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Women in Sport: Giulia Valentino of Ireland’s first explicitly LGBTQ+ inclusive GAA team, Na Gaeil Aeracha


By Sarah Gill
27th Nov 2022
Women in Sport: Giulia Valentino of Ireland’s first explicitly LGBTQ+ inclusive GAA team, Na Gaeil Aeracha

Na Gaeil Aeracha GAA’s Giulia Valentino on her journey so far, inclusion in sport, and why sport is such an integral part of community, on a club, local, national and personal level.

For this week’s instalment of our ‘Women in Sport’ series, we’re catching up with Giulia Valentino, a member of Ireland’s first explicitly LGBTQ+ inclusive GAA team, Na Gaeil Aeracha.

From her first official game as part of a women’s team to her hopes for improved inclusion, safety and accessibility for trans people in sport, read our interview with Giulia below…

Giulia Valentino

Name: Giulia Valentino [she/her]

Profession: Program specialist (Tech industry)

Earliest sporting memory?

I was probably four or five years old when my parents registered me for a swimming course. I hated it and moved to Judo a few years later.

How did you become involved in your sport?

I quit team sports when I was 16 and since then, I went to the gym, played tennis and did climbing for many years. After my transition, I moved to Ireland and I started playing rugby. Following an injury, I decided to move to tag rugby and Gaelic football, and I eventually joined Na Gaeil Aeracha. Another factor that affects my sports decisions is that trans women are being debated and banned from many sports, so I am now left with only a handful of options.

Tell me a little about your club.

Na Gaeil Aeracha (NGA) is a special place. A friendly, inclusive and supportive team. NGA goes far beyond the pitch. We go out together, we are a mutual support network, we commit to fostering a healthy and safe environment. Also, we are great craic!

What message would you like to share with young women and girls interested in pursuing a career as an athlete?

Be committed, be respectful, be ethical, have fun — and promote all those values.

Proudest sporting moment so far…

I hope it will happen soon – fingers crossed! I hope to see sporting organisations in Ireland showing more inclusion, especially for trans athletes.

The female athlete I admire most is…

Hard to say, because I don’t watch a lot of sports. And more often than not, people who I admire for their sport come out with arguable statements about inclusion. I might name Caster Semenya, Megan Rapinoe, and Simone Biles.

Favourite sporting memory?

Probably my first rugby game, which was also my first official game on a women’s team.

Do you think there is still a stigma around women in sport?

Yes.

Giulia Valentino

What is the biggest barrier to driving visibility in women’s sports?

Patriarchy and profit. Those two factors are also interconnected.

The biggest stigma/preconception that exists in women’s sport is?

In a patriarchal society, women’s competitions are simply seen as less important than men’s (i.e. during the Olympics, the men’s finals are the main events and are scheduled after the women’s ones of the same competition). While we have mostly men pulling the strings, “mansplaining” what is best for women and deciding “how to protect women’s bodies and women’s sport” things will be hard to change.

If I wasn’t an athlete I would be…

If I wasn’t an athlete I would just want to be, and I am, myself. Being an athlete is part of it but not all of it.

My favourite pre-match meal is…

A mix of not-too-rich complex carbs and simple carbs two hours before a match.

My pre-match playlist includes…

AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Rammstein, Slipknot.

My daily routine is…

Working, playing music, training, spending time with people I care about, and of course, sleeping.

My biggest sporting goal is…

Improving inclusion, safety and accessibility for trans people.

Sports brands I love (Irish or otherwise)…

I like “no-logo” clothes or jerseys and apparel from the teams I play/have played for.

Biggest splurge to celebrate a win?

Burger and pints!

How do you mind your mental health?

I go to therapy, I play music and try to love myself.

My three desert island beauty products are…

Tweezers, mascara, and eyeliner.

I need 8 hours of sleep a night because… I’m not in my twenties anymore!

Confidence, to me, is…

Knowing my value, skills and limitations. Knowing that I can do what I have to do, and have committed to.

How do you get over a bad performance?

I try to not beat myself too hard, understand and analyse what didn’t work, and find a solution to prevent making the same mistakes again.

Lastly, why is sport such an integral part of community, on a club, local, national and personal level?

Community level sport helps to improve mental and physical health, as well as foster relationships and a sense of inclusion. It should also teach positive ethical values like inclusion, respect, cooperation, and mutual support.