According to the Cambridge Dictionary, pride is: “A feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that you get because you or people connected with you have done or got something good.”
From this definition it’s clear to see that pride is everything in sport.
Pride in your performance, pride in your team’s collective performance and pride in the jersey.
June is also Pride month, a celebration of the LGBTI+ community across the world. Pride is everything in this community as well; pride in who you are, pride in what you collectively stand for and pride in expressing this freely.
Both prides, however, are not mutually exclusive. In fact, some would even say they’re inextricably linked.
Clare sporting sisters, Eimear and Ailish Considine, are this month (and indeed all months) championing the imperative role sport can play in supporting the LGBTI+ community.
Ailish herself, the younger of the sisters, is a member of the LGBTI+ community. Eimear, naturally, wants to support her sister whatever way she can.
“I think that’s the beauty of sport,” says Eimear, “everyone comes together from all different backgrounds, all different ethnicities, races and sexualities. At the end of the day, you’re playing for a common goal, whether that’s in the green jersey for Ireland or for the Crows.
“It’s the same as everyone on the team has a different personality, everyone has a different hair colour – everyone has a different sexuality and it doesn’t really matter once you get out and kick a ball around. I think that’s the key thing, all shapes and sizes.”
At the beginning of June the sisters launched Aviva Ireland’s #LaceUpWithPride campaign. In partnership with Intersport Elverys and BeLonG To Youth Services, Aviva have rainbow laces available to buy to celebrate Pride month.
All profits from the laces, which cost €4 in Intersport Elverys, will go to BeLonG To, an LGBTI+ charity. Aviva will also make a €10 donation to BeLonG To for every new home insurance policy taken out with them in June.
Speaking with Irish Country Living, Ailish is not long home from Australia, where she plays for the Adelaide Crows in the Australian Women’s Football League (AWFL). Aussie rules in layman’s terms. Just days after our interview it was announced that Ailish signed a one year contract extension with the Adelaide Crows.
Eimear plays rugby for Ireland, Munster and UL Bohemians.
From Kilmihil in west Clare, both sisters played camogie and ladies football for the Banner, then branching out into their respective sports.
“It was an opportunity to become a bit of a role model,” Ailish says. “Someone in the public eye to make this more normal and make people see that sports people from different backgrounds support the campaign. It’ll definitely open people’s eyes to the fact that it’s OK to be you, it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to be a part of this community. I want to make it easier for people and make this normal.
“For me, it didn’t feel like the norm when I had to come out to my family. If I can serve as a role model for at least one person, I think I’ve done my job. It’s definitely something that would have made things easier for me growing up, to have role models in sport who were openly gay, who were openly OK with who they were and who were accepting of that.”
The power of sport
Eimear is a PE and Irish teacher. Among everything else, she also does rugby commentary for TG4. With her PE hat on, she discusses the importance of not specialising in a sport too soon. She says playing a variety of sports stood to both her and Ailish as they got older. Eimear only started playing rugby when she moved to Dublin.
“People always say it must have been very difficult to transfer from one sport to another, as we did with rugby and AFL, but we had a lot of fundamentals from all the sports we played underage. I think it’s so important that you do play as much as you can. Then when it gets to a stage when you need to choose, choose later on in life,” Eimear explains.
From a young age, both girls were interested in all kinds of sports. While GAA was their mainstay, they played whatever was on at the time. From tennis out the back during Wimbledon to Community Games volleyball and basketball.
Eimear jokes: “It was the only thing we had in common. Think of chalk and cheese.
“We had absolute opposite interests,” she continues. “The only thing we had in common was sport. That was the one thing, it was like: ‘We’ll go outside and kick a ball? We’ll go outside and puck around?’ ‘Ya.’
“We’re totally different, yet sport was the one thing that brought us together and kept us together. We’ve always been close, but we just had completely different interests and hobbies. It’s so important for us and it has obviously gotten us to where we are here today.”
When it comes to sport, Eimear is also very thankful to Ailish: “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without her, because I was a real slow starter and I was shocking at sports. I hated it, but through Ailish forcing me to get outside and play, eventually it clicked. I learned how to catch, kick and hit a ball. I thank her for forcing me to play.”
Eimear is also thankful that sport allowed her to become friends with many people from the LGBTI+ community, which in turn made it easier for Ailish to speak to her about her sexuality.
“While some people have had challenges and met challenges along the way, I think sport, in my own experience, has been mostly positive,” Eimear says. “Even for you Ailish, I think knowing I had so many friends in the LGBTI+ community probably made it easier for you. Knowing that, well look, her best friends are gay and I know so much about that.”
Ailish concurs: “To know that you were OK with that – that it didn’t faze you the fact that they were gay; that didn’t change your attitude towards them in any shape or form. While it was still difficult for me to have that conversation with you, part of me kind of knew that from what I’d seen, you were going to be OK with this. The fear is still always there when you do have to have that conversation.”
Although it may be a small show of support, Ailish feels something like the rainbow laces can make a big difference. As a young girl growing up she wasn’t exposed to the LGBTI+ community, so therefore it wasn’t normal to her.
“I think we lived a very sheltered childhood,” Ailish reflects, “just because of where we’re from. It just wasn’t the norm. It wasn’t something that was spoken about or even a common thing to see. So I think growing up if that had been something that was part of my everyday life, seeing people wearing rainbow laces or being openly gay, I think it would have probably normalised it a lot quicker for me.
“The more you expose people to the LGBTI+ community, the more accepting they’ll become, because knowledge is power. Some people don’t really know and are afraid of it, because they don’t really know what it is.”
Pride, whether it be in sport or the LGBTI+ community, is still pride at the end of the day.
The acronym LGBTI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans+ and intersex.
Lesbian: a woman who is mainly attracted to other women.
Gay: someone who is mainly attracted to someone of the same gender.
Bisexual: someone who is attracted to someone of the same gender and also other genders.
Transgender: people whose gender differs from the sex they were given at birth. Trans+ includes non-binary people.
Intersex: people who are born with variations in their sexual anatomy or their hormonal patterns, variations that are not seen as fitting in with typical male or female bodies.
Throughout different articles you may see different acronyms – LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, LGBTI+, LGBTQ+, LGBTTQQIA. So here are some of the extra explained:
QQ: The letter Q stands for both “queer” and “questioning”. Queer means all LGBT+ people. Some find it abusive while others feel empowered by it, so use with caution. Meanwhile “questioning” people are those still exploring their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.
A: A stands for both allies and asexuals. Allies are straight (eg not LGB) and cisgender (eg not TI) people who support our community. Asexuals are people who do not experience sexual attraction to anyone, or sometimes low levels of sexual attraction.
+: The plus sign has been added to the end of the LGBT initialism to stand for all the other identities within our community.