Dani Laidley interview 60 Minutes: AFL great speaks about male to female transition

Former AFL great Danielle Laidley has opened up on her transition to identifying as a woman and the lack of acceptance transgender people get from the broader Australian community.

North Melbourne’s hard-nosed premiership-winning defender from the 1990s opened up to 60 Minutes about gender dysphoria and the abuse suffered at the hands of hostile fans.

The 55-year-old West Australian said she has been called everything from a ‘cross-dresser’ to an ‘ice-head’ through her journey but added the support from former teammates had been ‘unconditional’. 

‘Life hasn’t been easy, I’ve found it tough the whole way through,’ she told the program.

‘Now I can be myself with everyone.’

Footy legend Danielle Laidley has opened up on her transition to becoming a woman and the lack of acceptance from the broader Australian community

Laidley said she's been called everything from a 'cross-dresser' to an 'ice-head' by ignorant footy supporters

Laidley said she’s been called everything from a ‘cross-dresser’ to an ‘ice-head’ by ignorant footy supporters

Laidley was born Dean James Laidey and played 151 AFL games for West Coast Eagles and North Melbourne before carving out a 149-game coaching career with the Kangaroos. 

While it was only five years ago that Laidley got a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria and only 2020 when the transition process began, it’s something Laidley has carried with her for a long time.

‘My first recollection is about six years of age, way, way back,’ Laidley told Triple M in June.

‘Now I am 55, so what is that, 49 years, god.

‘It was really difficult to know that I felt so different on the inside to what was on the outside and then, given that I started playing league footy when I was in high school, to have this persona, and some called me the Junkyard Dog back in the day, it was so far removed from the person I really was and 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, but I was too scared, ashamed, embarrassed to go and find out about it, but I knew there was something different about how I was feeling.’

Dani Laidley was born Dean James Laidley and exceeded both a player and a coach at AFL level

Dani Laidley was born Dean James Laidley and exceeded both a player and a coach at AFL level

She said the support from her former teammates has been 'unconditional'

She said the support from her former teammates has been ‘unconditional’

Laidley explained what it was like living with gender dysphoria and how it involved more complicated emotions than just feelings of confused gender identity.

‘Gender dysphoria is the medical condition for people who know their gender identity is not congruent with how they feel on the inside (to) what is on the outside,’ she said.

‘Gender dysphoria, it causes a great deal of white noise 24/7 and overtakes your thinking and overtakes your ability to live life normally.

‘So to play and to coach and to have a young family and to do all of those things, to be honest I don’t know how I got here, but I am, and I am very glad.’

Today Laidley has become a target for internet trolls and there are members of her family who have not totally accepted the change but she still feels it was all worth it.

‘Absolutely, I am absolutely at peace. It has taken 55 years to get here,’ she said.

‘As much as there has been a hell of a lot that has been written and said, and I have 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 are working on that.’ 

Laidley with childhood sweetheart Donna Leckie. They reconnected in 2017, the same year Laidley received her diagnosis

Laidley with childhood sweetheart Donna Leckie. They reconnected in 2017, the same year Laidley received her diagnosis

While Laidley was a special guest in commentary on Triple M for the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn, she has no plans on returning to the sport at any formal level.

For now, she is happy to just enjoy her football and her position as a role model in the transgender community.

‘It is certainly in my blood, there is no doubt about that and I have a passion for it,’ she said.

‘I am not ready yet to do anything like that.

‘I am really enjoying just being back in the AFL family and using it as a social platform for me and just reconnecting with a lot of people, just so they get to know the real me over the next period of time, because the person they have got to know over the last 35 years, I have always kept barriers, I would never let anyone get too close to me.’

Laidley is happy to be a role model for the transgender community but has no plans to return to AFL coaching

Laidley is happy to be a role model for the transgender community but has no plans to return to AFL coaching 

Laidley’s female identity became very public in tortuous circumstances.

Laidley was arrested in 2020 for stalking and breaching a family violence order, which resulted in an 18-month good behaviour bond without a conviction or fine.

The officers who took her into custody leaked a photo of her wearing a wig and make-up onto social media, and it soon became very public.

Victoria Police’s internal discipline board ordered 11 officers, ranging in rank from constable to sergeant, to pay up to $3,000 to Laidley out of their own pockets.  

Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton formally apologised to Laidley after the photos went viral, saying he was ‘appalled’ by the officer’s behaviour.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk