A trio of trans and non-binary activists have spoken to players and staff at the Essendon Bombers football club about the impact of visibility in sport.
Trans footballer Hannah Mouncey, advocate Michelle Sheppard, and non-binary activist and Switchboard CEO Joe Ball were invited to speak to the club thanks to the organisation of Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, head of the Essendon LBTI supporters group the Purple Bombers.
“Ninety per cent of people will be fantastic,” said Mouncey, who addressed the players along with another prominent trans person, Michelle Sheppard, and non-binary activist Joe Ball.
“The other 10 per cent will be really, really extreme in their hate. There’s two games this year where I was pretty glad to get off the field and not get shot, which sounds extreme…that is where the extreme end of the hate is.
“We don’t look to politicians for leadership. We don’t. We look to athletes and sporting teams and clubs.”
Mouncey was barred from entering the AFLW draft last year but has since found a place playing in VFLW.
She stressed that local teams are following suit after an increase in the prominence of pride games at the highest level.
“Otherwise it never would have happened.”
Mouncey’s simple point was to tell the players to treat trans people with the same respect they would anyone else.
“Don’t overthink it. You know how to be a good person. Don’t treat the trans people differently to anyone else.”
Sheppard discussed the struggles she had as a parent, saying, “My ex-wife was uncomfortable with [me] taking my kids to school, and my kids were desperate for me to come to school.”
“There’s a lot of people like myself who don’t see ourselves as either,” Ball told the players, saying to use “the pronouns they/them’’ for non-binary people.
Thank you for a great day @EssendonFC @Purple_Bombers @xaviercampbell @JasonEquality & for being amazing #allies & providing a safe platform for myself, @HannahMouncey & @Joe_c_Ball to talk about #transgender issues w/ you. I look fwd to sharing and educating one another more 🙏 pic.twitter.com/yBLyNJi85c
— Michelle Sheppard (@MishSheppard) July 17, 2018
“Really, I just want you to call me by my name. I just want to say, ‘Hey, Joe’. So don’t really focus on my pronouns, just think about who I am as a person.”
They explained that inclusion in sport could be an “antidote” against LGBTI people, and especially LGBTI youth, struggling with mental health and suicide.
Bombers player Brendon Goddard is the club’s fiercest champion for LGBTI inclusion, crediting Tuazon-McCheyne for the shift in his perspective.
“I was quite judgmental growing up,” Goddard said. “Being part of football opened up my eyes.”
“If [AFL clubs] can have a positive influence, why shouldn’t they?” he said. “I haven’t heard any other good argument on the other side of it.”