Dani Laidley has finally found peace after years of ‘fear and shame’

dani laidley instagram partner donna transgender afl star coach north melbourne triple m gender dysphoria interview
Dani Laidley and partner Donna. Image: Instagram

Dani Laidley has declared she’s “absolutely found peace” after struggling with gender dysphoria since childhood.

The former North Melbourne AFL star and coach, who is transgender, joined the Triple M AFL commentary box during a match two weeks ago.

Speaking on the station, Dani Laidley explained during adolescence and her entire AFL career she’d lived a “very compartmentalised” life, hiding who she really was.

But in 2017, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which is when a person’s “gender identity is not congruent with how they feel on the inside [to] what is on the outside,” she explained.

“It causes a great deal of white noise, 24/7,” she said.

“It overtakes your thinking and overtakes your ability to live life normally. So playing and coaching and having a young family and all of those things.

“To be honest, I don’t know how I got here. But I am, and I am very glad.”

Laidley also revealed that her gender dysphoria had started in childhood.

“My first recollection is about six years of age, way, way back,” she said.

“I’m 55, so 49 years, God. It was a long time ago and I carried it through my youth and teenage years.

“I played footy, played cricket and things like that, and nearly gave them all away.

“Then luckily made the state schoolboys back in Perth and thought, ‘Well, I’m pretty good. Let’s just see where this goes’.”

‘So far removed from the person I really was’

However Dani Laidley explained growing up, it was “really difficult” knowing that she “felt so different on the inside to what was on the outside”.

“I started playing league footy when I was in high school. I had this persona. Some called me the Junkyard Dog back in the day,” she recalled.

“It was so far removed from the person I really was. That was very difficult and it took its toll.

“I felt like I was walking around with a boat anchor on my head for many, many years.

“I was too scared, ashamed, and embarrassed to go and find out about it. But I knew there was something different about how I was feeling.”

But after a tough few years, including having her gender identity revealed publicly, Dani Laidley explained she is now “absolutely at peace”.

“It has taken 55 years to get here,” she said.

“There has been a hell of a lot that’s been written and said. I’ve not had much, zero, opportunity to say anything because of different reasons.

“Before everything became very public, I had been living as myself and I was very happy with that.

“Some of my family is still finding it a little difficult. But we’re working through that and that will take some time.”

Laidley will share her story in an autobiography this August. A documentary on her life is also reportedly in production.

Dani Laidley overwhelmed by support from AFL community

Dani Laidley explained to her fellow Triple M AFL commentators she wasn’t ready to make any return to AFL coaching.

However she said she had received so much support from the wider AFL community.

“It’s been a tough road to here but I’ve just been really overwhelmed by the support,” she said.

“You live in fear and shame and embarrassment for years and then to come out like it did. It’s been really tough on my family. But now, to a person, it’s been great.

“They accept me for who I am, the person I am now. And hopefully there’s a lot of life to live.”

Laidley said she was “really enjoying just being back in the AFL family” reconnecting with people “so they get to know the real me” after she put up “barriers” for decades.

“People who come up and get in touch [say that] me being my authentic self and living in peace has given people more hope and acceptance,” she said.

“As a transgender community, that’s all we want. We just want to be supported and not judged.

“If that has to be me, I’m happy to do that for this generation of transgender people and the generations that come after me.”

Laidley revealed AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan had said to her, “Dani, our game is for everyone.”

She said McLachlan told her, “We’ll help you be the person you want to be now and along your journey, if we can help break down any barriers.”

“For the CEO of this organisation to say that is amazing,” she said.

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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  1. Yolande Stiffel
    6 July 2022

    This is an inspirational story that everyone needs to read. I am glad she is working towards her own autobiography as this story needs to spread to a wider audience.
    People have to become more informed about these issues so that life can become accepted and normal for everyone.
    Good on you Dani!!

  2. Peter Turner
    7 July 2022

    More and more visibility of trans people will prove the stereotypes to be false and lead ,hopefully, to a World where everyone is celebrated for who they are.

    Congratulations and much love to Dani

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