Women’s football and the LGBT+ community will forever be closely bound.
The birth of state leagues in the 1980s happened on the foundations of strong women coming together to create competitive communities that were inclusive, non-judgmental, and most importantly, celebrated football.
These are not values that are enforced, nor even discussed. New players are not briefed before paying club fees or asked to accept those within the club who are gay.
It’s just the way it is. It’s natural.
Even with the creation of the AFLW, those values extend to the top tier. Sexual orientation of players is rarely discussed in relation to the league – nor should it be – despite a large amount of the competition being comprised of gay women.
When AFLW best and fairest winner Erin Phillips thanked her wife Tracy Gahan, with whom she has two children, at the W Awards ceremony, nobody batted an eye.
Likewise, when a story was released that detailed the relationship of 2017-listed AFLW footballers Mia-Rae Clifford and Penny Cula-Reid, who are currently engaged, it was no shock to the system. They are just one of the many couples in Victorian women’s football who go about their business.
Even looking abroad as international teams play in Melbourne for the International Cup, Laura Turner and Rania Ramadan of the Great Britain Swans, and Hallie Kastanek and Lindsey Kastanek of the USA Freedom recently celebrated their marriages.
Same-sex couples are viewed in the same light as straight couples at clubs, which is a result of inclusion and solidarity within the women’s football community.
Eventually, this natural, no-questions-asked view of same-sex couples is inevitable for Australia.
The world is evolving; same-sex marriage is now legal in 22 countries. Polls also show rising support in Europe – where it is already legal in 10 countries – and the Americas.
It will eventually happen for Australia as the rest of the world progresses.
In fact, Australians may have the chance to voice their support for same-sex marriage from September 12 this year.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will begin rolling out ballots from that date ahead of a count in November, barring a successful High Court challenge.
We remain hopeful that the challenge brings a positive result, forcing Parliament to make a conscience vote within weeks.
Whether you are for or against same-sex marriage, a postal vote is not the desired outcome.
Despite opinion polls consistently showing between 60 and 70 per cent support for a change to the Marriage Act which would allow same-sex couples to wed, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists on the expensive survey before allowing a free vote in Parliament.
The operation will cost $122 million, all of which would be better used to fund cancer research, subsidised childcare and training health care professionals, amongst plenty of other things.
It’s an irresponsible waste of money; a survey masquerading as a plebiscite.
Through his actions, our Prime Minister is saying to the LGBT+ community that their love must come at the cost of the betterment of this country.
It is also non-compulsory, and MPs are not bound to the result of the survey when Parliament votes later this year.
But it’s a start, and it’s the closest we have ever been to making an inevitable breakthrough.
This is just another challenge for same-sex couples, but unlike in the past, there is a sliver of light at the end of this tunnel.
The postal vote allows the vast majority – if not all – within women’s football, who are either gay or have friends and family that are, to use their voice and evoke change.
Those not on the electoral roll, or those who need to update their details, will have until August 24 to register with the Australian Electoral Commission if they want their vote to be included.
And if Parliament still votes against the change to the Marriage Act, maybe it will be time for the women’s football community to use the national stage we now have and yell from the top of our lungs that equality is not negotiable, it’s a right.
If you or anyone you know in the LGBTI community is seeking support, please contact QLife, a national service that aims to keep the community supported and connected.
Online chat: https://qlife.org.au/
Phone: 1800 184 527
For further support relating to mental illness and suicidal thoughts outside of QLife support hours, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.