Sporting Pride and Dublin Lesbian Line teamed up with GCN to launch the new LGBTQ+ Women in Sports Series, with their first guest being Republic of Ireland captain and Arsenal star Katie McCabe. The special online event running as a part of GCN’s In & Out Festival kicked off with the athlete being interviewed by Anna Nolan on all things football, coming out, and of course, LGBTQ+ visibility in sport.
A role model to many, McCabe shared her inspirational journey and was sure to throw in a few hilarious anecdotes along the way. Born and bred in Tallaght, she reflected on what it was like to grow up in a big sporting family.
“I come from a big family. I’m not sure if a lot of people will know this but I’m one of 11 kids, typical big Irish family,” she laughed. “Always very competitive, sporting, but equally caring. You just have the craic, you always had someone to have the craic with growing up, which I loved. I loved being part of a team in that sense.”
McCabe’s story of coming out to her parents is a particularly amusing one, and she claims her friend and former teammate, Clare Shine, will kill her for sharing it. Having received a rare invite to join her parents as they went out for dinner, the footballer took the opportunity to gauge her mother’s thoughts on same-sex relationships by pretending Clare was the one who was gay.
“I was like, ‘Mam I’ve got this friend, Clare, she’s starting to have feelings for one of the girls on the team but I don’t really care, what do you think?’ Just trying to suss her out and get feelers.”
Her mother responded positively, and Katie decided that she would take her opportunity that evening to open up to her parents.
“I think it was just before the mains, and I’d kind of went quiet and my Mam and Dad were just sitting there,” she recalled. “They were like, ‘Have you got something to tell us, is there anything on your mind? You’ve been not really yourself.’”
“And I was like, ‘Yeah Mam, you know the story I told earlier about Clare? That’s me, I was being Clare in that situation, I think I’m gay.’ And then I started crying probably out of nerves, out of relief.”
“They nearly bloody slapped me on the head, being like, ‘Don’t be crying, don’t be silly, we don’t care’. They did not care at all and since that day they’ve been so supportive.”
Coming out at such a young age can be a tough task to undertake, but McCabe gave credit to her team at the time, Raheny United, for providing her with a “safe space” to become comfortable with her sexuality – a term she also used for the atmosphere created within both Arsenal and the Women’s National Team.
“I remember going into that environment and it being so accepting. It was something that I was familiar with, but I wasn’t familiar with how normal it was.”
“Personally, I came out when I was 15, and it may be that being in that kind of environment gave me the nudge to get the confidence to tell my Mam and Dad.”
Rewatch the full event on YouTube or Facebook to hear Katie’s thoughts on the lack of out elite male footballers, dealing with negativity, what local clubs can do to support their players, and much more.
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