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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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Lindsay Peat a victim of homophobic sledge during All-Ireland football final

The All-Ireland winner and Ireland rugby international yesterday launched the Union Cup, Europe’s largest LGBT rugby tournament.

LINDSAY PEAT, THE former Dublin ladies footballer and Ireland international rugby player, has revealed how she was the victim of a homophobic sledge during an All-Ireland ladies football final.

Peat was yesterday unveiled as an ambassador for the 2019 Union Cup, an LGBT inclusive rugby tournament which will be staged in Dublin this June, and will include women’s teams for the first time. 

Gordon D'Arcy, Lindsay Peat and Nigel Owens Gordon D'Arcy, Lindsay Peat and Nigel Owens at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Speaking at the launch alongside rugby referee Nigel Owens, Peat — who made her Ireland debut in 2015 after her football and basketball career had ended — admitted she did not tell her Dublin football team-mates that she was gay, and ‘didn’t come out to my family and close friends until my 30th birthday’.

“You could argue we don’t need a women’s tournament or gay women’s teams because we haven’t experienced that much negativity, but I would still have experienced it,” she said.

“I was once called a ‘dirty dyke’ in an All-Ireland final. That’s the only time I heard that and I don’t actually think it was genuinely homophobic or a dig at my sexual orientation. It was used to get under my skin, to try to distract and disrupt my game, but that’s where she went. That’s what she viewed as my weak point.

“You have to remember that people still suffer slurs, even in sport, and that this is still a worldwide issue. So we have to be the standard bearers and it’s for those reasons that this tournament is so important.”

Dublin City University will host the tournament, now in its 14th year, from 7-9 June, with 45 teams from 15 different countries expected to participate.

In an interview with The42 last weekend, Dublin ladies footballer Nicole Owens spoke eloquently and bravely about her own sexuality and how being openly gay is accepted in the women’s game compared to the men’s. Peat agrees.

“It’s definitely more acceptable to be a gay woman in the sports world than a gay man, though that probably varies within sports,” the 38-year-old prop says.

“From personal experience, I know that sport helped me to become more comfortable in myself. People branded me ‘gay’ before I came out just because I played sport. It’s nearly the opposite in women’s sport. It is definitely more accepting.

“But I think it’s important to have that exclusivity for people who are still struggling with their sexuality. That’s not me recommending that you box it off completely and join a gay-only club. When I joined Railway Union I gave them my background and family situation. I told them I was a northsider and married. I didn’t have to say ‘I’m gay, do you accept gays?’ I’ve never once said that and it was never an issue.

“But in the past, I have said ‘I’m not gay’ to a team-mate who asked. I didn’t come out to my family and close friends until my 30th birthday and I never properly came out to my friends on the Dublin team. It was different when I joined Railway Union, they knew I had a wife. Things had changed for me by then.”

Lindsay Peat Peat in action during the recent Six Nations. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Emerald Warriors RFC — Ireland’s only openly gay men’s rugby club which fields two teams in Leinster’s Metro League — is staging the Union Cup in conjunction with the IRFU, but as of yet they do not have a women’s team. 

Peat stresses it’s important to have gay women’s teams to help people accept their identity. The Union Cup, she says, is absolutely essential to that.

“Gay teams are to cover the people who are really struggling with their identity, to help them to become accepting of themselves and their sexuality, whatever they may feel they are. People live in many different situations. We are trying to build frameworks and avenues for them to become comfortable, that is all.

“These guys play in a team and at a level that is comfortable and a family for them. You have to remember there’s still a very high level of suicide among young gay men and that’s not going to go away because we say ‘there’s enough being done’. There’s still a lot to be done and there’s a much bigger picture.

“Sport definitely helped me to become more comfortable in myself and you don’t understand that unless you’re from the LGBT community.

“Ireland sent out a huge message in 2015 when we voted for marriage equality, it reverberated around the world. I have a three-year-old and a wife and I need this to continue so that it is the norm for him when he goes to school, that he can possibly be a straight man with two women as his parents and that is passed off as the norm.

“It’s huge for me because Ireland is driving a standard and breaking barriers for gender equality internationally. It’s important for diversion, inclusion and equality in sport.”

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Ryan Bailey

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