Erin Phillips
Tracy Gahan and Erin Phillips

Australian AFL player Erin Phillips makes LGBT players in sport more visible after kissing her wife at an awards ceremony.

On March 28, a professional sportsperson won the Best and Fairest award at an award ceremony honouring professional sportspeople. Upon hearing the announcement, this elated sportsperson quickly kissed her spouse before ascending the stage to accept her prize.

Not exactly newsworthy, right?

And yet, because of the heteronormative assumptions that structure our society, this was a big deal. Because the sportsperson who won the award, Adelaide Crows AFL star Erin Phillips, happens to be gay. And the spouse, whom she kissed, Tracy Gahan, is a woman.

Thankfully, the public response to the kiss has been overwhelmingly positive, with LGBT advocates and allies united in the understanding that without visibility, equality is not real.

In her extremely sweet acceptance speech, Phillips thanked her wife, saying “Every bit of this is owed to you.”

While the professional sport has long been a challenging realm for LGBT inclusion and equality, progress is certainly being made, and particularly so in female sport. Several of the female players who competed in the inaugural Women’s Australian Football League season this past year (whose achievements were being honoured at the aforementioned awards night) are openly gay.

In an interview with Mamamia, Greater Western Sydney Giants captain Emma Swanson emphasized that sexuality is not a focus in the women’s league, stating, “To put it into perspective for you, I probably couldn’t tell you who’s gay or who’s straight and it doesn’t mean anything anyway. I know that there are some girls who have husbands in our team and some girls have a same-sex partner.”

While responses to Phillips and Gahan’s kiss have revealed some problematic attitudes regarding the straight male gaze on lesbian romance (here’s looking at you, Mark Robinson), the outcome is, largely, a win. Now the clock is ticking to see if even one of the dozens of players in the AFL men’s league comes out as gay. So far, that playing field is ostensibly 100% straight.