One of the many faces of the Australian LGBTQ+ sports community, Australian Sevens star and Olympian Sharni Williams noted the growing importance of Pride Month as she spoke of the struggle she faced to achieve acceptance within her own family.

- Advertisement -

Williams, who grew up in Queensland, says she thought she should marry a man and that gays have no place in sports, while LGBTQ+ people are less visible in society. She admits that coming out to her parents was “pretty hard” and that they still struggle with her identity, but as she continued to find herself, support developed.

- Advertisement -

“They’re country people, so it’s kind of tricky,” Williams told Sportzshala. “They supported me and sometimes understood, but my parents are struggling with who I am.

- Advertisement -

“I think as I have developed and as I have grown and understood who I am, I think I have started to stand up for myself a little more and I don’t let little comments be ignored because they are my parents. Now I’m reaching out to them on some issues, and that’s probably what makes them quite complex.

“I’m not going to stand by and be that little village kid who gets pushed around more, I’m going to stand up for not only myself, but my community. I have responsibility, I have visibility, I am on some message boards that help and support our prides, so if I let my family get away with it, then I will probably go out there in the big world, and let other people get away with it. “

With her iconic rainbow headdress, Williams has become an icon for gay rugby players around the world, but she admits she’s only recently begun to understand the importance of her platform and her visibility in the sport.

“I probably didn’t realize how big my platform was until I started wearing my rainbow headdress and then just the comments and ‘thank you’ I get from people for standing up for who I am. That’s really what this month is. oh it’s a celebration of people for acknowledging who they are and being brave enough to go out there and be who they are and try to make it the norm.

“I guess that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not just about getting everyone out and you know we have these huge stories, it’s about building a society and changing the way we look at our proud people. Celebration is great and it’s great to have support, but it’s also very important that we normalize it so that it becomes a daily way of life.

“We still have a long, long way to go. And it’s not just about our same-sex people, it’s about all the diversity of our pride, it’s also about our transgender people.”

Transgender issues in sports made headlines last week, with global swimming organization FINA announcing that it had voted to ban transgender women from the elite women’s categories and the governing body would move to create an “open” category instead. After a high-profile decision International Rugby League [IRL] announced that it would ban transgender athletes from international competition.

These decisions have divided many in the sports world, with the IRL following World Rugby’s 2021 executive order banning transgender athletes. According to Williams, such decisions are driven by a lack of education and fear of the unknown.

“It’s a sad place,” Williams told Sportzshala. “We are talking about equality and diversity [in rugby] and it’s people that are part of our society and it’s just an unknown, you know, when people don’t know enough about it, when people don’t know enough about it, when people aren’t educated enough, we tend to just stick a big “no” sticker on it. It. But if we try to get an education and understand people and their stories, I think we will be better off in this world.

“This is probably where we are right now, educational materials are not enough, and frankly, there are not many transgender people who want to play sports.

“Though I see both sides of it. Being a little girl growing up and playing against boys it was like I’m not that strong or not that big…then when you start comparing yourself to others that’s where you can probably get yourself into a little trouble because we are not all the same. The world would be pretty boring if everyone was the same, it’s the best place with different people.”

While gay athletes have been comfortable with being themselves for a while, it was only recently that male athletes began to feel the same when Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo became the only openly gay player to play top division professional football when he made a public statement. Statement in October last year.

After Cavallo’s announcement, Blackpool striker Jake Daniels became the first male British footballer to come out as gay since 1990, and Leinster rugby midfielder Nick McCarthy spoke to his teammates and the community on Monday.

Their decision to be visible and use their platform is important, Williams said, but the next step will be to normalize gay athletes.

“Yeah, I think it’s really important,” she told Sportzshala. “It’s like there are far more female athletes than male athletes and I think that’s probably the stigma and the way society has been for so long. , being that voice and seeing how people react to it is really important.

“It doesn’t change who you are. I want it to be the norm so that people can say they love a person of the same gender, or pansexual, or whatever you are, and you’re just accepted for it.

“Some people struggle to understand what love is and for people who understand it and then are told they shouldn’t do it, it’s really difficult and devastating. I want it to normalize so it’s not a big problem, yes, we can still celebrate it, but it’s not a big deal.

“For example, if you go out to dinner together and no one looks back or judges or comments, it’s just such a comfortable feeling and you don’t look over your shoulder, or you can’t hold hands with your partner as you walk downstairs. the outside. This is the part where I hope people will just start accepting people for who they are. Some people won’t understand it, but one day they will.”