A place in the game

Picture this. It is November 2019 and Boston Pride, an LGBTQ+ hockey team, takes to New York City to play in a game against the New York City Gay Hockey Association. Now the story really begins when Greg Sargent, Boston Pride’s team president, began to chat with a member of the New York team, Aidan Cleary, who told him about a Facebook group he was part of called “All The Trans Hockey Players”. Cleary explained to Sargent that the Facebook groups members were looking to start their own hockey team. Many of the members play on LGBTQ+ teams, but still struggle with feeling truly included, as most of them had never played alongside another transgender teammate. Sargent understood what Clearly and his Facebook group were seeking and offered Boston Pride’s assistance in their endeavor, stating “It took me forever to try and find that atmosphere, and once I did it was so amazing”.

Weeks later, players from as far as California and Wisconsin meet up in Cambridge Massachusetts for the first time as ‘Team Trans’, to make history and play in what is now known as the first ‘friendship series’ hockey game against Boston Pride. Trans women, trans men and nonbinary people are all welcome on the team, regardless of where they are in their transition. 

Top: Greg Sargent of Boston Pride / Bottom: Aidan Cleary of NYC Gay Hockey Association.

Now, let’s flash forward to this past weekend in Middleton Wisconsin, where Team Trans reunited at the Capitol Ice Arena, after COVID-19 ruined plans for an earlier reunion, to play the Madison Gay Hockey Association in a weekend-long friendship series tournament. Mason LeFebvre, a Team Trans goaltender told NBC News, “It’s just casual and comfortable from the start. We’re not going to ask each other a bunch of awkward questions that other people might ask if they know we’re trans. Then, we talk about other things that would be completely off the table for conversations with mostly cis[gender] people.” Many of LeFebvre’s teammates, including Avery Cordingley, expressed similar sentiments around the feelings of comfortability and inclusion they feel within a team that allows them to be unapologetically themselves. LeFebvre and Cordingley, who both played on women’s hockey teams growing up, are focusing their attention on the future of Team Trans. They hope to be able to host a friendship series every year, as well as participate in other LGBTQ+ tournaments.

Team Trans – Middleton Wisconsin, November 2021

Team Trans has gained the attention of many hockey players from all across the United States, Canada, and Japan, but the team also hopes to gain the attention of younger generations of transgender athletes to show them that they too have a place in hockey [and sports in general], and inspire them to pursue their dreams. In an article by Katelyn Burns for SB Nation, Team Trans player [and transgender woman] Brynn Toohey discusses her experience growing up playing hockey and struggling with gender dysphoria. She goes on to say how life got in the way of her passion forcing her to quit hockey for a period of time when she felt like there was no true place for her in the sport- which is something I have discovered through my research to be a common theme among young transgender athletes.

In the current political climate we are living in, where as recently as a month ago states began passing laws to ban transgender youth from participating in school sports that align with their gender identity, it is nice to see that Team Trans is gaining attention, media coverage, and support.

While it is extremely disheartening to see that the lives of transgender youth in sports are being discriminated against, I find it important to note the new inclusion policy released last month by the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly known as the National Women’s Hockey League, which provides a pathway for the participation of both trans and nonbinary athletes in the federation. Team Trans members LeFebvre and Cordingley agreed that this policy was definitely a step in the right direction for the federation, but it would be hard to gauge its effectiveness until put into practice.

Mason LeFebvre – Team Trans Goalie

Ultimately this is just the beginning for Team Trans, as well as for transgender hockey players and athletes in general. There is still a lot of progress to be made but Team Trans player Avery Cordingley states it best when they say

“We’re not going anywhere, and we just love the game like everyone else. We all have a place in the game, and the game is stronger because of our differences.”

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