David Gough: 'Visibility is the key'
By Paul Keane
This is a big weekend for David Gough, on and off the field.
Ordinarily, as a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, the leading football referee would be looking forward to marching in tomorrow's annual Dublin Pride Parade.
Instead, he will attend the Pride Breakfast in Dublin which the Gaelic Players Association is hosting and then head home.
He has the small matter of a Croke Park engagement on Sunday, as referee for the Mayo v Kerry All-Ireland quarter-final, and reckons that marching for several miles the day before mightn't be the wisest choice.
"I was looking forward to being involved in the parade with the GPA and seeing some of the inter-county players there on the day, supporting Pride, because this year they're getting allies to join in as well as members of the LGBT community, because that's where we feel that the support needs to come," said Gough.
"Certainly those of us who are out in the GAA have no issue with our own sexuality, so it's getting the allies on board to show that they have no issue with it either. It's important to show that support within the GAA community. So I'm a bit disappointed from that aspect, not to be there, but I'll be quite happy sitting at home watching the two games on Saturday evening."
Meath man Gough, from the Slane club, came out publicly as gay in 2011. He wishes more male players would follow suit and tells a tale which he hopes may encourage anyone considering doing so to seize the moment.
"Bringing your whole self to the game is the most important thing because when you bring your whole self, that sense of self acceptance brings a huge amount of self confidence," he said.
"I remember saying this after the 2019 All-Ireland final, when we were having our post match meal with John Horan and Tom Ryan and I spoke publicly at that meal to John about the sense of self acceptance that the GAA had helped to give me during 2019 with the Late Late Show appearance, with the Pride parade and then to back that up by giving me the final, led to probably my best performance on a football field.
"That self confidence came from self acceptance and left me perfectly placed to referee in the best way possible that I could."
Gough said he isn't so much surprised as simply disappointed that so few male inter-county players ever come out. He feels that doing so would send a strong message to others who may be in similar situations and struggling. Visibility, he says, is what it's all ultimately about.
"Visibility is the key to all of this and the more visibility there is around the LGBT community, people happily existing as a member of the LGBT community but also within the sports world and representing both, without any conflict, well that sends the right message to younger people that sport is the right place for them irrespective of their sexuality," he said.
Gough, thankfully, has never experienced homophobic abuse while on a GAA field and doesn't expect it to happen.
"There is such a respect there between myself and the players on the field," he said. "They are used to me, they know my personality and they know who I am and what I stand for and how I try to create fair conditions on the pitch, because in my own life that's all I've ever looked for, to be treated equally.
"So I find it very easy to try to create those conditions on the pitch where players are treated equally, so I don't think there ever has been or I can't foresee there ever being any issue around someone making a very personal homophobic statement to me on the pitch, I don't foresee that happening."
For all of Gough's talk about visibility, anonymity will suit him just fine on Sunday at the centre of the Kerry-Mayo game. He is as ambitious as the players are to perform well and to keep progressing in this year's Championship.
"All of us on the 16 of the Championship elite panel, we're all ambitious and we wouldn't be doing it unless we wanted to be at the business end of the Championship and putting ourselves in line to be refereeing these type of full house games in Croke Park, be it All-Ireland quarters, semis, final, or even the Tailteann Cup now as well," he said. "We've been ramping up our preparations as well."
* David Gough is part of SuperValu’s #CommunityIncludesEveryone campaign. SuperValu are proud partners of the Cork Ladies’ Football team and are once again calling on each and every member of Gaelic Games communities across the country to do what they can to make their community more diverse and inclusive.