes in this vitriolic time.

“As long as you are happy as yourself, that’s the most important thing. People can say: ‘Oh, we accept you anyway you are’, but whenever you get successful they won’t. Just be you.”

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