Dani Laidley has been embraced by the AFL community, but the former footy star has been hiding who she really was her entire career.
Former North Melbourne star and coach Dani Laidley started struggling with gender dysphoria for 49 years of her life.
The 1996 premiership winner revealed that she spent her entire AFL career struggling with the feeling of being different on the inside from who she was on the outside.
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Laidley returned to radio for the first time since 2014 when she joined Triple M’s commentary box Friday night. The team asked a few footy questions before asking about the support they’ve received from the football community.
“It’s been a tough road to get here, but I’m just really overwhelmed with the support from the wider AFL community,” she said. “You’ve been living in fear, shame and shame for years and then to come out like it did it was really hard for my family, but now, for one person, it’s been amazing. They accept me as I am, the person I am today, and hopefully there is still a lot of life to live.”
Laidley’s journey went public in 2020 and since then she has been embraced by AFL circles including: celebrating with the Kangaroos last year when the club revealed it was debt free†
Laidley revealed that until recently she led a compartmentalized life and hid who she really is.
“Gender dysphoria is the medical condition for people whose gender identities are not congruent with how they feel on the inside (with) what’s on the outside,” she said.
“It’s different from our gender, those are the pieces we’re born with. And then you have your sexual preference, who you are attracted to. I’m a girl girl and my dear Donna will listen in the stands.
“That’s gender dysphoria, it causes a lot of white noise 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it overwhelms your thinking and transcends your ability to live normally.
“So to play and coach and to have a young family and do all those things. To be honest I don’t know how I got here, but I am and I’m very happy.”
Laidley also revealed that she had dealt with gender dysphoria for most of her life.
“My first memory is about six years old, very far back,” Laidley said. “Now I’m 55, so what is that, 49 years, God.
“It was a long time ago and I wore it through my childhood and teenage years and then I played footy, played cricket and things like that, and gave almost all of them away.
“Then luckily the state schoolboys came back to Perth and thought, ‘Well, I’m pretty good and let’s see where this goes’.
“It was really hard knowing that I felt so different on the inside from the outside and since I started playing league footy when I was in high school, to have this persona, and some used to call me the Junkyard Dog it was so far removed from the person I really was and that was very difficult and it took its toll.
“I felt like I was walking around with a boat anchor on my head for many, many years, but I was too scared, ashamed, ashamed to find out, but I knew there was something different about how I felt.
“Absolutely, I am absolutely at peace. It took 55 years to get here.
“Although a lot has been written and said, and I haven’t had much, zero, opportunity to say anything for various reasons, before everything became very public, I was living as myself and I was very happy about that.
“Some of my family still find it a little difficult, but we’re working on that and it’s going to take a while, but we’ll work through that.”
Laidley also continues to tell her story.
Her autobiography is expected to be released in August by Harper Collins, while a documentary about her life will be produced by Eddie McGuire’s JAM TV company.
Asked if Laidley wanted another crack at AFL coaching, she said, “I’m not ready yet.”
But she said she enjoyed reconnecting with the AFL community and showing who she really is, but also be a role model for the transgender community†
“The further I live my life and the more people come and get in touch, and just for being my authentic self and living in peace it has given people more hope and acceptance and as a transgender community that’s all we want,” she said. said.
“We just want to be supported and not judged. And if I have to be, I’m happy to do it for this generation of transgender community and the generations to come.”
Laidley revealed that AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan told her: “Dani, our game is for everyone and we will help you be the person you want to be now and on your journey. If we can help break down barriers, because our game is for everyone.”
“It’s amazing that the CEO of this organization says that,” Laidley said.
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