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World Cup soccer star Sarina Bolden enjoys the ‘power’ of playing with gender

The Philippines striker is scoring freely for Newcastle Jets in Australia’s A-League, and she is relaxed in her identity off the field.

Philippines Portraits - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023
Sarina Bolden poses at a Philippines portrait session in Auckland before the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Photo by Greg Bowker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Philippines international Sarina Bolden was part of last year’s “Gayest World Cup ever” — that’s how the Washington Post described last summer’s soccer jamboree in Australia and New Zealand. And she couldn’t be happier about it.

As noted in several color pieces about the tournament, including those published by the BBC and Associated Press, Bolden has an Instagram bio that says “i just wanna have fun and be gay,” enclosed by two rainbow emojis.

The California-born forward made history at the FIFA Women’s World Cup when her header sealed a 1-0 victory over the hosts in Wellington, New Zealand. It was the Philippines’ first goal and first win on their tournament debut.

Bolden would go on to describe herself as an “Asian, African-American, queer woman” in a cover feature for the national edition of Vogue in September and said she felt a “responsibility” to provide representation in football.

Now in a new interview with Australian sports website The Inner Sanctum, she has expanded on another element of her Instagram bio — pronouns.

Bolden uses ‘she/they’ but says that her gender identity is more about what “goes with the flow.”

“I don’t mind when people call me she but I also don’t mind when people call me they,” explains the 27-year-old.

“That’s just my stance on where I stand with gender and non-binary. I don’t necessarily identify as non-binary but I’m just kind of, like, Sarina.

“That’s my reasoning for why I put my pronouns out as she/they. That sits right with me.”

Bolden has certainly found comfort in Australia’s A-League this season. On the day she signed for the Newcastle Jets in November, she was on target twice in a thrilling 4-3 triumph over Canberra United.

Since then, she has scored five more goals in eight appearances as the Jets look to climb into the top half of the standings.

A little over two years ago, having had brief spells abroad in Sweden and Taiwan, Bolden was playing in the amateur Women’s Premier Soccer League, turning out for the San Francisco Nighthawks in her home state.

She went overseas again but struggled to settle in Japan and switched to Australia after one season, having been signed by the Western Sydney Wanderers.

The one constant in that time has been her role with the Philippines national team. Her scoring ratio is better than a goal a game, and she was part of the squad that made it to the semifinals of the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

The team’s World Cup exploits took their fame to the next level in a country with a population of around 115 million.

“I’ll walk down the street sometimes in the Philippines or maybe even back home and people will recognize me and that’s just crazy to me.

“That’s always going to live in history… if you’re a real fan or someone that follows women’s football or Philippines football, you’re going to remember that for the rest of your life and that’s amazing to be a part of.”

TOPSHOT-FBL-WC-2023-WOMEN-MATCH17-NZL-PHI
Sarina Bolden celebrates scoring against New Zealand in Wellington at the Women’s World Cup with what proved to be a historic winning goal.
Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images

Bolden says that for those people who don’t instantly recognize her, mistakes do sometimes occur.

“I know how I physically present to the world and stuff and sometimes people are confused with the way that I look. I have been misidentified as a ‘he’ and I get it.

“Sometimes people make mistakes and for me, I’m a little bit more lenient on that.”

When misidentifying does happen, and is then acknowledged, Bolden says she is appreciative.

“That goes a little bit into why I also identify as she/they because that’s kind of my personal experiences with being misidentified as well. I’m just this person.

“I like to play with my masculine side at times, but I also have feminine qualities as well and I like the androgyny of it all. I kind of like the fact that people don’t know, like girl, boy. But that’s not for someone to go and take that as a negative thing.

“I like that I have that power where people are like ‘I’m not sure’.”

Bolden’s openness extends to her Instagram where she celebrates her relationship with girlfriend Katie, whose own bio describes her as “sarina’s wag / publicist.”

The Jets striker signs off her interview with the Inner Sanctum with a generosity of spirit towards those who are still learning about gender identity, gender expression and pronouns.

“At the end of the day, I just want people to be kind and if you don’t know, that’s fine.

“Try your best or if you make a mistake, just own up for it. I’ve made mistakes too in this department and just say ‘I’m sorry’.”