IT’S BEEN a wild few months for Darcy Vescio since they decided to share their gender journey with the public.
Figuring out their identity over the last few years, Vescio made the discovery that they are non-binary, not feeling fully comfortable in the male or female category.
Thinking it over for a while, it wasn’t until Vescio referred to themselves as a ‘woman’ on a podcast that they decided it was time to dig deep.
“I felt like I was building up to a point and I was doing a podcast and I referred to myself as a woman in that podcast and that was a moment where it probably didn’t sit as it had,” they said.
“I feel like maybe I said it to say it out loud and it didn’t fit the way it always had, so that was a moment that I should speak more publicly and tell people around me a bit more so the next week I did.”
Having told their partner a few months prior and receiving a mountain of support, Vescio knew they had to make this discovery public if they wanted their image and pronouns to change: not only to their friends and family, but to the entire football world.
“I was sort of thinking about it a little bit, knowing that I would have to say something publicly if I wanted my pronouns to change and for people to understand me better,” they said.
“I built confidence around the way I was perceived from the response I was getting from my teammates, that gave me a lot of confidence.
“I had a great foundation around me as well as my family, so that made me feel like I could go more public and feel comfortable in that space.”
Acknowledging that this positive reception is not what a lot of LGBTQIA+ people experience, Vescio feels very lucky to have been embraced by those around them and not turned away.
“I feel very lucky to be in this position. I know that a lot of people don’t have the same response so I feel like the response I’ve gotten should be the response that everyone deserves,” they said.
“It can be easy to accept something and feel fine about something but to go that extra step and say something and give someone that support and that validation has been really lovely.”
Vescio expressed that even opposition teammates have come up to them and offered support post-game, making the AFLW experience so unique and supportive for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Vescio also acknowledged the backing of the Carlton Football Club, who have done their best to make them feel comfortable and help share their journey in a respectful manner.
“[The Club] haven’t put it back on me, they’ve been more ‘if there’s anything we can do to help you, let us know, otherwise, we’ll be working around you and making sure you’re as comfortable as possible,’” they said.
“It’s awesome and we have other gender-diverse staff around as well which is amazing.
“To know that there are people working at the Club who identify similarly, it’s not just people on the field that reflects everyone - not just in footy but in society - so it’s important to have people at all different levels represent which I feel like the Club is doing.”
The journey and discovery is all fairly new to Vescio, who feels like they don’t quite have the grasp on the language yet to describe themselves properly, but is on the way to learning more and being able to educate.
While everyone’s journey is unique, Vescio encourages those who may be struggling to lean into their feelings and give themselves the space to discover who they really are.
“It does feel very, very new so I think I don’t have the language yet to really pinpoint how I’m feeling,” they said.
“I feel like if you are thinking about certain things then don’t shy away from it, it’s okay to do things in your own time and see how different things fit and you shouldn’t feel pressure to be anything.
“It feels like a big release to me so I encourage other people to allow themselves that space to feel those things and be kind to yourself - no feeling is right or wrong, just allow yourself to feel them.”
In terms of the Pride Round itself, Vescio mused that every round feels like Pride Round and that none of it would have been possible without the initial groundwork that the LGBTQIA+ community put in.
“It’s funny to have a Pride Round because I feel like every round in AFLW is Pride Round, it naturally occurs,” they said.
“I think it’s a time to reflect on where women’s footy has come from, the role that LGBTQIA+ people have played and they’ve really championed that from the start.
“The theme of our jumper is ‘planting a tree whose shade you’ll never sit under’ and that feels really strong in the AFLW community and I feel like we’re planting trees right now as well.”