From HRT to FIFA: Trans Athlete Joins a Women’s Soccer Team – Then Creates Her Own

by Bethany Cyrtmus-Davaul

I’m Bethany Cyrtmus-Davaul, and I’m from Hudson, Wisconsin. 

When I was 28-years-old, in my condo in Chicago, sitting on my nice wine red couch, I was watching some YouTube videos and happened to stumble across one of a transgender person. It was a light bulb moment: this is actually me. These are many of the same things that I’ve thought or felt my entire life, but I just didn’t have the words for them.

In 2017, I began my transition with some hormone replacement therapy, also known as HRT. And for that, as a trans woman, I needed to take both a suppressor of my testosterone levels, and then I also needed to supplement that with estrogen. Well, amidst all of this, I’ve always been an athlete my whole life. My top two tended to be soccer and basketball throughout my whole life.

And in 2018, I started to do more travel. I’ve always had that desire to travel and see the world, and I got a chance to go to Norway. And I went to a city called Bergen, which is on the west coast of Norway. There’s mountains that you can go up and climb. So I took a hike one day, and then I see the soccer stadium, and it just inspired me. 

I had been playing a lot of soccer again in Chicago, and a number of people had been asking me, like, “Hey, you’re really good. Do you play on this semi-professional team?” I thought I was too busy with work to really give it a shot. And on that mountain top, I mean, just surrounded by these trees on top of the world, and I said, “Maybe I should go for it.”

From there, I then had to do a lot of research. What are the requirements? Will I need to do lab testing every so often, and will they require a maximum testosterone threshold? I looked at all the semi-pro leagues, I looked at all the pro leagues, and then ultimately I realized, I guess the governing body of U.S. Soccer, I need to reach out to them. And nobody knew the answer. And eventually I said, “Well, I guess I could also reach out to FIFA.” FIFA is the international governing body for soccer.

To my surprise, I am sitting on that same wine red couch in Chicago, and I get an email back from FIFA. In their reply, they said, “Thank you for reaching out. We take this matter extremely seriously, and here’s some resources and here’s our guideline.” You had to be yourself. I forget if it was three or four years before you could play professionally, meaning you can’t just transition for sport, like you live who you are as your authentic life. And then I believe the hormone, there was a hormone maximum testosterone requirement, and I think it was within 12 months of any competition starting. And so it was terrific to find this information.

A couple months later, I finally got a reply from U.S. Soccer, and their reply was, “We’ve received your request. We’re looking into it.” I started sifting through the operating procedures that I could find for U.S. Soccer, and there’s also bylaws, and it says, “For amateur level teams, the gender for which you identify is where you can play.” Part two of that then said, “For professional teams, we defer to FIFA,” and I said, “Perfect.” because I already know what they say about this.

So now I know, whether I make it to a semi-pro team or a pro team based on how tryouts go, I know that I’m going to be able to play. And it just – it felt great knowing this. I had tryouts both in Chicago and some in Texas. Since my now wife lived in Austin, I chose to play on a team down here in Austin, Texas. Then ultimately in 2022, with the prior team I played with in Austin, there was some management issues and some misconduct that had happened, so our team actually ended up having to dissolve.

Myself and four other players said, “What are we going to do and where are we going to play?” And we decided to step up and create a new club, and that’s when Austin Rise FC was born. We create our values, so resiliency, integrity, support and excellence, and within those we have inclusion. Whether it’s someone’s race, where they’re from, their socioeconomic status or their gender, you are welcome to play here in our club.

Whether it's someone's race, where they're from, their socioeconomic status or their gender, you are welcome to play here in our club.

We currently play in the WPSL league, which is one of the largest women’s soccer leagues in the world. It’s the highest level of women’s soccer in the U.S. that isn’t professional. But in the last couple of months, we’ve actually had some pretty big news. In Fall of 2023, we were announced as an initial market LOI for D3 professional league starting in 2025.  

And then other things that have come up is seeing what has now come over the news about trans athletes. When people start to make these rules and laws, it just makes you ask the question, are people really doing this with informed minds? There’s so much misinformation and lack of education out there. 

So what happens when you suppress your testosterone as a biologically born male and then you add estrogen, well, at that point, your body composition actually does change. There is fat and muscle redistribution. It’s not like I have the same physical capabilities as I did six or seven years ago before I started hormones in 2016. 

One thing I decided when I did come out was I want to come out and I want to be public about it., and it’s just because I want to help educate people. And at the end of the day, the most simple thing for people to understand is just to let each other be themselves. And we all know everybody’s different. Everybody’s unique in their own way, but we can still accept all of that and we can still welcome it and not be threatened by it.

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