(AP Photo/Gero Breoler)
Often referred to as one of the most recognizable faces of the Australian women’s football (soccer) game, Sally Shipard recently sat down with Athlete Ally Advisor, Laura Clise, to talk about her decision to join Athlete Ally as an Ambassador and out member of the LGBT community.
LC: While you’ve long been open with those who know you, you haven’t officially “come out” to date, why are you coming out now as an Athlete Ally?
SS: In reference to my sexuality, I’ve never really entertained the idea of ‘coming out’. My family and friends knew, which was important to me, but in regards to the outside world, I didn’t consider it a newsworthy piece. Recently, however, my perspective has shifted as I’ve realized there exists an opportunity to support people through my story. We’ve all got a story to tell when it comes to learning about ourselves, and being gay is a large part of mine.
The advocacy of athletes such as fellow Riverina girl Lauren Jackson, a good friend of mine, Australian cricketer Alex Blackwell, and then of course my beautiful partner Lori Lindsey, have all further inspired me in taking this step. When all is said and done, if my openness and advocacy connects with and benefits even one person, I shall be content.
LC: Why do you think “Athlete Allies” are important?
SS: I’ve long identified as a member of the LGBT community, but it’s only recently that I’ve made more of a concerted effort to actively participate, becoming an ally in helping sport become more inclusive.
Athlete Ally has provided a vessel for such a movement. Thanks to the founders (leaders) of the movement, they’ve set in motion the opportunity for perspectives to shift. As ambassadors (followers) we have all chosen to join because we want to, not because we have to. We are moving towards a world which doesn’t exist yet – one of which the stigma towards the LGBT community is defunct.
I believe the most powerful aspect of Athlete Ally is that no matter whether you’re straight or LGBT, we are all committed to being a part of the movement to end homophobia and transphobia in sport.
LC: What are your thoughts regarding the recent announcement by Australia’s major sporting leagues to end homophobia?
SS: Last week in Australia, a world first took place! Executives from all our major sporting codes made a commitment to rid their sports of homophobia. Being based in Washington DC, I was not the first to hear of such news. The moment I was informed, shivers surfaced immediately. All fours codes uniting, as well as Cricket Australia, emphasize the need to end discrimination in sport – how formidable!
Sport is such a wonderful tool for conveying a message, my excitement levels escalate at the notion; the potential of sport to drive positive influence is still being realized. The collective step all the sporting codes have taken is to share the vision of Athlete Ally, and it is now up to all of us to join the movement. In order to really drive the change, both LGBT athletes and allies must become supporters.
LC: Although not related to your sexual orientation, your career as an athlete has had its challenges. Can you share a bit about the initiative you’re cultivating and how those challenges have inspired you to make a difference through sport?
SS: My football, and therefore, life experiences have provided me an excellent insight into challenges faced by young women in sport. My Chasing Leather dream has been bubbling since I was about 16.
The past 11 years have nourished that dream, and I am very grateful to find myself in the position to truly pursue and breathe life into what once existed as a mere thought, an idea. Having experienced first-hand the opportunities, benefits, challenges and heartache that a sporting life can deliver, I feel compelled to use this experience to make a difference.
Chasing Leather is founded on the belief that all girls and women should be able to engage with sport in a positive way. Unfortunately, negative experiences, unsupportive environments, and the attractions of new technologies have seen it become increasing challenging to keep women engaged in sport.
Chasing Leather plans to change that!