Danielle Laidley ‘livid’ at Four Corners report on gay footballers

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Danielle Laidley has made a surprise revelation about her beliefs on the AFL and its perceived homophobia.

In August, the ABC aired a documentary on Four Corners titled “The Silence: The AFL’s Last Taboo”.

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In the episode, it explores a deep-seated perception of homophobia and explores why to date there has never been an openly gay AFL player, a barrier that has long been broken in most other professional sports.

It features past and present footballers, including some that quit the sport due to the slurs commonly heard in changerooms and the alienation they felt as young gay men.

“The change rooms and the football field (were) just not places that accepted me,” one of the men, Michael O’Donnell, told the program.

So it comes as some surprise that Laidley has fiercely defended the league and stated the AFL community actually helped save her life.

Laidley, who played and coached in the AFL before transitioning to a transgender woman, launched her own documentary Two Tribes this week.

“When we decided to make (my documentary) there were two reasons why: the narrative that came out was not kind and we wanted to take control of that narrative and tell the story in our own words,’’ Laidley told the Herald Sun.

“And secondly people who go through gender dysphoria or mental health or addiction issues, to send a message out to the community I suppose.

“And particularly I was livid at the Four Corners episode a few weeks ago where they labelled the AFL homophobic. Absolutely not the case.”

Laidley’s comments come despite outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan’s widely panned comments that “the pressure and weight of being the first AFL player who comes out and plays as an out, gay man” was too much.

Laidley stated the most important issue for a gay player in the AFL is that “teammates know and family and friends know, but that’s all that’s important.

“And then people see it’s more a societal shift and hopefully I’ve been able to break down some of those barriers.

“And in the future people will feel comfortable being themselves.”

Laidley faced an extremely distressing episode three years ago when she was arrested and photos of her were first made public.

“When you live in fear, shame and embarrassment because of what people think of you or might say, for want of a better word, and when it all turns to s**t, they were the first people there,’’ she said of the AFL community.

“The AFL, North Melbourne, Anthony Stevens, Mark Brayshaw, Darren Crocker, (my son) Kane – I can’t put into words, I’m so grateful of how they’ve accepted me.

“Through my journey I perhaps always thought maybe one day football would kill me, but invariably it saved my life. No question.”

While Laidley has a good relationship with her son Kane, who attended the documentary launch along with Laidley’s partner Donna Leckie, she conceded she is still working through issues with her two daughters.

“I’m always very proud of all my children,’’ she said.

“They’ve had a lot to deal with themselves and as much as it hurts me and I’ve made some mistakes along the way, I am proud of them being on their own journey and hopefully those journeys cross very soon.

“It’s really good now to be able to live in the present. There’s now becoming distance between what was so public and now.

“That in itself throws up a lot of issues but it’s just great to live in the present. It’s great for Donna and I, but the black hole is still my daughters.

“The reality is it’s on their time and I’ll continue to work on myself and be the best person I can for when they’re ready.”

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