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New mum Demi Stokes has hailed the authenticity of women’s football that has allowed her to speak openly about her family life.
The 30-year-old full-back will be gunning to help England claim Women’s Euro 2022 glory on home soil this summer, with hopes hoisted after Friday’s 5-1 thrashing of the Netherlands.
Stokes and partner Katie welcomed baby Harlen in May, with the couple relishing getting to grips with parenting ever since.
While the men’s game continues to see individuals taking the step of coming out in order to provide role models to a community, top figures in women’s football see no need to make such statements.
And Manchester City star Stokes believes the openness and inclusivity that runs right through women’s football is central to what clearly represents a freeing situation.
“I think it’s about being comfortable with yourself, and the men’s game is very different, there’s a lot of taboo there, and I think you can see there are players (in the men’s game) that are starting to come out and the more players that do that does encourage the next person,” said Stokes.
“So I think it’s obviously a slow process but within our game (the women’s game) we welcome everyone and I think that’s good.
“I think as well sharing my story and being quite open and honest about a lot of things, I think can help a lot of people, so I think it’s about using my voice.
“And some topics are uncomfortable, and I don’t know everything, but I think it’s about me being in a position and using my platform to help the next person.”
When quizzed on what makes women’s football different, Stokes continued: “I don’t think I have the answer to that but I think our fans are great, and team-mates and stuff, and it’s just about ‘be yourself’, being authentic with it, and if you open up on it nobody can pull you up on that.
“Equally as well, the support that you have around you does make it easier. But it’s about being yourself, and people will love you for who you are and who you want to be.”
As the adjustment to motherhood comes alongside England’s major-tournament summer, Stokes admitted balance will prove crucial.
She added: “I think obviously it will change things in terms of balancing life. We travel a lot as well so, in terms of that aspect, that will be difficult leaving, and stuff like that.
“But I think on a positive note I can use that (parenthood) as extra motivation and he can give me an extra ‘up’ as well, so I think it’s all just a blessing and it’s all positive.”
England will start their Euros campaign by hosting Austria on Wednesday, July 6, with Stokes revelling in matches being staged in front of sold-out crowds.
“The game’s gone on leaps and bounds; you’ve only got to look at the stadiums that the tournament is being held at, the ticket sales being so impressive,” said Stokes.
“I think it’s about focusing on the positive and the here-and-now – we were in that position before, we’re not now – and now it’s about keeping the ball rolling, keeping the momentum going forward and saying ‘what we’re doing is the right thing’.
“You’ve only got to look at the ticket sales and where the stadiums are held to see you’re going to get all types of fans, all different spectators from different avenues, and it’s about welcoming everyone.”