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Soccer movie spotlights team, player's identity Soccer movie spotlights team, player's identity
One of the main storylines for the upcoming soccer documentary, Next Goal ...

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Trans athlete shines on CMSA fields
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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Cassidy Fallik and partner Jessica Gonzalez. Photo courtesy of Fallik

Cassidy Fallik is one of the few out and proud transgender men playing in the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA)—and that certainly is a sporting flashback to Fallik's two years playing Division I soccer for the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

Fallik, who celebrated his 31st birthday Sept. 25, has played indoor soccer in CMSA's co-ed league and is now playing flag football for Crew U in the men's league—the first time Fallik has played in an organized male sports league.

"I have always leaned toward being more male in everything I've done, ever since childhood," said Fallik, who lives in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood with his partner of almost 10 years, Jessica Gonzalez.

He is the special projects coordinator of strategic alliances with the National Community Tax Coalition. Gonzalez is a graduate student, and Gonzalez was, years ago, Fallik's first girlfriend in college.

"CMSA is proud to have athletes like Cassidy in our organization and I am personally proud that he is a member of the football league," said CMSA president Brian Kupersmit, who also is the commissioner of the men's flag football league. "I hope that he gives current and future participants the courage to be true to who they are and that CMSA will always remain a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment for everyone."

Fallik has lived in Chicago for almost three years, lured to the Windy City from his native Kansas by good public transportation, its diversity of people and a strong job market.

Fallik and Gonzalez moved to Chicago together, although neither had a job when they arrived.

"I love Chicago. There are so many opportunities here and so many people to meet," Fallik said. "Everyone has been incredibly nice and it's been easy for me to meet people. Within a month after moving here, we had a good core group of friends."

"I feel really comfortable and really happy where I am."

Since the winter of 2009, Fallik has not encountered any obstacles in his sporting ventures within the multisport CMSA. And when Gonzalez is at Fallik's games cheering, his gender identity has never been an issue, Fallik said.

When the topic of sexual-orientation came up with members of Fallik's current flag football team, he told his teammates that he was transgender, even before the team's first game—and it wasn't an issue at all, Fallik said.

"My [flag football] team is awesome; they make me feel very comfortable," he said. "I like being a representative for the transgender community, but I also want to get other [local transgender men and women] involved [with CMSA]. In fact, when I talk to many of my transgender male friends about the league, many don't even know about it."

Fallik said he plans to expand his sporting resume within the CMSA in the future, likely adding the predominantly-male CMSA Open Division Softball League next spring.

However, his college career wasn't as smooth as his ride in the CMSA.

Fallik came out as lesbian as a second-semester freshman after being outed by his roommate at the time. The roommate moved out shortly thereafter as the friendship ended abruptly and unpleasantly.

Fallik's soccer coach at the time, when hearing about his sexual orientation, required that Fallik attend counseling sessions.

As a college sophomore, the team got a new male coach—and his rules for the lesbian Fallik expanded. For instance, the coach never allowed Fallik to room with anyone but a senior on road trips, definitely not a freshman, "because [the coach] didn't want a freshman recruit to go home and tell their parents that they were rooming with a lesbian," Fallik said.

"I also was told to not bring my lifestyle on the field."

Fallik left the team after his sophomore season.

"I just got tired of the [negative] comments and got burned out on everything," Fallik said. Still, he added, "I feel like I kind of opened the door for the next group of [gay] athletes to come out [at the school]. The following year, other women soccer players started coming out.

"I wish my coming-out would have happened differently, that it would have happened by my choice, instead of my roommate telling all our mutual friends."

Fallik even had to call his parents and tell them why his roommate was moving out. "That was a tough phone call," he said.

Fallik and Gonzalez got back together during Fallik's senior year. After coming out, Fallik said he spent his time, "finding myself, meeting people and establishing a community."

They moved together to Philadelphia to work for AmeriCorps, living in a six-bedroom house with eight other AmeriCorps workers.

That also was when and where Fallik met his first transgender male friend—the one who ultimately made Fallik feel that it would be OK to come out as a transgender male.

"It was nice to have someone, a face to tag to the [transgender] community," Fallik said.

After pondering the life-changing decision, Fallik told Gonzalez about it, "and she was totally supportive, very helpful and made me feel good about my decision."

The two moved to Kansas City in 2007, and Fallik took the first steps in his transition in 2008.

Also in 2008, Fallik was asked to testify to add gender identity to the state's non-discrimination policy. It passed unanimously.

"When you meet Cassidy for the first time, you immediately realize that he is a very humble man with a great sense of humor," said Felipe Rojas, of Chicago, who is gay and is flag-football teammates with Fallik. "After you've played with or against him, you see an athlete that always tries his hardest even when the team is down. His laughter and encouragement lifts my spirit even if I am having a bad game or committed an error. For me, Cassidy personifies the spirit of CMSA: play sports, have fun, and be a good person even if the call doesn't come your way."

Fallik said he and Gonzalez have talked about starting a family together, probably within the next two years.

He told his dad about living his life as male and his transition years ago, and he has always been accepting. He hasn't yet officially or formally told his mom though he knows that she knows. Still, the subject no doubt will be discussed this fall when Fallik's parents come to Chicago and watch him play flag football—in the men's league.

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