Trailblazer Hannah Mouncey will use her keynote address at the Pride Cup this weekend to educate and to challenge myths about trans athletes having a “competitive advantage”.

In her first public appearance since being banned from the AFLW draft, she will answer all the tough questions on life as a trans footballer.

Mouncey, who has now been cleared to play in the Victorian league, wants coaches and club bosses to understand the complex health and social challenges for transitioning players.

She hopes that sharing her story will break down barriers, and said it was exciting to see country football leading the way on inclusion.

“If grassroots footy clubs in country towns can embrace diversity and support transgender players, then it sends a powerful message of hope to people who just want the opportunity to play the sport they love,” Mouncey said.

The Pride Cup, which sparked a national AFL Pride movement, will this year have a strong focus on gender diversity with its first trans player, Emily Rowe, pulling on the boots for the inaugural women’s game.

Other speakers at the pre-match lunch will include AFLW founder Susan Alberti, Australian Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski, and Australian Olympic snowboarder Belle Brockhoff.

The Pride Cup was founded by openly gay player Jason Ball, who spearheaded a push to tackle homophobia and transphobia in the AFL.

“While the AFL has made progress on lesbian, gay and bisexual participation, it’s clear that more work needs to be done to support transgender and intersex inclusion and to educate football clubs and sports administrators on those issues,” Ball told the Star Observer.

He said that Mouncey’s struggle to play AFL has pushed the league towards more inclusive policies.

“Currently, athletes who are trans or intersex are in limbo because the AFL has no transgender [or intersex] policy,” he said.

“Hannah Mouncey, by putting herself out there in the way that she did, has really sped up that process, and she should be commended for the courage and grace she has displayed along the way.

“We are excited to have Hannah delivering the keynote address at the Yarra Valley Pride Cup this weekend, there is a real willingness amongst grassroots footy to learn from her story and create more inclusive sporting cultures.”

Since its inception in 2014 the event has inspired the now annual AFL Pride Game between St Kilda and Sydney, and rainbow-themed fixtures all over the country, including eight Pride Cups in Victoria this year alone, from Hamilton to Gippsland.

Ball said the Pride Cup has had a transformative effect on communities, with Yarra Glen’s federal electorate of Casey recording one of the highest Yes votes in a country area in last year’s marriage equality postal survey.

“These fixtures really do change hearts and minds. The country footy club is a place where gay or trans people would traditionally have least expected to feel safe and included,” Ball said.

“The research tells us that 80 per cent of people have experienced or witnessed homophobia in sport, and LGBTI people are more likely to attempt suicide because of this isolation and discrimination.

“But the simple gesture of rainbow 50-metre lines and footballers in rainbow jumpers sends a powerful message that this behaviour will not be tolerated and everyone is welcome in our game.”

This year, local artist Paul Sonsie has painted a stunning rainbow wings mural outside the Yarra Glen Post Office, which has proven to be a popular selfie opportunity for locals using the hashtag #YVPrideCup.

The Pride Cup will be held this Saturday 28 April at Yarra Glen Recreation Reserve, featuring Yarra Glen vs Alexandra (women’s netball and men’s football) from 10 am and St Kilda Sharks vs Eastern Devils (women’s football) from 2 pm.

Current and past players from St Kilda Football Club will lead an AusKick clinic at half-time.

Entry is $10, with $1 from every ticket going to Minus18, Australia’s youth-driven network for young LGBTI people.

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