“It’s not about just about being LGBTQ+, it’s not just about hockey, it’s about creating a place that’s safe for all.”
It was a warm August day in 2013 when I sat down with MGHA Founder, Patrick Farabaugh. I spoke to him of my concerns and fears for joining such a physically demanding and typically non-accepting sport. My concerns also consisted of how affirming and safe the locker rooms were for a trans man such as myself. As someone who grew up in band, drama, and other non-athletic activities; I didn’t consider myself athletic to say the least. Although our talk had me convinced to sign up, I was not prepared for all the MGHA would become for me. I had grown up with many hardships including physical and mental disabilities, being low income, and never really feeling like I belonged anywhere. As the last 7 years have passed I have grown both on and off the ice. I have not only found an amazingly fun and challenging sport to play, but I have found a pack of my own, with a place I belong.
As a transgender man with physical and mental disabilities, even being out can compromise my safety. I choose to do so because I want to make the world a more affirming place. I grew up being afraid and ashamed of everything that makes me who I am. I have worn many hats in life and my absolute favorite is my MGHA hockey player one! I tell everyone how much the league means to me. I live and breathe the MGHA motto which also aligns with my motto for life. I wear an MGHA shirt almost every day. This is a place where all walks of life are truly welcome and if you’re unable to afford the fees there’s help. If you need a ride, someone will help you. If you need someone to talk to, there will be someone there to listen. I have been personally involved with helping make the league a more accepting and affirming place not only for trans men and women, but also our gender non-conforming/non-binary members. I have watched these numbers grow every year. I never could have dreamed of not only playing hockey, but with so many folks like and unlike myself. We have folks who are CEO’s, nurses, doctors and regular joes like myself. We have folx who have been playing since they were small children to those such as myself who learned to play right there with the MGHA and continue to welcome all skills and ability levels.
Speaking of ability levels, I hadn’t even played on a sports team (other than gym class) let alone on a highly action packed game such as hockey. I was not only welcomed, but encouraged every step of the skate. Each time I fell and got back up my fellow league mates would cheer. In fact, you might hear of a move called the “Alpha Tornado”, created by yours truly. insert a wink here Throughout these years I have learned to stop, skate backwards, and even gotten pretty darn good at maneuvering my body. This season I even got to try something new. I got to be a goalie! Goodness gracious is that hard, but a blast!!! It has shown me that underneath, I was an athlete all along and it is a good thing. Being an athlete isn’t so much a skill level as an attitude. It’s never giving up even when all the odds are against you. It’s getting back up each and every time you fall. It’s helping your team be the best it can be.
Helping others is something I have always been good at and I had no idea how much that skill would assist in finding my place as a leader. I have been honored with the chance to be a mentor, a team captain, and a teammate with an understanding ear. My teammates have always made me feel welcome and a valued member of the team and been there to lend an ear when I needed one. I have been told by multiple people that I personally have helped them not only want to continue playing hockey, but continue living and/or growing as a human. I can not express enough how important places like this are for the queer community nor can I ever show enough gratitude for those who allow me to be apart of this amazing league.
Without the MGHA, there would be no Alpha. Without the becoming Alpha, I wouldn’t have wanted to continue living either. I know that I am far from alone in my feelings of isolation, internal struggles, or self loathing/guilt, but having a place like the league allows folks like me a place to come together to have a good time while creating lasting bonds. It gives those of us without a place of community a place to belong. It’s not about just about being LGBTQ+, it’s not just about hockey, it’s about creating a place that’s safe for all. A safe place for me to be me and that’s what gay hockey means to me.