Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson says the supportive environment of her national team helped her become open about her sexuality and to no longer see it as “unnatural and wrong”.
In an interview with Australian magazine Women’s Health, the Melbourne City striker says she “came out” when she was 20 to her best friend and Ferns teammate Katie Bowen.
Wilkinson told Women’s Health writer Nikolina Ilic:
“The New Zealand team fostered a climate of normalisation when it came to LBGT+ identities, and I felt safe to open up in that environment.
“Outside of that, I was convinced for so long that my sexuality was unnatural and wrong.
“Almost 10 years later, I love to see this kind of normalisation flourishing in more spaces, with discriminatory laws being dismantled, more inclusive policies adopted, and marginalized identities being recognised and respected.”
Wilkinson: ‘Be true to yourself, no matter what.’
Wilkinson is supporting a campaign by Nike and Proud2Play to encourage greater participation in Australian sport by LGBTQIA+ participants.
Research shows 80% of sportspeople over 15 have experienced or witnessed discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and nearly half of LGBTQIA+ participants have not come out as sexually or gender diverse to their sporting peers.
Wilkinson: “This highlights the importance of LGBTQIA+ visibility among high profile athletes, modelling and normalising diverse sexual and gender identities to our younger generations, so they do not have to experience the same unnecessary shame.
“But it’s not just high profile athletes, but also those behind the scenes who can make the biggest difference.”
She says Nike and Proud2Play’s investment in developing a workforce of LGBTQIA+ coaches to inspire and mentor the next generation of LGBTQIA+ athletes was “absolutely crucial, and really significant for our marginalised community.”
Asked what advice she would give to the next generation, Wilkinson says: “Be true to yourself, no matter what.”