'The GAA taking part in Pride is a commitment, not a token gesture' - Nicole Owens on what Pride means to her
"When I was younger I didn’t feel like I could out to my teammates but since I’ve grown up a bit I’ve gotten rid of that internalised stigma."
As the GAA takes part in Dublin Pride for the first time, Dublin footballer Nicole Owens tells Her about her visibility, dealing with homophobia and the importance of the GAA getting behind the event.
I was aware of the LGBTQ+ community growing up, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be visible as a part of it.
As I grew up I came to terms with my sexuality and gradually became more open about it.
Initially, I didn’t want to be known as the 'gay' one. The fact that I’m gay doesn’t affect any other facet of my life. I never wanted it to be my identifier, it’s just one part of me.
Through football I have a platform and my sexual orientation just ended up being part of the conversation. It's now something I am quite comfortable talking about it; I can see the validity and importance of doing that. I think that it’s important for kids and, for me, particularly for girls to see someone who's like them.
My concern was that people would see me differently but being gay hasn’t stopped any opportunities in my life or certainly in my football. When I was younger I didn’t feel like I could out to my teammates but since I’ve grown up a bit I’ve gotten rid of that internalised stigma. The LGFA is a very accepting place.
If I do experience homophobia, it's more likely to be outside of football.
There is sometimes catcalling or comments if I'm walking down the street with my girlfriend, usually from drunk men. It isn't threatening but it’s not nice and it wouldn’t happen if I was walking down the street holding hands with a boy.
It is frustrating sometimes but I try not to let it affect me. I’m not going to get anything out of correcting them, trying to explain something to some stupid drunk person.
Having GAA players taking part in Pride is very symbolic. The GAA represents so much in Irish society. It's the most community-driven organisation in the country and it’s run by the clubs, so this is a really important step.
As the families that are coming to the nursery with their kids are changing, everyone is included. Parents feel they can bring their kids. Taking part in the parade shows that in a far more active way than just putting a Pride flag somewhere. It’s a commitment rather than a token gesture.
Unfortunately I won't be able to take part in the parade myself - we have our Leinster final on Sunday! Obviously it’s not ideal to be trekking around for long periods the day before a match but I will be at Croke Park to help launch the GAA participation in Pride on Saturday.
Our participation is more than walking in a parade. It’s about actions speaking louder than words.