“Football is what I do,” said Stoney. “I’m out there to play and I want to be judged on playing.
“It is a concern now I’m ‘the gay footballer’ because it was never about that. But so many messages have been like: ‘So what? She’s a great player’, and that’s what I want people to stick to.”
The Arsenal defender also disclosed that she is especially pleased with her decision having watched Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, ‘Hunted’, which gained unique access to the vigilante gangs that target gay men and women in Russia.
She said: “Watching that then doing the interview a week later, I’m so glad I did it. People shouldn’t have to live in fear or be hunted because of their sexuality or the people they love.
“There’s still a lot of homophobia in the world. I felt it was my time to tell people my side of the story and help other people feel comfortable like I do in my own skin.
“In my head, the response would be very negative. There was a lot of fear but the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”
There had been rumours circulating about Stoney’s sexuality before she made the decision to talk about it publicly.
She featured on the ‘Pink List’ – a list of 101 of the most influential gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people – for the last two years. Although approached about her inclusion, she admits she found it unnerving to be judged and put into a stereotype before officially confirming it herself.
Stoney, who has 116 caps for England, also said that although it was tough for her to come out, it would be ‘extremely difficult’ for a player of a similar stature in the men’s game to do the same.
“It was hard for me to come out but I think for a male player it would be extremely difficult. They live in a different world; they are highly scrutinised and under pressure every single weekend,” she conceded.
“They have 40-50,000 people in their stands ready to abuse them if they make a bad pass, never mind if they came out as a gay player.
She added: “I’d like to think that there will be a time where we’re living in a world of acceptance, we’re living in a world where prejudice isn’t a problem anymore. Whether it’s your sexuality or your skin colour it shouldn’t matter, what should matter is your performance on the pitch.”
And it’s on the pitch that the former Charlton, Chelsea and Lincoln centre-back wants to do her talking. She signed for Arsenal Ladies from Lincoln – now Notts County – last month and is looking forward to playing for the club she dubs as one of the world’s biggest.
Stoney said: “Arsenal ladies is one of the biggest clubs in women’s football, not just in this country, in the world. Their ambitions match mine – I want to win things. I like Shelley the manager, her views and they train near enough four times a week and that’s good for me.”
The Continental Cup and FA Cup holders will enter the new season having lost a number of key first team players, including the likes of Stephanie Houghton to Manchester City and Kim Little to US side Seattle Reign.
“[It’s] a massive loss. Lots of people are changing clubs and money is coming into the game now as well,” said Stoney.
“Steph wanted to be closer to home and Man City is going to be an extraordinary club in women’s football. We lost Kim Little, who is a massive loss not just to us but to the league. She is one of the best midfielders in the world without a shadow of a doubt… I wish she was English!”
Despite losing two of the most talented players in the league, the Gunners have reinforced their ranks, bringing in Japanese International duo Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga – two of the best signings in the league according to Stoney.
She said: “They are both world cup winners and have both won Olympic medals. [Japan] are one of the best technical teams I have played against – they move the ball so well. I think [Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga] will fit really well into Arsenal.”
The FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL) season kicks off on Wednesday 16th April, with Stoney’s Arsenal taking on her former teammates at Notts County. For more information please visit www.fawsl.com.
To hear more from Casey, listen to Episode 26 of The Offside Rule Podcast (We Get It!) which will be available on our Audioboo page on Thursday 20th February.
Follow Harriet on Twitter @hmdrudge