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Danielle Laidley fought back tears as she reflected on the strained relationship she shares with her three grown children after her transition to becoming a woman.
In an all-encompassing interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night, the 55-year-old AFL legend revealed that she has secretly dressed in women’s clothing for most of her life and hopes her bond with her loved ones will improve.
“All I can say is we’ll be family again in God’s time,” Laidley said in tears.
“They’ve been through enough. And hopefully, in a few years, we’ll be here one day and we’ll all be in a great place.
“It leaves a huge hole in my heart. They have been my life.’
Former AFL great Danielle Laidley has reflected on the strained relationship she shares with her adult children after her transition to a woman
Laidley said she was confident there was time to mend the broken relationship with her three grown children, daughters Molly and Brooke and her son Kane.
‘There is no rush. I’m not going anywhere for a long time,” she told the program.
News of Laidley’s transition first came to light after Victorian police officers leaked photos of her after she was arrested in May 2020.
The officers who took her into custody leaked a photo of her wearing a dress, wig and makeup on social media, which quickly went viral.
Laidley was charged with stalking and violating a family warrant, which resulted in a good conduct bond of 18 months with no conviction or fine.
However, the pain the photos caused her and her family was hard to reconcile.
“The photos were an invasion of privacy,” she told reporter Sarah Abo.
Laidley said she was sure there was time to mend the strained relationship with her three grown children and said she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon (Laidley pictured with her ex-wife Jo)
Laidley said the leaked photos of her in custody were cruel to her and her three children
‘I lived a quiet life, I got lost and derailed for the first time in my life and it was very embarrassing for me.
“It was brutal for me, but even more brutal for my children.
‘I will never forget, but I have forgiven. I took such a close look at my children and I will never forget that.’
In a long piece for the Sunday Herald Sun, Laidley said she first applied “Coca-Cola red” nail polish when she was just six years old and had been secretly wearing makeup and dressing as a woman since the 1990s.
Dani Laidley with childhood sweetheart Donna Leckie. Laidley has opened up about her transition to a woman in an all-encompassing interview with 60 Minutes
Born Dean James Laidley, Dani Laidley surpassed both a player and coach at the AFL level
In the 1990s, Laidley said she would take every private moment she had to explore her gender identity, despite feeling guilty for taking time away from her wife, kids, and the West Coast Eagles.
She kept a garbage bag full of dresses and makeup in a hole in her ceiling and one day she decided to make her first public appearance as a woman.
‘I have a few precious hours to myself today and I want to use them well. I’m finally going to give in to a desire that has gone unfulfilled for years,” she recalls.
“I find the outfit I like best, the makeup that looks just right, blow a kiss in the mirror and walk out my front door.”
Laidley forced herself to take a spin around Perth’s Subiaco markets before being overwhelmed by the ‘giddy’ experience and retreating to her car.
In 1992, she befriended a group of transgender women who only too well understood her emotional pain from gender dysphoria — the sense of unease that there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.
While Laidley (left with Mike Malthouse) was a special guest commenting on Triple M for the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn, she said she has no plans to formally return to the sport
The footy legend opened up about her transition to becoming a woman and the lack of acceptance by the wider Australian community (pictured earlier this month)
Laidley was 25 years old with a wife and children, but had traveled to a club in Prahran, an inner-city Melbourne suburb, to enjoy her true self.
“They ask me about my life outside of footy and make no assumptions. A transgender probably feels trapped by his partner, right?’ she wrote.
“They must feel trapped by their children, yes? no. I love my wife. I adore my children. The girls understand these apparent contradictions and complications.’
Laidley said she found love with her high school sweetheart Donna Leckie.
“We’ve only just begun. We work very hard to enjoy our lives and have our family around us,” she said. Her affinity for women has not changed.
“Our sex is the bits we are born with and our sexuality is who we are attracted to.”
Today, Laidley has become a target for internet trolls, saying there are members of her family who haven’t quite accepted the change — but she still feels it was all worth it
While it was only five years ago that Laidley received a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria and not until 2020 when the transition process began, it’s something the former ALF player and coach has struggled with for a long time.
Despite the hardships, she has felt “unconditionally” supported by the AFL, a community she has been involved with for more than 30 years, since her transition.
As fearful as she is of being judged, she hopes to be a role model for future generations and pave the way for other transgender athletes.
“There will be a few punches to the nose. The first person at any change ends up bloody and marred,” Laidley said.
“If that’s going to be me for the next generation, then it’s me, and I’m happy about that.”
Born Dean James Laidey, Laidley played 151 AFL games for West Coast Eagles and North Melbourne before embarking on a 149-game coaching career with the Kangaroos.
While Laidley was a special guest commenting on Triple M for the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn, she said she has no plans to formally return to the sport.
For now, she is only too happy to enjoy her football and her role as a role model in the transgender community.