I started playing at age 6 and was hooked from the very beginning. I had played multiple other sports by that age and when I came across hockey I fell in love with it instantly. I had been ice-skating since about age 2 so starting ice hockey just fit.
Once I realized I was gay, and accepted the idea myself, I couldn’t just hold it in. It is a part of me that influences my day-to-day life and I figured the people around me should know. They would find out sooner or later once I started dating someone, so I figured I might as well tell them ahead of time so they had time to wrap their head around it.
I came out originally when I was 16. Athletics are such a big part of my life and who I am. A lot of my friends overlap as teammates on sports teams so when I started coming out there wasn’t really a distinction between the athletic/non-athletic parts of my life. It just seemed normal to tell my team if I was telling everyone else. A lot of my teammates/coach knew before I was even in the league so it wasn’t a big deal, there wasn’t really a reaction.
I am playing at a level that does not involve me having sponsors, but it was hard for me to come out to my dad that is paying for me to attend school and play for this team. He easily could have withdrawn his funding of me, which was a very real concern of mine. Despite that fear, my sexuality was something that I couldn’t hide forever. So I came out to him anyway.
As a young athlete, I would have liked to receive the message: Open your eyes, take a deep breath, and accept what you’ve been pushing away for so long. There are SO MANY gay athletes, it won’t be as big of a deal as you think it is.
Because it’s true, there are many gay hockey players in the league and on my team. It has become pretty normal for there to be gay women athletes when it comes to ice hockey. It is nice to have others on my team and in the league that are out because it causes it to be less of a focus point. It’s more normalized as more people come out.
When you’re out on the field, ice, or court, everyone is equal, so just play your heart out. Often people won’t react as badly as you think they will.
Women’s ice hockey tends to be very accepting when it comes to gay players. From what I can tell, it is probably one of the “gayest” sports or most accepting to gay athletes. I imagine it would also be accepting towards transgender athletes. I haven’t been in a situation where I could see the acceptance or non-acceptance of a transgender athlete so far, so I can’t say for sure, but I think it would be fine.
Growing up, I played a lot of different sports. And I did experience some differences between some of those sports. While softball is stereotypically the sport where you find all the lesbians, I think it would actually be way harder to come out on some sports teams than others. I think women’s ice hockey is pretty open to gay athletes, but I found that in rowing and track it was slightly harder to come out. I grew up in a fairly liberal town, so almost none of my friends had a problem when I came out, but each sport’s mentality is different, and thus causes coming out to be a different experience.
Further, I think it is much easier to come out on a team than individually. As you get to higher levels, everyone’s attention is on you in individual sports. So if you come out, and your coach disagrees with you, you have no support system. On a team on the other hand, there is a higher probability that there will be other LGBTQI athletes on your team, thus forming a support system for when you do come out. Also, in a team sport, the individual private lives of players on the team are much less focused on than in an individual sport.
It is nice to have others on my team and in the league that are out because it causes it to be less of a focus point. It’s more normalized as more people come out.
But I think over the years it has become much more normal for there to be gay athletes in all levels of sports, I definitively notice an evolution. I think it has become easier for women to come out, and while I think it is still very hard for men to come out, I think mindsets are changing as more famous athletes choose to come out publicly.
Speaking of that, I did have some examples I looked up to. I have always been a huge fan of the US Women’s soccer team and have recently loved watching Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, and Ashlyn Harris play. They have been such good soccer players and it’s awesome to see LGBTQI representation in such a high level of play.
To a young LGBTQI athlete I want to say: Be yourself unapologetically. When you’re out on the field, ice, or court, everyone is equal, so just play your heart out. Often people won’t react as badly as you think they will.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my story a little and I hope this gives someone the courage to be who they are, without caring what other people think.