'It's an inspiring, disarming, and deeply moving book, and it deserves to be widely read.' Craig Silvey

Now a Stan Original Documentary.

Fearless. Tough. Uncompromising.

This was the persona of former elite footballer and senior AFL coach Danielle Laidley.

Fearful. Vulnerable. Uncertain.

This is how Danielle felt for most of her life.

For the best part of five decades, within a hyper-masculine sporting environment, Danielle Laidley harboured a secret. As a boy growing up in the backblocks of Perth, as a teenager and young man playing AFL, as a married father of three, she knew she was female, regardless of the gender she was assigned at birth.

For years Danielle lived a compartmentalised life, managing her secret first with a relentless quest for sporting success and workaholism, and eventually with substances that dulled the pain. She covertly experimented with her transgender life but eventually rumours began to circulate. The walls started closing in. Then there was nowhere to hide.

This is an unflinching account of what it's like to know you don't fit the body you were born into, and the desperate measures taken to mask the fear of being outed, of losing those you love. It's also an uncensored behind-the-scenes look at elite football from the perspective of player and coach, where Danielle is both participant in and analytical observer of her double life.

It's about the courage it takes to step into the world as Danielle May.

About the author(s)

Danielle Laidley (birth name Dean Laidley) played 151 games for West Coast Eagles and North Melbourne football clubs, winning an AFL premiership with the Kangaroos in 1996. She became one of the youngest senior coaches ever at 36, coaching North Melbourne for 149 games across seven seasons from 2003 to 2009.

Building on her experience in training and developing people, Danielle moved into a leadership and management role with the Department of Justice. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is now an advocate for transgender people, raising awareness in a quest for acceptance of diversity. Danielle lives in Melbourne with her partner, Donna Leckie.

Konrad Marshall is a senior writer for Good Weekend magazine. An acclaimed longform journalist specialising in sport, art and science, his work has appeared in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald as well as The Indianapolis Star and The Florida Times-Union. Konrad is the author of Yellow & Black (2017), Stronger & Bolder (2019) and The Hard Way (2020) and has collaborated with AFL stars Max Gawn and Dustin Martin. He has twice been named print journalist of the year by Sport Australia, and in 2019 won the Harry Gordon Australian Sports Journalist of the Year.

More Social Science

More All Other Nonfiction