Sapir Berman, 26, refereed a soccer match after coming out publicly as a woman, making her Israel’s first openly transgender soccer referee. She blew the whistle to begin the Hapoel Haifa vs. Beitar Jerusalem match.
“This is the first step in a long and wonderful journey. Sapir, we are proud to do it with you,” the Israel Football Association tweeted as she took the field.
One fan held up a sign that read “Sapir Berman, super woman.”
Berman has worked as a soccer referee for several years in Israel’s Premier League and said she has received the support of family, fans, officials, and players.
Berman said that being involved in such a male-dominated profession made her hesitate when considering going public. Then, about six months ago, “I decided to come out and to show who I am, first of all to myself, for my soul,” she said with a smile on her face.
A British soccer referee, Lucy Clark, came out as transgender in 2018. She said, “overwhlemingly, it’s been a positive experience.”
Israel is considered one of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to LGBTQ rights, despite it being portrayed as a society with religious oppression.
For Berman, the soccer community has been very supportive. Many players are already addressing her as a woman. “It shows me there’s a change in society,” she said.