When he was 18, Zach Brookes of Birmingham, England., almost quit tennis before he came out as transgender. Thanks to his mom and support in the sport, he is now thriving four years later.
“I've never wanted to give up tennis,” Brookes tells Sky Sports. “It's turned my life around. It gives me the motivation to get on, instead of being preoccupied about my transition. It's made me more independent too.”
In the interview, Brookes recalls not wanting to play with women and how he looked with jealousy at the guys who were playing. “I was jealous because I wanted to play with them. I didn't feel I was in the right category — I preferred playing tennis with the males. I just wanted to be me.”
He thought about quitting the sport he loved until his mom gave great advice — “Tennis is part of your life. If you gave it up, what would you achieve in the long run?” He took a little time off and that rekindled his love for the sport.
With the help of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group, his transition to playing with men has gone mostly smoothly. In addition to being a player, Brookes also coaches disability tennis.
What I especially like about Brookes is his sense of history and how he recognizes people who were trailblazers:
“In the 1970s, a trans woman called Renee Richards fought hard to get her voice across to the tennis authorities in America to let her play as a female. I'm trying to follow her legacy — she inspires me to become one of the next generation of transgender tennis players. I did some research on her before I came out as trans, on how she empowered other trans people to participate in sport. Since I started playing as a male in tennis, it's been difficult but I want to keep improving and whenever you have an off day, it makes you stronger.”
Brookes is a visible advocate for the rights of trans athletes and will be blazing trails of his own. The whole Sky Sports interview is well worth your time.
You can follow Brookes on Twitter.