AFL's Groundbreaking Inaugural Pride Game

I'm attending my first AFL game. Until now, I have avoided AFL, associating it with unpleasant personal experiences, as well as institutionalised homophobia, misogyny, sexism and racism. I'm hoping that this match will be different. It's the inaugural AFL Pride Game, between St Kilda Football Club and the Sydney Swans.

The game was devised to combat homophobia in sport and to promote inclusion, following the first international study on homophobia in sport, released in 2015. 'Out on the Fields' found that 87 per cent of gay male Australians who play sport are in the closet to some or all of their teammates, while 78 per cent of participants said that an openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event.

With these statistics in mind, I feel excitement and fear over this groundbreaking Pride Game.

As a queer woman, I grew up associating sport with homophobia. At school, the sport field was where I first encountered homophobic language and behaviour. This was the place where students could call each other "homo", "fag" or "lezzie" without consequence.

Back then, I was unaware of my queer sexuality. The comments bothered me, but I didn't understand exactly what they meant. Something about the sound of them made my stomach tighten uncomfortably.

Sport was never a safe place for me, irrespective of the homophobia. Instead of strengthening my body and developing my flexibility, PE taught me to judge my body and hate it for its limitations.

After grappling with my sexuality for the rest of high school and during university, I met my partner and came out. We moved to Melbourne, where 'footy' culture is inseparable from identity. My colleagues' banter about footy confused me. I had no idea what they were talking about, and no interest in finding out.

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