Christina Libs – 2013-2014 Essay

Gay hockey came into my life at a very opportune time. Initially, the Madison Gay Hockey Association was a chance to enhance my individual growth through teamwork and to learn more about the community that supported me (well before I even knew I was a part of it). I had just come out to my parents, which led to openly flirting with girls for the first time in my life. This paired nicely with the newness of a game that I had never formally played. I knew what hockey was, but I didn’t know what gay hockey was. Spoiler alert: I’m still not a professional at either.

Sports have almost always played a direct role in my life. Early on, I learned how to excel individually in softball and bowling. Neither is as physically demanding or as team-focused as hockey; however, both helped me define myself as an athlete. Years of my life were devoted to these sports, and over time I gained confidence, felt useful, practiced commitment, experienced failure, and learned how to quit. I was ready physically and emotionally to join gay hockey.

From the beginning of the season, I never needed to define myself as anything more than a player. During the first clinic, like the first 21 years of my life, external motivations dominated my mind. Stretching, passing, skating, and shooting were the concrete skills I needed to work on, and doing so made me feel useful. Like many activities, it’s an escape. An hour on the ice helps push aside work and life drama, directing focus to the beautifully simple goal of getting the puck in the net. I could go on forever about how athletes perceive and obsess over their passion for sports, but for once in my life, let me get to the point.

Gay hockey authenticates how sports represent life. Similar to the way art reflects life and life reflects art, I see sports reflecting and enhancing the connections we have to one another. Not all sports and not all teams are created equal, but in the MGHA we play gay hockey, which means we play for one another. I play hockey for my teammates, my community, and myself. It’s a display of how individuality and cohesion off of the ice come together on the ice. Gay hockey made me understand the importance of sports beyond athleticism and individual prowess.

Most importantly, gay hockey involves me directly in the LGBTQ community. I have less than a year’s experience openly talking about my sexual identity, but I am more educated and supported than I’d ever hoped to be. The ever-present worries, demons, and stories are real; it will take many brave words and acts to share our love outside of the LGBTQ world. Large and small experiences of being brave are the cornerstone of being a gay hockey player. Simply being a part of the MGHA gives us the opportunity to share every part of ourselves with those listening.

Diversity is normal, within people, thoughts, and actions. Coming together to make something tangible for ourselves fulfills my life, and I’ll never take for granted the love that exists within everyone in gay hockey.