‘That person wasn’t me’: Danielle Laidley shares her darkest moment

danielle laidley afl transgender gender dysphoria 60 minutes sport drug addiction
Image: Nine

AFL great Danielle Laidley has opened up about her harrowing struggles with gender dysphoria, drug addiction and her mental health.

Laidley’s autobiography Don’t Look Away: A Memoir of Identity and Acceptance is out next week.

In the book, the transgender former AFL player and coach “covers the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and what it took for me to step into the world as my true self”.

Warning: distressing content

Speaking to News Corp, Danielle Laidley opened up about her darkest moment – trying to take her own life in mid-2020 amid a raging ice addiction.

“I was at such a low point in my life,” she recalled.

“I’d been smoking ice for about eight or nine days, I had not been to sleep.

“This night, I have to say, I was mentally insane… I was completely insane and I look back now and that person wasn’t me.”

For decades, Danielle Laidley had kept her gender identity hidden from her friends, family and her footy club until it was unwillingly revealed publicly after her arrest in 2020.

But she explained leaving the sport in 2015 or 2016 left her feeling alone and in a “void”.

“For a 15-year-old, it became my footy career and then my coaching career. I became a workaholic, that was my addiction,” she said.

“When I was struggling, I would stick my head in the solace of my job.

“It became a vicious cycle for me and when I left the AFL, I didn’t have my football career to stick my head in.

“All of a sudden there was a void of not being attached to a tribe. You’re by yourself, which was the first time in my life that had happened to me.

“It became this whirlpool… I was always living in fear, in shame and in embarrassment of my gender identity.

“Now I had this other problem [with addiction] that manifested out of my family history, and I was too scared to reach out to anyone.

“It was just a bonfire waiting for the match.”

Danielle Laidley appearing on 60 Minutes

Now, Danielle Laidley is living happily with her partner Donna, and she explained while it’s “taken a while to get here” her “life is great”.

“Life is a hell of a lot easier just being you,” she told News Corp.

“Life’s going to be worth living now… I’m going to get fulfilment now being me, and I get that every day now.”

On Sunday night (August 28), Danielle Laidley will share her story in an interview with 60 Minutes.

“There used to be a skinny kid, bloke running around a footy field like a maniac,” she told the program.

“But that was a part of the mask, to cover up.

“I wouldn’t let people get close to me. I thought I was coping really well, but obviously that wasn’t the case.

“Life hasn’t been easy, I’ve found it tough the whole way through. Now I can be myself with everyone.”

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.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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