Last week we were introduced to the first out, queer AFL players at an elite level. Penny Cula-Reid and Mia-Rae Clifford are both AFL players in the brand new Women’s Comp for Collingwood and Melbourne. They’re also in a relationship together. Rad.
Having an openly queer couple, loud and proud is a pretty massive step for Australia’s sporting culture. Their aim is to let everyone know that it's okay to be who you are, no matter what you do, and to help pave the way for acceptance for other LGBTI+ sports stars to come out.
How inspiring is that? They met six years ago at the Peanut Reserve in Melbourne, which is where a lot of Aussie amateur games takes place. Now they’re engaged – with football being a constant backdrop to their relationship.
In the history of Victorian AFL, never has an elite male come out about being gay – so it’s all a pretty big deal.
It’s 2017 and Australia still hasn’t legalised Marriage Equality, so Penny and Mia can’t tie the knot. Both of them wear their diamond rings and stand in solidarity against homophobia in their city and in sport, hoping to be an inspiration for more people in sport to come out.
Both girls say they’ve had incredible family support, with other LGBTI+ family members, and have been brought up to “love the person, not the gender”. When their relationship became official at the 6 month mark they felt there wasn't really a need to come out but that they should introduce their partners to their families. This kind of language and casual attitudes around relationships really highlight the progressive nature of our community in Melbourne, and we’re just so inspired by the openness of the girls’ story.
When stories like this are shared in the media, it creates visibility for our community, and the world becomes just that little bit more exposed to the fact that LGBTI+ people exist. Penny said “We’re proud, and we’re proud of each other.”
We’re proud of them too.