To celebrate Gay Pride Month, former Irish international hockey player Lisa Jacob has answered some questions about pride and her experiences being openly gay in and out of hockey. Lisa is from Enniscorthy Co. Wexford and has 139 Irish Senior Caps. She has previously played for Hermes and UCD until joining Old Alex in 2017 where she helped bring the team into the EYHL for the first time.
Q1 – What does Pride mean to you?
Pride can often be about external expression. For me it is more of an internal acceptance, and just being really happy in myself.
Q2 – Can you describe Pride in three words?
Happy, celebratory and colourful.
Q3 – What has your experience been like being openly gay in the hockey world?
While playing for the Irish team and going through a bad spell on the pitch, I was dropped for a trip to Argentina. When I look back now, I can see that being uncertain and uncomfortable about my sexuality was affecting my performance on the pitch. Hockey has always been an outlet for me and I have been very lucky to have great support no matter what has been going on in my life. My experience has been that your team mates don’t care about who you’re attracted to, more so if you can stop the ball on the pitch or put it in the back of the net!
Q4 – How has playing hockey helped you with coming out?
When I was going through the stage of realising I might be gay, I was living with a group of the hockey girls who were really supportive and really acted like nothing was different. It was very grounding and reaffirming at a time when you can feel a bit all over the place and self-conscious.
When I was younger and playing for Hermes, there were two gay women on the team who have been a great support to me over many years. Playing in Holland for a season was also really eye opening. It’s a country that is so open and liberal about sexuality and made me realise it’s not such a big deal to be gay.
Q5 – Do you think being involved in sport has had a positive effect on your mental health?
I think sport is so important for mental health. I have found that playing allows you to forget about everything else that is going on outside of the training session or match. Whether it is the exercise or the chats with people- you always feel better and lighter afterwards.
Q6 – Congratulations on getting engaged, can you tell us a bit about the wedding plans?
We have a date set for December 2020 but that might be pushed back due to the Coronavirus. We have the venue booked in a rustic barn in Louth and will be assessing the situation in a few months as we want to be able to have all our family and friends there and be able to have a proper party!
Q7 – Is there a public figure that you feel represents the LGBTQ+ well and why?
Leo Varadkar is the one who comes to mind, mainly because he is openly gay but he is also not in your face about it. He gets the right balance between supporting pride and the marriage referendum for example, but also showing that your sexual orientation is just a small part of who you are.
Q8 – If you could give your younger self any advice in regards to coming out, what would it be?
It is much easier to say this in hindsight but just relax. Everything will work out in the end and the journey is worth it.
Q9 – Do you have any advice for someone who is struggling with their sexuality?
Talk to someone you trust. It might be easier to talk to someone who is gay themselves if that is an option, otherwise someone that you feel comfortable with. It sounds a bit random but reading books or watching movies with gay characters can also be good- but the main thing is to talk to someone, even if you don’t know what to say.
A big thanks to Lisa Jacob for taking time to answer these questions, Old Alex would like to congratulate Lisa and Nikki on their engagement and wish them all the best on their wedding day and beyond.
Support for LGBTQ+ can be found at https://lgbt.ie/
Information on Dublin Gay Pride can be found at https://dublinpride.ie/
Old Alex Hockey Club fully support inclusion for all and would like to wish everyone a happy Pride