AILISH CONSIDINE BELIEVES that the AFL Women’s league has become one of the standard-bearers for inclusiveness for LGBTI+ athletes.
But the Adelaide Crows star feels that male sports across the world have a lot of work still to do when it comes to an open culture around sexuality.
Clare’s Considine made history in her debut AFLW in 2019, winning the Premiership title with the Crows and becoming the first Irishwoman to do so.
And her experience in the league to date has been of a culture which celebrates inclusiveness as highlighted by the introduction of a Pride Round this season which saw several teams wear specially-designed guernseys and many players wear rainbow socks and laces.
“You’re the exception if you’re not gay in AFLW because so many of the girls are part of that community,” Considine explains.
“It’s so open. It’s so respectful. It’s so normal to be gay over there. Out of the 30 girls on the team, I think 22 are gay.”
She adds: “It’s so accepting. Having a whole round dedicated to LGBTI+ is just incredible. They’ve really pushed to make it a normal thing and make it really acceptable to be yourself and not to have to hide who you are.”
Considine is an ambassador for Aviva Ireland’s #LaceUpWithPride campaign which invites Irish players to wear rainbow laces in support of the LGBTI+ community.
“I think Australians are generally quite more open and honest about things and upfront of things,” she says. “I think in Ireland we can be a bit more reserved and a bit quieter in fact.”
“I would have come from a very remote, isolated west Clare village where the norm is boy meets girl. They get married in a few years time and that’s it. That’s the norm.”
Her older sister and ally Eimear, an Irish rugby international and Munster player, likewise sees the acceptance of the LGBTI+ community within Irish sporting circles.
“I’m very lucky that I play a sport where inclusion is so key and so many of my friends are in the community. It’s just normal and I think it’s normalising is the key thing,” Eimear says.
“Sportspeople are in such a good position to be role models and ambassadors and make other people outside of our sporting community aware that it’s ok.
“And at the end of the day, once you put on your jersey and step onto the field, you know, you all have one common goal. And I think that’s the key. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, you’re accepted no matter what.”
Looking back on her own experience, Ailish has never felt the need to make a statement about her sexuality, though she often mentions her partner and their relationship in the course of interviews and other media work.
“You don’t have to make a big deal about, you know, you being different,” Ailish says. “It’s just part of who you are.
“I think [Eimear] nailed it in the head. We were just chatting about the whole campaign and stuff, and she was like, ‘Well, I never had to come home and tell my mother that I’m not gay or that I’m hetero’.
“She never had to have that conversation with our family, so she was like, ‘Well, why do you have to have it with ours as well?’ That you have to come out and say that you’re gay. It’s no different. It doesn’t change who you are. So I think that’s something that has always been kind of part of me.
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“I don’t want to make a big deal of it because, you know, it should be far more normalised at this stage in our lives. So I think while it’s a conversation that probably has to be had with family and friends, [and] I think overall in the media, I just want to normalise it as much as possible.”
While acceptance is the norm in many female sports, Considine feels that there is more work to be done in the men’s games. As it stands, there are no openly gay players in the AFL.
“The AFLW have a really powerful stance on that and have had from the get-go. I think just having a pride round really cements that in their ethos and in their game. But it’s not as open on the men’s side of things.
“I think society makes it a little bit easier for females to come out as gay in some shape or form. I’m not sure why that is because it’s all the same. It doesn’t matter who you are.
“It’s not that it’s not talked about, or that it’s not an issue. It is definitely something that needs to be worked on in every sport. The campaigns are just more open and honest with the female side of things.”
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