Hockey Ireland has joined with Sport Ireland and Sporting Pride for the #LetsGetVisible campaign as part of Dublin Pride Health and Wellbeing Week.
The campaign aims to recognise and acknowledge the importance of visibility and representation amongst the LGBTQI+ community, specifically in the sport sector.
Ireland is currently home to two LGBTQI+ specific clubs, the Pink Ladies and the Oscar Wildes.
We caught up with the Pink Ladies’ social secretary Rebecca Murphy to talk about the club and the importance of the #LetsGetVisible campaign.
The club is celebrating its 10th year since formation in 2011 – with a special celebration to come when restrictions allow – with over 60 players donning the “hallowed Pink Jersey” in competition, from ex-international to total beginners and everything in between.
“When I moved to Dublin, that was my first time getting involved in hockey at all,” Rebecca said of her involvement, linking up with the club in 2017.
“It sounded like a bit of craic, a nice way to get fit and make a few friends and have a laugh. A lot of people were in that position and it is one of the great things about Pink Ladies.
“We do have a lot of people who never held a hockey stick, they start playing and then join clubs; I joined Muckross and have kept playing through the years in the regular season.”
A big attraction are the tours; in recent years, the Pink Ladies travelled to the likes of Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin, Antwerp and Rotterdam over the years.
“In a normal year, we usually take in a tournament abroad, usually part of the Gay Games or the EuroGames. There’s teams like The Royals from England, the Baby Gays from the Netherlands, a team from Australia in Paris a few years ago, and there’s a men’s tournament at the same time. We usually field two teams; it’s a lot of craic but also a decent tournament and can be quite competitive as well!
“The Gay Games is like the Gay Olympics and we were part of the wider Team Ireland contingent which was a massive thing. There was an opening ceremony and a large tournament.”
If restrictions allow, they hope to head to Copenhagen for this year’s event. Training returned this month with weekly sessions at Railway Union on Thursday from 8 to 9.30pm.
As a LGBTQI+ specific club, Rebecca feels it is also an “incredibly important” outlet on a number of levels.
“There are people who come down to Pink ladies to have the opportunity to make friends who are gay or lesbian who may not have that opportunity elsewhere.
“It’s a way of doing it in a very fun, safe, social environment as well as getting out in a healthy way in the fresh air during the summer.
“I know there are certainly people who have joined who you can see have grown in confidence and in themselves, on the pitch and off the pitch, growing in their own skins because they get to play people with whom they feel safe and understood, respected for who they are.
“That might be the only space they have; some of us have been out for years and have a group of gay friends outside of hockey. Some people may not have that and it gives that opportunity to make friends, where you can be visible, be out and it’s not something you have to worry about.
“It’s just a nice, comfortable space. It’s also a good way of getting women involved in sport; girls tend to fall off in participation after their teens so this is a nice, unthreatening way of getting some people back into spot if they have been out of it for a few years.
“It is quite a social thing and people have made some really long-lasting friendships from it which we really like seeing it continue from year to year.”
And, in the wider context of Sporting Pride’s #LetsGetVisible campaign, she says it is an important step forward.
“Ideally, you would like everyone to feel safe, secure and comfortable in your club, even if it is not an LGBT specific club. That’s where we want to get to, where everyone can feel like they can bring their whole self, their love, their relationship to the club where they are playing, feel safe and happy.
“That’s where campaigns like this are really important. LGBT people, we are in every walk of life, in every club, in every school, in every organisation. It’s important to be visible around that and that’s what makes the difference. We deserve that respect and to feel safe where we work and where we play.”
** To find out more about the Pink Ladies, go to their Facebook page here or email firstname.lastname@example.org