Chuy Pina – 2012-2013 Essay

Oh, hey….I didn’t see you there but since I have your attention, why don’t you stay awhile and listen?  People call me Chuy.  I am from a small town called Chicago, where my family settled down from Mexico way back in the day.  (Which was a Wednesday if you care to know…)  I have recently celebrated my 10th anniversary of being 21 and I am currently a student with a goal of a career in the health field.

What I really want you to know about me is that I am a hockey player.  Yes, that is right and I am proud of it!  Granted, I just completed my first hockey season where I recently learned the game.  I didn’t even know how to skate before joining the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA)!

So how did a Mexican-American gay boy like me pick up hockey at the tender age of 31?  Well, I didn’t know much about the sport before.  I don’t think I have even watched it on tv.  It just seemed like a sport out of my league, dominated by big rough Caucasian straight men with no teeth.  Well, I found myself at a very awkward period in my life around the beginning of the season.  I lost my job, went back to school, and moved into a new place with new room mates.  At certain times, the big changes in my life was very overwhelming and scary.

Then one day I met a friend of one of my room mates that was recruiting for MGHA.  I figured why not try something new, along with all the other changes I have been going through at the time.  What is one more thing?  I could use the exercise and it would be nice to get to know the gay community better and become more active.  Let me tell you, this was the best decision I’ve made all year!  I can’t believe I didn’t join sooner.

Now, I should tell you.  I am very secure with my sexuality.  I’ve known ever since I was little, growing up in a Machismo environment back in the inner city of Chicago, that I liked boys.  Growing up, I’ve had to come to terms with who I am very fast.  So while I have always appreciated LGBT support groups, I’ve always felt ok on my own, having my family and friends that I have already established.  I guess that is why I didn’t think to join a gay club or organization before.  It was through recent changes in my life that lead me here.

I understand you want to know what does gay hockey mean to me.  I feel that it is so much more than a gay organization, it is more like a family.  MGHA is such a diverse community.  We have gays and straights, men and women and transgendered, young and old, students and professionals, and everybody in every walk of life it seems.  We all choose to join MGHA through the interest of playing hockey.  And it is through that bond we share where we can break down borders set by society and come together as a team and create an environment of respect and support.

I have to admit.  In the beginning of my first season, I felt out of my element with the sport.  I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t know how to skate, and my feet and body were killing me.  I felt very disenchanted at times and missed a lot of the beginning games because I felt I wasn’t good enough and was frustrated.  Despite all of this, the support I received from the league was amazing.  No body cared that I was new.  I never once felt rejected or put down because I wasn’t a good player.

I remember one moment during one of my first few games we were losing.  I told my captain that I am ok with sitting out the last period so that they can have a better player out there to make some points.  I will never forget what he told me.  He said that wasn’t the point of the game.  Winning or losing doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I go out there and try my best and have fun.  I can only get better if I try.  It was at that moment that I knew I found my place.  It is in MGHA where I found a place where I can play a sport I am increasing becoming fond of and not be afraid to be myself.  Here I can receive the support I need to become a better athlete in a respectful and fun environment.  Being gay did not once inhibit my ability to play or have a good time.  I don’t think I would have joined this sport if I didn’t have that reassurance.  I only hope that this finds other people looking for a similar experience.  I look forward to playing with them on the ice!