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Moana Hope gets called a 'dyke' every day. She's had enough.

Moana Hope is tough.

We’ve seen it on and off the AFLW field.

We’ve seen it on Survivor and, now, Survivor: All Stars.

And we’ve seen it in her personal life, as she juggles a full-time job (running her traffic management business) with caring for her sister, Livinia, while also starting a family through IVF with her wife Isabella Carlstrom.

But a thick skin does not make you immune from the harmful power of words. Words like ‘dyke’, a name Moana is called, either online or in person, every single day.

“All the time, mate, all the time,” Moana tells Mamamia. “It’s the number one go-to for me. I’m a man-hater if I have an opinion of a man. I am a lesbian man-hating dyke if I have just an opinion on any dude. It could just be I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. I’m not a fan of our current Prime Minister because I don’t think he’s doing his job. Not because he’s a man, not because he has a penis.

“The whole dyke, lesbian, butch, get back in your kitchen and get a penis in ya – [I hear it] every day, when I’m playing footy or when I’m on Survivor. Like, the first part of Survivor, I’m the quiet, doesn’t talk, stupid lesbian, and the next minute and I’m making big moves and it’s like ‘who does that dyke think she is?'”

When she played for Collingwood, Moana recalls a man standing behind the goals calling her a “dyke” and swearing at her.

“When I heard that it literally hurt my feelings,” she says. “You can say I’m a shit kick or any of that, but you don’t have personal attacks on people and use that in such an aggressive, negative way.

“I remember that because when the game finished as well, I was so paranoid to leave the ground in case he was there. And that’s just one time that’s happened to me.”

In 2020, more than two years since our country voted to legalise marriage equality, this shouldn’t be a ‘thing’. But it is, and it’s impacted upon how the 32-year-old footy star lives her life as an out woman.

moana hope survivor
Moana Hope is taking a stand on homophobic language, and it starts now. Image: Supplied.
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"For me, when I hear it, like with that guy who called me a dyke, my inner Broady  [Melbourne's Broadmeadows] wanted to come out," she says.

"But then I'm like, there are so many kids around and if I turn to him and yell back abuse or get on his level, then I'm just as shit as him. I'm just going to let him drown in his words, because god knows he must've gone through something bad in life to be that hateful and that hurtful."

Moana says that you don't usually get that kind of reaction at women's footy match. But for men's matches, it's more unpredictable.

In fact, Moana hasn't been to watch an AFL game in almost three years because the homophobic jibes from some punters were getting too much.

She recalls one of her first dates with Isabella a few years ago, watching a men's game, when a man kept on yelling the word "faggot" at players and the umpire.

"It just wouldn't stop. There were kids looking at him, little kids sitting next to me. Parents were cringing," she says. "He was with a few mates and they were all getting in on it.

"And I was like, I can't be at an event where I feel so unwelcome and hurt and be around such negativity.

"Ever since then I haven't been to an AFL game unless I can be at an appearance where I can be away from such negativity, especially if I'm taking Livinia or little family members because I don't want them to be around that kinda stuff."

It's not an AFL-specific issue (Moana is supportive of the AFL's moves to kick out people who sledge with hate speech).

It's an Australian cultural issue.

Moana says she and Isabella, who wed in August 2019, face overt homophobia when they're out in public. They get looks. They get butt grabs. They get comments that heterosexual couples never hear.

"We just get sexually victimised. It's just disgusting," she says. "Having men tell us we just need a penis in us, and just get over it, and they can turn us straight, they only need one night."

"None of that is OK. None of that will ever be OK."

Moana's experience is sadly more common than a lot of us think.

According to new research released today by ANZ, 78 per cent of LGBTIQ+ Australians have been subject to hurtful, homophobic or transphobic language and slurs over the past 12 months.

The survey of more than 2000 Australians, half of whom identified as LGBTIQ+, found that more than 69 per cent had been called derogatory names like 'faggot', 'dyke' or 'tranny'.

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In contrast, only 41 per cent of straight-identifying Australians thought homophobic or transphobic language was a major issue today.

Which is why Moana is throwing her support behind the campaign – to start a conversation about hateful language.

"I wanted to have this conversation. I wanted people to know that it's not OK," she says. "And it even affects me, and people think I've got these walls the size of China up."

To coincide with the research and their sponsorship of the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, ANZ has released a powerful short film that highlights how hateful language impacts LGBTIQ+ people's lives. Watch below:

Video via ANZ

As part of the campaign, ANZ has released a digital Love Speech handbook of definitions and terms to help promote more inclusive language; as well as launching a Google Chrome extension called The Hurt Blocker, allowing members and allies of the LGBTIQ+ community to block hateful language online and replace it with rainbows, unicorns and love hearts.

If only it were that easy to do when people say those words in real life. But Moana has, for want of a better word, hope that the younger generation coming through will slowly but surely weed out language that just doesn't serve anyone.

"It's kinda like a couple of years ago when I was fighting people for using the word 'retard' in such a negative way – it's just not necessary," she says. "The more we can educate our kids and the more the younger generation come through, I'm hoping it fades out."

She adds: "We shouldn't be mean to anyone anyway. We need more love in the world."

Speaking of love, Moana and Isabella will celebrate theirs at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on February 29. Whether they're marching or watching from the crowd depends on how their IVF treatment is going.

"We're definitely going to be at Mardi Gras," she says. "But what we definitely will be doing is stalking [after-party performer] Sam Smith!"

For more from Moana Hope, listen to Mia Freedman's No Filter interview with her about her love story, her upbringing and her inspirational career.

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