Trans football manager Lucy Clark speaks out after JK Rowling tweets

Harry Potter author JK Rowling (left) and trans football manager Lucy Clark (right)

Trailblazing trans football manager Lucy Clark is determined to “focus on the positives” after facing a barrage of online comments from gender-critical figures, including author JK Rowling.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Clark said the level of attention she received was “a bit crazy” but emphasised she would be focusing her energy on the support and positive messages she got from others involved in the world of football.

Clark, who was the world’s first out trans football referee, was celebrated in a post by LGBTQ+ Pride earlier this month for becoming “the first trans manager in the top five divisions of English women’s football”, following her appointment as boss at Sutton United.

This positive post was re-shared by Rowling to her 14 million followers and she compared Clark to a “middle-aged bloke”, writing: “When I was young, all the football managers were straight, white, middle-aged blokes, so it’s fantastic to see how much things have changed.” 

That resulted in gender-critical accounts launching a barrage of abuse at Clark.

Lucy Clark is presented with a Rainbow Laces Arsenal home shirt by Kim Little, Captain of Arsenal prior to the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Meadow Park on October 30, 2022 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Alex Burstow/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Lucy Clark (L) became the manager at Sutton United earlier this year. (Alex Burstow/AGetty)

At the same time, other social media users slammed Rowling for her comments, calling them “cruel” and unwarranted.

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Rowling, however, doubled-down on her stance, writing on her Twitter/X account: “Calling a man a man is not ‘bullying’ or ‘punching down’. Cross-dressing straight men are currently one of the most pandered-to demographics in existence, and women are under no obligation to applaud the people caricaturing us.”

Pride was forced to delete the post and issued an apology to Clark, saying that it was never the charity’s intention to “allow it to cause her pain or attract this barrage of hate”.

The charity’s statement went on to say: “We never want to hide away to keep the haters happy, everyone should be free to live their life as they wish without fear or ridicule. However, this highlights that, unfortunately, we are not there yet and have to be a little more understanding and on the ball with such a large number of followers.”

‘I’ve got a thick skin’

Responding to the incident, Clark told Sky Sports that many of those dishing out the abuse simply want to “get behind a keyboard and give you a load of hate”.

She added: “It’s been a bit crazy, a lot of hateful messages but also a lot of positive messages and I’d rather focus on the positive messages. There have been players from various clubs and I’ve received a lot of other messages of support. Lots of people just realised football is a game for everyone.”

When asked how she copes, Clark replied: “Ex-referee, transgender: I’ve got a thick skin.

“I used to let it affect me… but I’ve had it for a few years, going back to 2018, so now it is just a case of hide and block, sticks and stones. Let’s focus on the positive.”

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