Transgender athlete joins football team on field
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Annabel Ames ’14 | Associate Editor
Getting to play on South’s football team is something many boys dream of. But this year, a transgender female student will be taking advantage of that opportunity.
Meredith Knop ’13, who prefers to be called “Seth” and referred to as “he,” says he wanted to try out for the team last year, but was too nervous. This year, he said he decided to go for something he wanted to do, and approached varsity coach Tim Brandon and junior varsity coach Brian Shelson about joining. Knop will be playing on the varsity team as a running back.
“I was going to play last year, but I chickened out,” said Knop. “I’ve always had a passion for football, but I never thought that I could actually play on the team. I found out that girls can play, but none of them ever felt like doing it.”
Despite the difference in gender, Knop said that the team and coaches have been accepting and treat him just like his team members.
“The kids in my grade respect me a lot for it, and they treat me just like everybody else, which is what I wanted,” said Knop. “Liam (McIlroy ’13) and Brandon Cooper (’13) respect me a lot for it. Liam came up to me the other day and told me he had a lot of respect for what I did. I just told him I was doing what I love.”
McIlroy said he considers Knop a role model for “going against social norms” to do something he loves.
“Seth’s actions joining the football team demonstrate someone willing to pursue a dream,” said McIlroy. “Learning the schemes of an offense and discovering his inner football player will take time. I commended his boldness early on in preseason.”
Although Grosse Pointe is largely considered a conservative community, Knop said the reaction from people in the area has been positive.
“Half of them (people) thought that I was kidding, and the other half (said) ‘wow, that’s cool,’” said Knop. “I was a little surprised.”
Knop said that even his family was taken aback at his decision to play.
“My dad was a little skeptical at first because he didn’t know how I would do, but he’s proud of me. All that I wanted was for my dad to be proud of me,” said Knop. “The rest of my family is accepting too. They thought that I was joking.”
Though Knop was out for a week due to concussion symptoms and may have limited playing time during the season due to veteran players pursuing certain positions, he said just being a part of the team is exciting. He is looking forward to playing on the field rather than sitting on the sidelines.
“The times I have gotten to play, it’s been pretty challenging, but the harder the challenge, the better I like it,” said Knop. “Doing something other than going to school every day and going home is exciting. I have something to do with my time. I love this team already, and I’m glad I joined this year.”
As a transgender student, Knop said that he has had to deal with many things that other kids don’t have to go through. He hopes his perseverance will inspire other students to chase the things they love.
“I’ve been through a lot,” said Knop. “A lot of people have come up to me and told me that I have courage for the things that I do. Over the years, I’ve just felt more and more like a role model.”
As a senior, Knop said taking advantage of the activities at South can help you find something you are passionate about.
“I just want to say for all the students that go to this school, if (you) have something that you want to do but are too scared to, just do it anyway,” said Knop. “(You) can’t just think about it, you need to do it. Before you know it, high school is going to be over and they’re going to be things you wanted to do. I just want every student in this school to do what they love, even if it’s nerve-racking or you’re a little skeptical about being on a team or doing something. You just have to follow your heart and do what you love.”
Knop said that he hopes his decision to join the team will inspire other females to play football.
“It would be pretty cool if other girls would do it,” said Knop. “Girls are tough and I know that. Girls are like guys, they can do anything guys can do.”
For now, Knop says he has plans to move forward in the transgender medical process with required therapy and hormone shots, but is unsure of how far he will go.
“It’s my last year here at South, so I figured I’d go out with a bang,” said Knop.