Living the life of perceived expectations, AFLW player Jess Trend lost track of her true self - until one pivotal moment changed it all.
“My confidence as I grew up decreased only because I tended to follow what everyone else was doing, rather than be who I am,” Trend told True North.
“I was the classic tomboy, but going through high school I just wanted to be the 'girly girl' coz everyone around me was the 'girly girl'.
“Then I came out to my family and started to play footy ... and even the tattoos, I know it’s a cliché but they are who I am.”
Breaking the news to her loved ones was a weight lifted off Trend's shoulders.
“People were shocked when I first came out ... people were shocked with the amount of tattoos I’ve got, because back in high school I was this innocent, pretty little girl who just loved playing netball and pretended to go on dates with boys,” she explained.
“I remember I used to go for long runs and I would run up really long hills and just say to myself that I’m not the way that I think I am, I like boys, I like boys because if you don’t like boys then your life’s going to be really hard.
“I remember thinking that my family won’t understand, which was complete opposite.
“It was just the voices that I hadn’t learnt how to control, I thought it was just my inner-self just telling me ‘no you can’t go down this path’ but it was just my brain tricking me, telling me what I think I should be, when it wasn’t who I was.
“But as soon as I actually did come out, my family were unreal.”
Experiencing a feeling of complete elation, the 28-year-old reminisces on the support she received.
“I remember telling my Nanna and she said ‘as long as you’re happy, I’m happy’,” Trend recalled.
“She goes ‘I don’t know why you even have to tell me’.
“My brothers were fantastic, my mum even wrote me a little note saying … this is the cutest thing … ‘I don’t care if you want to be a hairdresser, I don’t care if you want to be a vet, I don’t care if you want to play soccer, I don’t care if you date girls, we love you for who you are’. It was something along the lines of that. That was so special to me.”
Trend says coming out can be difficult, but urges others who may be in a similar position to build a support network they can rely on.
“Across my journey of coming out I’ve met a few people that have really struggled with their coming out story and to this day, still do,” she said.
“Some of my friends haven’t even been completely honest and are still in denial with their families, only because they have tried to be honest with their families and it’s just gone the wrong direction in what they wish it could be, and the outcome.
“The advice I would give is trying to find a network where you still can voice what you want to voice, even if you can’t voice it to your family at this stage ... it will probably just be a slow progress.
“In the end there’s some families that will never accept you for who you are and as a person you kind of have to get to a point where if that’s the case, then they’re going to lose someone who’s really really important in their life.
“Do as much as you can and put in as much as you can as a person to try and fix that connection with your family, for them to accept you for who you are.
“But if it gets to a point where it is too exhausting and it is bringing down your mental health, then I would say stick to your network that you feel comfortable and safe with, that you feel gives you confidence and brings a smile to your day-to-day.”
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