NH Rebellion linebacker Missy Mahoney (52) is trans loud and proud, so is the journalist she tackled in a game last week | Jess Dodge

It was a typical scene in women’s tackle football. A spring night and two teams on a high school field somewhere ready to play.

In this case it was last Saturday, May 11, in Manchester, N.H. The New Hampshire Rebellion, ready to open their Women’s Football Alliance season, took on the visiting Connecticut Ambush.

Early in the first quarter, the Ambush had the ball and their quarterback handed off to a setback running inside. The Rebellion linebacker reacted to fill the hole. Both women collided into each other in a clash of wills and pads.

When the whistle sounded, the back gained three yards with the linebacker making the tackle. As they both picked themselves up off the ground and headed to back to their respective huddles, both women nodded in acknowledgement and respect.

video courtesy: New Hampshire Rebellion/TEZ TV

The Rebellion linebacker, Missy Mahoney, and the Ambush running back, who is also writing this column, are both transgender women. Their collision, contrary to some people’s hysteria, did not cause a seismic wave that wiped out the WNBA season or pillaged the entertaining PWHL playoffs happening now.

Women’s sports is very much alive and booming.

What happened instead was a bonding, even as they both were trying their best to help get their teams win. “I didn’t realize it until I hit you,” Mahoney said. “After the play you said ‘What’s going on, sis?’ and the biggest smile came across my face.”

For Mahoney, sports have been integral part of her life since moving forward with her transition eight years ago. She had been a part of softball and flag football leagues in the Boston area for years.

Joining the Rebellion last season represented a second chance from childhood. “I always wanted to play football as a kid,” she said. “I ended up playing on the same team as my brother. I lasted three days.”

Mahoney loves her sports, and couldn’t wait to get on the gridiron | Jess Dodge

When a friend from a Boston-area flag football league mentioned that the Rebellion were forming and encouraged Mahoney to tryout, she didn’t hesitate. “She said they needed more players and asked if I wanted to join and I said hell yes,” Mahoney remembered. “I’m gung-ho for anything in sports.”

Her story in many ways mirrors my own. Growing up in Nebraska, football was life, and when a chance to play for Reapers Women’s Football last season presented itself I jumped in with both feet. This season, lack of numbers cancelled the Reapers slate, but a group of teams in Connecticut came together to form the Ambush. When one of my teammates from last year asked me if I wanted to play, I had the same answer Mahoney did: Hell yes!

That play wasn’t the only time our paths crossed throughout the game. Mahoney had four tackles, and I was on the receiving end of three of those.

What we also share is the unyielding support of our teams, each comprised mostly of cisgender teammates and coaches. Such support is especially meaningful in the situation we are seeing at many levels. Three world governing bodies have banned trans women from competition entirely. The NAIA put forth a total ban last month. The NCAA is being sued by anti-trans activists seeking a total ban and 25 states ban transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Transgender women in this sport date as far back as the original National Women’s Football League of the 1970s. The league documented in the excellent book Hail Mary by Frankie de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo.

Among the varied women’s football leagues operating today, they are a few trans women on rosters and there is a level of camaraderie even in competition.

The field of play is a welcome refuge from the headlines, hysteria and social media meanness that trans people have to deal with too often. It’s just about block, tackle, pass and run out here. To quote a fellow trans woman in the game, Columbus Chaos WFA All-American Julie “All” Day, “Please, just let us shut up and play ball.”

Our paths crossed more than a few times in a game neither of us will forget. Photo by Jess Dodge | Jess Dodge

For No. 52 in black and green and No. 35 in gray-orange on a brisk Saturday night in New Hampshire, each met a sister they didn’t know they had, and the sports world got a little bit better because of it.

“When you came up to me on the field, we made history here,” Mahoney stated emphatically. “Two transgender women on the same field! This was a victory for trans women and for trans rights.

“This is for all the trans women who get criticized for being in women’s sports. I’m going to be out there fighting for our rights and my sisters on this team are going to be out there with me.”