Get to know Rounders player and Rainbow Laces supporter, Jennie Hennelly

This year Stonewall are celebrating Rainbow Laces from 19th – 31st October, with Wednesday 26th October specifically dedicated to the campaign. The 2022 theme is ‘Lace Up and Keep It Up’. 

West Yorkshire Rounders player, Jennie Hennelly, talks to us about her personal experience in sport, as a gay woman. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I started playing for Drighlington Dragons Grey Team in April 2018. I have played in four summer leagues and a couple of winter leagues. In 2019 at our annual presentation night I was delighted to receive Players Player, Captain Player, Top Slogger. I can play in a variety of positions, typically bowler but occasionally 2nd deep, I really enjoy my bowling and how it can really change the game. I would love to have the chance to play for the England rounders team but not sure if I’m at that level.
I came out 14 years ago at the age of 30.

What motivated you to play rounders?
After relocating from Essex to Leeds with my partner and two-year-old daughter, my partner mentioned that a friend of a friend played rounders. I couldn’t believe it as I had not played since school and had absolutely loved it. I didn’t know anyone in the area where we lived so it was a great way to get to know new people, have fun, exercise, be social and make friends. I have most definitely achieved all that and gained a second family.

What does Rainbow Laces mean to you?
Equality and inclusivity for all in sport. I feel genuinely supported and loved when I see my teammates with their rainbow laces in and supporting this important cause. A few years ago we made a training night of it with fun and games followed by cakes, drinks and a quiz.

Has Rounders helped you at all with your sexual orientation?
Yes, for me personally to have such a supportive network has allowed me to feel safe and comfortable with who I am. It sounds cheesy I know, but I am happy to be out and proud.

Have you had any good or bad experiences in sport in relation to your sexual orientation?
I personally have not had any bad experiences in sport. I played for a local football team in Sydney, Australia, when I lived there and they were very accepting, so I was lucky with that football team and now my rounders team.

I have had a couple of good experiences which I think was positive and that I had a part to play in. I believe that I have been a help to someone within the team (both football and rounders) to come out and be themselves.

What message would you like to send to others in the LGBT community?
I came out at a late age – I was 30. I was in a relationship for 5 years, however, I was never totally confident or open about my sexuality in that relationship, hence why I ran away to Sydney to see if that would change.

It affected me in different ways as I wasn’t being me which I hated. For some reason, I found it harder in the workplace and in the long run it impacted my mental health. I had been single for 2 years and living in Australia for just short of 6 years when I met Katy, we share our 6 year old daughter Alice. We had been set up by mutual friends and prior to meeting, I’d already decided to move back to England. I was lucky and obviously made a good impression as Katy decided to move back with me. We relocated to Essex in 2015 and got engaged in October 2015. We went through IVF, we were so fortunate and lucky enough to have our daughter Alice in 2016. We moved to Leeds in 2018 and I can say I’m truly happy with living up north and my life.

My message would be ‘It is ok to be Gay’. I wish I had come out sooner. I’m 44 now. If I’d come out earlier, think of how many years more I could have been happy being me. I do believe in fate and things happen for a reason and I think that happened when I accepted myself.

If I could help just one person who reads this it would make me very happy!
YOLO (You Only Live Once) make the most of it!!

A few of my team went with me to Leeds pride this year which was fabulous.

Jennie Hennelly
Article by Julia Rice: