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Hannah Mouncey has always loved sports. She represented Australia in men’s handball before transitioning and since, has been on the Australian women’s national handball squad as well as playing in the Victorian Football League.
“Sport is important to me; it's always been where I felt comfortable. Sport gives me purpose because it was always something to work towards, it was the thing that I knew I was good at.”
Since her transition, her love of sport has been tested. In 2017, Hannah was thrust into the public eye after her nomination for the AFL women’s draft was blocked on the basis of her ‘strength, stamina and physique’.
“My relationship with sport is very complex, but for me it's still always been a place where I belong.”
After a lot of invasive public scrutiny, Hannah debuted in the 2018 VFL Women’s season. She also played for the Australian National Handball team, helping the Australian women’s team qualify for the Handball World Championships. But in 2019 she was left out of the world championships because some of her teammates refused to share a change room with her.
“I'd love to get to the point one day where I feel comfortable going back into that environment. Handball Australia have since apologised and are committed to changing. They've asked me to help shape policies, so they've been really proactive.”
For all the media headlines her transition attracted, it was in fact a deeply personal, introspective process for Hannah. One that lasted many years.
“Coming to terms with who I am, and my gender identity was a long process," she explains.
“I grew up in the '90s and there weren’t a lot of positive images of trans people. When I started going through puberty, I remember it being a really hard time because I couldn't put into words why or what I was feeling. I’d see the girls at school and I’d get jealous of them but I didn’t know why.”
“It wasn't until I left school and met people in the wider world that I realised there are a lot of people who are different in a lot of ways. At the same time, I was really into sport and wanted to pursue that. I also started to understand what being transgender meant. But when I thought about transitioning, I thought “no way, I can’t, because then what happens to sport” and so I just buried it.
“It wasn't until I was 24-25 that it just became impossible to live with it. I was beyond exhausted running away from it and being terrified that people would find out.”
“Around this time there was starting to be more positive coverage of transgender and gender diverse people in the media. Caitlyn Jenner in particular really opened my eyes because she was an athlete like me.”
When the time came to come out, Hannah had a lot of support.
“When I transitioned, I was fortunate enough to have support around. I wouldn't be here without those people. I wouldn't have played sport. I wouldn't have the confidence to come out and be me.”
“And people surprised me. I came out when I was playing men’s handball, which is a very physical masculine sport, and you are in that masculine environment, so I was worried about telling my teammates. The people that I was most nervous about went out of their way to be really supportive.”
“For anyone struggling with their gender identity or their sexuality, I would say that it's not a race.”
Today, Hannah is living life as her true self. She now runs a company she started two years ago that provides support for people suffering from a mental health or neurological condition.
“It’s been amazing, we get to help people every day.”
“Everything I'm doing now I never would have been able to do before. I wouldn't be in the position I am now owning a company with 10 staff if I hadn't transitioned. I know I wouldn't be. I certainly wouldn't be as good a person or as good a friend if I hadn't transitioned.”
“You'll know when you're ready, you'll know when the time is right, and when you do everything will be OK because you may find that people are a lot more accepting than you realise.”
“This Mardi Gras’ theme is rise. I rise for everyone being given an equal shot, and no one is treated differently.”