Lesbian footballer Gilly Flaherty has opened up about her sexuality in a powerful video where she also talked about her support for the rainbow laces campaign.
Flaherty lives with her partner, Lily, and has spoken about embracing her sexuality in the past.
In the new video, Flaherty said that she knew she was gay since she was a child.
“Growing up I knew that I wasn’t interested in boys,” she said. “They were my mates who I played football with and there was nothing sexually or nothing that interested me.
“Obviously as I got older, I realised that I am gay, and then it was about dealing with it really,” she continued. “It’s something that you can’t change. I can’t change and not be gay tomorrow, it’s just who I am.”
Flaherty also opened up about receiving homophobic abuse online, saying that she has had negative comments on Instagram.
“I just laugh because I just think, you’re one of the minority in the sense that everyone else on my Instagram loves me for who I am,” she said.
Flaherty also said that it can still be frightening for LGBT+ people to come out to family, saying: “they’re worried that they’re going to let them down.
“They don’t know if they’re going to accept it. I’m very lucky and blessed to have the parents that I’ve got. But I think it is that fear of rejection and not being accepted, but I think the main thing is that I’m no different, whether I’m with a boy or with a girl, I’m still me and my personality doesn’t change.”
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She then moved on to the rainbow laces campaign, which she has been a vocal supporter of.
She said the campaign offered a chance for a player to “embrace who they are” and to “support their teammates if they are gay.”
“It’s nice for them to see it as well that there are campaigns, there are charities to help people that are gay and straight and everyone can be a part of it together,” she said.
According to Stonewall, seven out of ten football fans have heard some form of homophobic language at matches.
Flaherty told West Ham United’s official website that she found the statistic difficult to understand.
“It’s sad that in this day and age there is still hatred towards homosexuality, and I do feel that it is hard for some people to accept it,” she said.
“I’ve been out before and heard different slurs. I’ve been on nights out with Lily and heard things. I think for me, and a lot of gay girls, the big one is when certain blokes turn around and say something like ‘what a waste’. For me, that’s more hurtful, because we love each other. How is it a waste?
“However, I think women’s football deserves credit because it’s such an accepting place. In every team I’ve been a part of, I’ve never felt any discrimination from fans, or anyone at the club. Everyone has accepted me for who I am.
“Women’s football is a sport where a player can be openly gay and no one acts any differently towards you because of it, which is a great thing.”